Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dvořák Symphony No. 8 Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace; A waltz of concerns that closes in a smile

The third movement of Antonín Dvořák's 8th symphony is a waltz of concerns.

Against a bed of quiet triplets, played by the clarinet and flutes and a rich figuration of double reeds, plucked strings, and a viola drone, the first violins dance. The opening passage is marked forte for the first violins but piano everywhere else.

Listen to the sweep of line as the strings dance a phrase of 4 measures then stretch to 6. One feels the lightness of motion at this higher level of articulation. In embellished figuration [0:12] the line echos 4 then 7 measures, but the gesture quiets. It expresses concern:

There is a disintegration [0:24]. Five four-bar phrases uncoil chromatic gestures in the rhythm of snare drums as the sense of dancing drains. The music becomes almost motionless.

Its motion resumes in advance of the connection to a written-out repeat [0:48] where the dance begins again; this time scored for flutes and oboe, with clarinet joining afterward. The parallelism is exact until the cadence [1:32] where the phrasing 4+3 brings the larger section to an articulate close.

The trio turns rustic, in the tonic major [1:40] and celebrates the memory of innocence. The phrasing(4+4)(4+6)(6,6,2) develops the stretched phrase lengths of the minuet with a sophisticated design. As with the minuet this stanza is restated [2:18] in a different scoring.

There is a third statement of the main theme of the trio [2:57] identical to the others during its first half but altered to close the section over a pause. This third statement overbalances the minuet and will lead to a surprising moment at the close of the movement.

The minuet returns [3:37] and so does its echo [4:26].

G major returns [5:18] in a molto vivace codetta. The phrase structure rocks between 4 and 5-bar phrases:


The movement closes with a sudden and surprising sonic smile.

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