Symphony No. 8 : Work information

Antonín (Leopold) Dvorák ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra, Antonin Dvo?ák

This work

Work name
Symphony No. 8
Work number
Op. 88
G major
1889-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Recording date

Track listing

  • Allegro con brio 9:47 min
  • Adagio 11:43 min
  • Allegretto grazioso 6:01 min
  • Allegro ma non troppo 8:46 min


Not quite as well known as the Ninth Symphony, but arguably more satisfying than its successor, the Eighth is infused with warm feeling and geniality. Written in 1889 and premiered the following February in the city of its composition, Prague, it served as Dvorak's membership piece to the Czech Academy.

The piece is experimental in form, Dvorak stating his intention to compose a score that was ‘different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out in new ways'. Of particular note in this regard is the finale, essentially a set of variations masquerading as a Sonata-Rondo form movement.

Most of all, the eighth is full of wonderful melodic writing; the third movement is an exquisite Waltz and Trio, and the outer movements contain moments of typically Czech lyricism. The lower strings, in particular, are given some beautiful melodies; listen to the wistful opening of the Symphony, or the main theme of the finale which procedes to race along to its conclusion in wild Slavonic fashion!  

The Composers

Antonín (Leopold) Dvorák

Born near Prague, Dvorák studied the violin with his local school master. Then, between 1857 and 1859, he attended the Prague Organ School. He was influenced by the Czech composer Smetana who, from 1866, directed the Opera Orchestra in which Dvorák played the viola. From about 1873, he devoted most of his life to composition. He won the Austrian State Stipendium three times, in 1874, 1876 and 1877. This got the attention of the composer Johannes Brahms , who in 1878 arranged for the publisher Simrock to publish some of Dvorák’s works. Under this arrangement, Dvorák’s music began to be performed throughout Europe. Some of these early works include the Slavonic Dances, the Symphony No. 6 and the Stabat Mater. He received several commissions, particularly in England, where he was very popular and much admired. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University.

In 1891 Dvorák became a Professor of Composition at the Prague Conservatoire, and before leaving for the USA he toured Bohemia playing the new Dumky Trio. From 1892 until 1895 he was the Director of the new National Conservatory in New York, teaching composition. During this period of his life, his compositions show his deep interest in American folk music. These include the famous Symphony No. 9 ('From the New World'), the String Quartet in F, the String Quintet in E flat and the Cello Concerto.

Homesickness took him back to Prague, where he began to write symphonic poems. He received many honours in his own country and resisted invitations by Brahms to move to Vienna where he was only grudgingly accepted. His attempts at dramatic music were eventually rewarded with the success of the opera Rusalka (1901). He died in 1904, shortly after the first performances of his last opera, Armida. The late 19th century brought an increasing awareness of national identity to various ethnic groups in Europe and Dvorák’s musical career was influenced by the spirit of Bohemian nationalism.

Related Composers: Smetana, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Wagner