Feuermann Discussion

from Cello Chat, April 2000

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susan
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(4/10/00 9:35:03 pm)
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Fuermann
(sorry)
I was driving across town last night and turned the radio on, and to my great surprise there was the Dvorak cello concerto! It was an old recording, and I sat in the car to see who it was. Well, as the header says, it was Feuermann. Not only was it his recording, but they were doing a whole program of nothing but different takes of his Dvorak.
It was kinda odd, to tell you the truth.
Very precise, but there were certain places were, having grown up on Jackie's version, there were rubattos missing, and a much faster tempo.
Anybody else heard the latest release?

Edited by susan at: 4/10/00 9:35:03 pm

OyOy
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Re: Fuermann
It's "Feuermann." The new Naxos release, as Gary already shared here, includes 2 additional takes he did for portions of the 1st & 2d movements. I'm trying to find the time to sit down and really study the takes to see why they were re-done. Gary may know already. What's odd, though, is that the timpani are badly out of tune on the 1st movement take he used, but IN tune on the take he rejected. So something very compelling must have overridden that.

As for tempi, I really think it's sad the way modern listeners and cellists have come to perceive this masterpiece, thanks to Slava, Jackie, Maisky, et al. People make a big deal about Beethoven's tempo indications, arguing passionately about how they need to be followed. There are valid counter-arguments, based on various factors, but everyone agrees that these markings are important and significant. Why is there no such sentiment for DVORAK'S tempo markings? Where is the sense of shame from today's cellists who, to a man (and woman), ignore the composer's clear instructions?

Feuermann's was the world premiere recording of the Dvorak Concerto, made only 35 years after the piece was written. Feuermann grew up hearing this piece from cellists who had played it under the composer's baton. He was well aware of the importance of the document he was about to produce. We should say a small prayer of thanks every day that such a superb artist would be the one to transmit Dvorak's true intentions, as precisely as possible, to future generations.

Thus, the self-indulgent, taffy-pull interpretations we're all used to are very close to musical crimes. We have, widely available now on CD, a plain and clear demonstration that one can play with the deepest expression and beauty while still remaining true to the letter and the spirit of the composer's creation. Casals understood this too. Yet today's artists have somehow gotten the notion that "expression" and "interpretation" require leaden tempos. And it seems to get worse every decade. Pretty soon, performances will break the 50-minute mark. They've become donut-heavy.

Edited by OyOy at: 4/11/00 7:59:31 am

Ellen G 
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Feuermann
I know the spelling is corrected in OyOy's post, but it was bothering me in the title.

Anyway, I wanted to comment that this is the type of post I crave. (Even more than donuts.) Thoroughly enjoyed the nexus between historical and contemporary performance, written from a scholarly perspective I could understand!! And thanks, Susan, for throwing out the bait!!! I look forward to more such posts, and now must add another CD to my list that grows ever longer.

susan
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(4/10/00 9:37:38 pm)
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Re: Feuermann
Definitely... This is the sort of thing that I would never have known at all, otherwise. I am enrolled in music history, but unfortunately, according to Edward Swensen, there is no such thing as a cello! (it's all opera)
That, I think, may have been the first time I've ever heard a recording of Feuermann, something I've been curious about for a long time. If anyone knows about the takes, please post!
Anyway, sorry about the spelling, it was was bothering me, too, but I really had no way to check it, and I thought I'd risk humiliation and post the idea... I'll go edit now. :b
Sorry, it wouldn't let me edit the subject heading, but don't worry, I'm fully repentant... A dozen krispy-cyber-Kremes to everyone who has to look at the pathetic thing.

Edited by susan at: 4/10/00 9:37:38 pm

Bob
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Re: Feuermann
Surely someone out there will take issue with Oy-Oy . . ?

Ellen G 
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Re: Feuermann
Susan, I have blundered through pronunciations of "Milhaud" you don't even want to know about. Also referred to a piece I was playing as being in C when it was really A minor. Arggh! These things come back to haunt you, but they DO serve as useful learning tools, I think. I get e-mails afterwards not only with the corrections, but from lurkers who say "Thanks for asking that. I never knew..." So we sacrifice our pride, right?

