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Antonín Dvořák in 1897
While composing his only Cello Concerto in New York when he was teaching there and the year after the NY premiere of his iconic "New World" Symphony #9, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák got word that his early unrequited love was ill back in his home country. (Dvořák would later marry her sister.) So at about 3 minutes into the 2nd movement, Dvořák inserted one of his early songs that she always liked. He completed the Concerto in February 1895 and one month after his return home from America a couple months later, she died. As this was after he completed the Concerto and before its premiere, he revised the finale to reprise the song in an elegiac coda.
Dvořák had initially resisted composing a concerto for cello, thinking the instrument fine for the orchestra but unsuited as a solo instrument. But hearing a cello concerto by his colleague at the National Conservatory in NYC, Victor Herbert (also the principal cellist in the New York premiere of Dvořák’s “New World Symphony”), Dvořák changed his mind. Dvořák's Concerto was also a revelation to his friend Johannes Brahms who, after reading the score, reportedly commented "Why on earth didn't I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago" (although he never did). Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto in b-minor, with soloist Jacqueline Du Pre, is today's Midday Masterpiece at 2:00 pm.
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