≈ 2 hours · With intermission
I. Allegro con brio
III. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
During the late 1880s, Antonín Dvořák’s international fame as a composer was reaching its peak. In June 1889, he was bestowed the Austrian Order of the Iron Crown and went to Vienna to receive it from the emperor. In celebration of this honour, Dvořák composed his Eighth Symphony beginning in August, and completed it in November. He conducted the premiere on February 2, 1890, in Prague, and subsequently led many performances of it, including in London, Cambridge (when he received an honorary doctorate from the university), and Chicago, in a “Czech Day” concert at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
The Eighth Symphony is notable for its carefree character—it has a meandering, organic quality about it, in the way its many interrelated musical and rhythmic ideas unfold and are transformed. It is also masterfully orchestrated, with Dvořák using the distinctive timbres of instruments to reference certain ideas, such as bird calls in nature, the pastoral sound of a shepherd’s pipe, and dances courtly and rustic, among others. Throughout, the musicians are given ample opportunity to shine.
The work begins with the cellos singing a noble and slightly melancholy melody. The mood then brightens, with the flute piping a little shepherd’s tune—its dotted rhythms become the movement’s driving force. A series of melodic ideas follow, each building to a climax, including a transformation of the shepherd’s tune into a trumpet fanfare. Later, the dotted rhythms gain new energy, and reach an intense climax, with the trumpets blasting the opening theme, after which the woodwinds play with the shepherd’s tune. Earlier material is reprised but with more exuberance, and the movement ends jubilantly.
Like the first movement, the second consists of two melodic and rhythmic ideas from which the music develops: one, a rising triplet motif at the beginning of a warm melody richly scored for strings; the other, a bird-like call, intoned by the flute. The triplet motif is then adapted—as an accompaniment figure as well as incorporated into a rustic dance melody first sung by flute and oboe. A massive orchestral climax is reached, then subsides on a series of bird calls. Suddenly, the horns break through with the rising motif; the music progresses tensely with ominous strokes on the timpani. However, the mood soon relaxes again, with the violins playing the dance melody, and the movement progresses leisurely to its conclusion.
In the third movement, the typical Scherzo is replaced by an elegant waltz melody (perhaps in homage to the Austrian emperor), accompanied by warbling flutes and burbling clarinets. The central Trio section features a lilting tune, alternately played by flute with oboe and lush strings. After a reprise of the waltz, the movement closes wittily with a quick-stepping dance based on the Trio.
A brilliant trumpet fanfare announces the finale; the cellos then reveal a stately theme, which becomes the basis for seven variations. The first is a forceful version, intoned by cellos and basses with violins and violas in counterpoint. The theme then lets loose as an ecstatic dance for the entire orchestra, after which solo flute takes it for a virtuosic spin. After a reprise of the dance, the theme is transformed into a march tune in minor mode for oboes and clarinets; it’s further developed, reaching a climax with the return of the trumpet fanfare. Cellos reiterate the main theme, now given varied context, which then gives way to two variations of wistful character. Continuing in this vein, the seventh variation seems to wander off and get lost...but is then suddenly picked up by the ecstatic dance, which whirls joyfully to the end.
Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Following three successful seasons (1996-1999) as Acting Principal Trumpet of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Karen Donnelly was unanimously appointed Principal Trumpet in October 1999, and continues to enjoy each year with this wonderful ensemble.
A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Karen picked up a trumpet for the first time in her elementary school band program and she was hooked. Her formal training includes a Bachelor of Arts in Music program at the University of Regina and later a Master's of Music from McGill University.
Karen held the position of Principal Trumpet with Orchestra London (Canada) from 1994-1996, and performed with many ensembles in southwestern Ontario during her time there.
Since she burst on the Ottawa scene in 1996, Ms. Donnelly has done concerts and interviews for CBC (French and English), performances with the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet, and the large ensemble, Capital BrassWorks. In 2008, Capital Brass Works released its third album, “Gabriel’s Sister” featuring Ms. Donnelly as soloist.
Karen has been featured with professional orchestras, community amateur orchestras, and many local school bands. These include the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, Kington Symphony, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra London, Hannaford Silver Street Band, Maple Leaf Brass Band, Parkdale Orchestra and the Regina Catholic Schools Honour Band.
Music education has always been, and continues to be, very close to Karen’s heart. Her work with the Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet and Capital BrassWorks creates opportunities for educational concerts and workshops in schools. Through the NAC Music Education programs, Karen has given master classes in Switzerland, Mexico, China, United States, United Kingdom and Canada from coast to coast. Ms. Donnelly joined the teaching staff at the University of Ottawa in 2002, and since 2009, Karen has been assisting with the Leadingnote OrKidstra program.
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Soo Gyeong Lee*
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Tony Flynt (guest principal)*
Hilda Cowie (acting assistant principal)**
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Christopher Millard (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
Donald Renshaw (principal)
Chris Lee (principal)
Feza Zweifel (principal)
Non-titled members of the Orchestra are listed alphabetically