Incidentally, I think the first recording of Feuermann I ever got was the Beethoven Archduke with Heifetz and Rubinstein. I've not heard the one you're speaking of yet. Some of these performances are amazing, and it is one of the reasons I am anxious to see Bob's video presentation at the Cello Congress, and also why we need to lobby to get GMSTV!

Ever get that pogo stick?

PatWhite
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Re: Feuermann
I never dreamed of taking Dvorak's tempi and other markings in the concerto, and never even took the time to really notice them. Then I played the Dvorak in a master class for Joseph Silverstein. Played really well, thought I was going to get some special award or something. Instead, he creamed me for my ignorance of Dvorak's instructions. It was a very good lesson!

Patricia White

G M Stucka 
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Re: Feuermann
As interesting as the Dvorak by Feuermann may be, it's Feuermann's Haydn Concerto that, in my opinion, is truly glorious. No one can touch him in that piece. To finally have this performance at CORRECT PITCH on this new Naxos CD is a real pleasure. (Belated shame on Pearl for their lousy pitch control on Feuermann's Haydn in their series, "The Feuermann Columbias"!)

I enjoyed OyOy's contribution to this thread. Things are slowing down and becomming quite lugubrious all over the music world! Self-indulgence without musical basis currently reigns supreme. I hope this ends before my career is over!

I do need to look again at the metronome markings in my Dvorak score. If I'm not mistaken, I thought Feuermann's performance was still much faster than any indication by Dvorak. It'll be enlightening to check this out.

Daniel Ortbals 
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Re:Fuermann
This is entirely my opinion, and I am not asking anyone to agree with me, so don't think I am making any personal attacks or trying to belittle anybody's views. I don't consider what today's artists do with Dvorak a musical crime by any means. It is true that Dvorak wrote specific tempo markings. However, I do not believe that these were intended to be set in stone. I have been working a lot these past months with several composers, and each of them are rather lax when it comes to "obeying" their tempi. In fact, one friend of mine recently gave a recital of his music and during one of the rehearsals we decided to take one of the pieces quite a bit slower (from 160 to 120) and he replied "great, sounds fine either way." Would I be way off the mark if I assumed that Dvorak wouldn't mind if today's artists push and pull a little. I consider Dvorak's tempo markings to be suggestions, not requirements, and I see absolutely no problem with taking a little artistic freedom. I mean, this is the Dvorak Cello Concerto!
When people perform Shakespeare, no show is ever performed the same. The words are the same, yet the interpretation lies in the hands of the performers and directors. I think the same thing applies to music. I don't believe that we would progress if we attempted to recreate the original performance. What would be the point? We have different points of view from those of the 19th century, so we cannot possibly interpret things exactly the same way.

OyOy
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Re: Feuermann
Whoa! Naxos has the Haydn out too?! The things I learn here! Thanks for mentioning this, Gary. Indeed the pitch on that Pearl was dreadful. Was that Obert-Thorn? He screwed up the pitch on Casals' "Requiebros" too, and to his credit he answered my really angry letter with a mea culpa.

Of course, while no one could argue with your assessment of that "Haydn" performance qua performance, it doesn't carry the MUSICAL significance of his Dvorak, for reasons which were flogged to death here about a year ago . . .

As for tempi, you're on: let's get out our scores & metronomes and see how he compares. And if you're on an empty stomach, compare also Maisky's & Slava's (recent) tempi to the score.

Edited by OyOy at: 4/11/00 12:16:23 pm

jonavon 
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Re: Fuermann
I have the Brahms double concerto with Heifetz and Feuermann I got it for .50 cents at a garage sale brand new in the shrink wrap. Haven't heard it yet because I'm still trying to find a good turntable, anyone have one for sale?

Paul Tseng ICS Staff 
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Tempi
As for tempi, I go along the spirit of

"The Law was made for man, man was not made for the Law"

Tempo markings are guidelines. As a performer I don't feel the slight twinge of remorse if I bring out the spirit of the piece while sacrificing some of the exact tempo markings.

