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News > Dvorak’s Cello Concerto: Manuscript Discovery

Dvorak’s Cello Concerto: Manuscript Discovery

Majda Kallab Whitaker 18 March, 2014

The recent discovery of the earliest known musical manuscript of Antonin Dvorak's New York-composed masterpiece, the Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104, will be marked by an unprecedented gathering of American cellists and Dvorak experts co-sponsored by the Dvorak American Heritage Association and Violoncello Society, Inc., to discuss the historical context and meaning of this recent find. The manuscript, from the personal archive of Alwin Schroeder (1855-1928), the master cellist who performed the American premiere of the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in December 1896, has been kept by the family of a favorite student of Schroeder's in the mid-1920's.

 

The original eight-page, double-sided, handwritten manuscript will be presented to musicians, scholars and the general public for the first time in the Dvorak Room, the exhibition and study space maintained by the Dvorak American Heritage Association in the historic Bohemian National Hall (1896). Students from The Juilliard School, Mannes College, and The Manhattan School of Music have been invited to play the three movements of the concerto and interact with the expert panelists led by Co-Chairs Professor Michael Beckerman of New York University (Vice-President of DAHA) and Professor Jeffrey Solow of Temple University (President of the Violoncello Society), along with Cellist Terry King, Conductor and Professor Maurice Peress, Cellist Christine Walevska, and Cellist Robert A. Williams, Jr., the manuscript owner. Dvorak's song Leave Me Alone, at the heart of the cello piece, will also be sung by Amelia Lubrano, a recent graduate of the Aaron Copland School of Music.

 

For complete bios of the expert panelists, click here.

 

Debate surrounds the manuscript and among the many questions to be discussed by the panelists, who will no doubt have varying viewpoints, are:

1. In whose hand is the manuscript written, Dvorak’s or a copyist’s?

  1. 2. What does this manuscript tell us about Dvorak's compositional process with regard to the cello concerto and did Schroeder have a role in composing any parts of the concerto?
  2. 3. What does this manuscript tell us about Dvorak's musical intentions and does it reveal anything new?
  3. 4. How does a performer balance the composer's intention as expressed through the text with the performer's own musical personality and individual view of the music?

 

Dvorak (1841-1904) composed the Cello Concerto in his East 17th Street apartment from November 1894 to February 1895, near the end of his American residency of 1892 to 1895. His psychological framework at the time was influenced by the news that his first love, Josefina Cermakova (later sister-in-law Josephina Kounicova) was gravely ill, and a fragment of her favorite of Dvorak’s songs, Leave Me Alone from Op. 82 of 1887-88, appears in the second movement. Later that year, after his return to Bohemia and her death, he changed the ending of the concerto to incorporate another passage from Leave Me Alone. The recently discovered manuscript, which has blank sections, may have been part of an early consultation that Dvorak had with his German-American colleague, cellist Alwin Schroeder, in New York. The concerto was premiered in London in March 1896, not by the cellist Hans Wihan, to whom it is dedicated, but by Leo Stern, because Dvorak refused to let Wihan introduce a cadenza, insisting that the published piece could not depart from his original intention. Considered by many the crowning piece of the cello repertory, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto is frequently played by leading cellists in concert halls around the world, a living testimony to the musical achievements of Dvorak in America.

 

 

 


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