I've hear some of the most precise (according to the score) performances which completely lacked in the spirit of the concerto. I think Antonin would rather his piece be played in the correct spirit than in the correct "law".

Are we at risk of becoming Phariseaic musical legalists and Musical Judeaizers (re; Galatians- New Testament) or at worst, score-nazis?

(No offense intended to anyone that might take it)


Paul Tseng, Cello Chat Moderator

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OyOy
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(4/11/00 3:38:34 pm)
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Re: Tempi
The reason this argument fails is because it presents the issue as a binary one; i.e., "bringing out the spirit of the Dvorak Concerto is more important than following the composer's tempo indications." Unfortunately for its advocate there is incontrovertible proof (the subject of this thread) that no such choice needs to be made. Maybe for a cellist of ordinary abilities, but not for a great artist.

Tracie Price 
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Shostakovich, for example
I agree that one should try to honor the wishes of the composer as much as possible, but think that often tempo markings are not etched in stone. Some composers are very diligent when marking their scores, especially in more modern music, but some were not. Unlesss we can talk to the composer, we really only have second-hand opinion of what they would have wished. If there are metronome markings, it seems unlikely that a composer, especially a Romantic one, would have wished this to be adhered to strictly without any deviance. Obviously, there are many degrees of interpretation, from extremely liberal and overtly romantic, to literal interpretations, to dry, mechanical interpretations. It seems that Slovak music is very full of life and spirit, I can't imagine that Dvorak would be terribly offended by Slava's interpretation of his masterpiece.

And now... a story to illustrate my point (that probably isn't very clear in the above paragraph!).

This is from Elizabeth Wilson's book "Shostakovich: A Life Remembered" and is told through the words of violinist Yakov Milkis, formerly of the Leningrad Phil.

"Dmitri Dmitriyevich used metronome markings to indicate tempi in his scores. He had many preliminary meetings with Mravinsky where every point, including the tempi, was agreed before the orchestral rehearsals began. However, as a general rule the metronome markings in the scores were always faster than the tempi taken during performance.

"The inconsistency in these markings can be found in Shostakovich's chamber works as well as in the symphonies. For instance, take the case of the Second Piano Trio. There the metronome marking of the Scherzo is so fast as to render it virtually unperformable. Once, while I was studying this Trio, I happened to be in Komarovo when Dmitri Dmitriyevich was also staying there. I plucked up courage to ask him about the markings, not only the fast speed of the Scherzo, but the very slow speed indicated for the third movement.

He answered, 'You know, take no notice. I use this rickety old metronome, and I know I should have thrown it out years ago, as it's completely unreliable, but I have got so attached to it that I keep it. But you, as a musician, should just play as you feel the music and take no notice of those markings, take no notice.'"

Bob
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Re: Shostakovich, for example
Slava & Maisky apparently believe that at that moment Shostakovich was channeling Dvorak. Poor Dvorak!! Poor us!

susan
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Re: huh?
that just flew over my head... can you explain?

Mike N 
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My interpretation
Shostakovich speaks for himself, not for all composers.

After reading a recent article in the New Yorker about Dimitry, the first part of this statement may even be suspect. Apparently, he was kind of a weenie, not the "subtle revolutionary" that he is commonly assumed to be. He was not one to hold his ground or stand by higher principles. Before I get rained on by my cello brethren (where you all tell me about how terrible it was to live in the Stalinist Era), I suggest you all read the article first.

SlavaBilly 
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Bartok, for another example
Towards the end of his life, and perhaps earlier as well, Bartok became obsessed with exact metronome markings and even included precise timings at the end of each movement of many of his works, which conductors and performers now happily ignore more than they adhere to them. One example is in the Naxos recording of the 'Music for Strgs, Perc & Cel' where they add a full four minutes to Bartok's timing of 6'30. Does it make the music any less great? Maybe to Bartok, spinning away in his grave, but to the rest of us, not really. I think capturing the spirit of the music is more important than adhering strictly to a composer's metronome marking.

MaryK 
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Re: Bartok, for another example
Interesting discussion. One thing I'm wondering, though, is can one truly capture/convey the spirit the composer intended w/o adhering to his/her metronome and other markings?

OTOH, my attitude generally is the better the composition, the more it can withstand everything from really screwy to slightly off-tempo interpretations...

One of these endlessly debatable topics, eh? :)

MaryK

Corrina Connor 
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Re: Bartok, for another example
On one hand I like to play things how I like, but then when one gets a really good edition with the *composer's* markings, and one follows them the effect is generally very good.

Didn't Bartok have his own metrenome, which was different to the conventional one? I heard some story about that, which is why many of the Mikrokosmos pieces have two markings - his ones, and their "translation". Hope that I got that right.

I think that now, in the field of "early music", people are doing very careful research and trying to find out about influences and why the composer did what he did.
I was at a discussion about the Brandenburg Concerti, and the question was asked "why did he write them", which is pretty broad, and some music major student said "money", which was very funny. But he wrote them all to an allegorical theme, and if one looks at the allagorical paintings and then listens to the music carefully, the comparisons are there, and then if one involves these in one's playing it is really quite amazing and enlightening - as I think that the only way to really get inside music is to play it.

Now the quality of "authentic" recordings is so good, and innovative, listening to such recordings as Nigel Kennedy in the Four Seasons makes me disgruntled, as I pick out all the mistakes and un-authenticness(!) as compared to when I played it last year, when we were very Baroque in our approach. I think that Truls Mork said something like that about the Bach Suites - now everybody wants to play them in the correct style, and gets hung up about doing it wrong, and it takes away the pleasure.

So, should one not play a certain type of music, or a certain piece unless they can do it in the correct style, or exactly as the composer intended (and that goes from Biber to Bartok) or should one just play and enjoy, and take the consequences.

I don't think that music should be so limiting, as it takes away all the enjoyment and pleasure. Maybe that's the way music is going these days - just as we now constantly hear the "perfect" recordings due to editing and are so picky about the natural things that go with live performance and accept them. Now we think that unless a piece is played exactly as Dvorak, or Bartok intended it is no good, and constantly critisise every recording or performance as being wrong (which occasionally happens on this board).
Where is our spontenaety and joi d'vive and creativity?

Oh no, I'm getting deeper and deeper, and could go on all night, so I'll finish. . .right now. . .where's the doughnuts. . . .

phew............;)

Tracie Price 
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Re: My interpretation
Obviously Shostakovich speaks for himself, I didn't imply (or mean to imply) that because he said that, that MUST be the case for everyone. :rolleyes I did say that some composers were diligent in score marking and some were not. Take Schubert, for example. Try to find mezzo-forte markings in pieces by him. Somehow even though he didn't use that marking, I doubt he never intended anything he wrote to be mezzo-forte. Then there is the case of editors, and we all know how awful some editions are, and how many mistakes there are in them. I'm not trying to justify the absurd overindulgence of some cellists, just saying that it's not completely cut and dry.

In the case of Dvorak, Boyoyb, speak for yourself, not "us". I like Slava. :b

Perhaps that makes me a heretic. I'm sure Dvorak will haunt me in my sleep now. :eek Oooooooooooooooooo! However, I also hold Feuermann in the highest regard (because my "cello dad" brought me up right).

I like Fournier's Dvorak too. And Harrell's. So there.


Sincerely,
the obviously sleep-deprived
Tracie

(should I apologize now or later?) (maybe someone should throw a shoe at me or something...)




Paul Tseng ICS Staff 
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Re: Tempi
I'm not really interesting in pursuing an argument (which might fail OyOy's test) over this. We've all got better things to do, no?

When all is said and done, someone will always hate a performance or love a performance for one reason or another.

If for one will do my best to adhere to the composers intentions, I don't feel that if I deviate a click or tow (or more) from the score that I am less of an artist (though that may have been implied in someone's retort).

I'mjust not going to get so ANAL-RETENTIVE about all this. I've heard the Dvorak Concerto played in many different tempi and I think they are all convincing. Unless Dvorak was an extreme TIGHTWAD and then I don't intend such an attitude in my playing. If this makes me a Dvorak heretic then so be it. I'm no great artist, but some great artists do play it differently from the score and markings. Is SLava therefore a lesser artist?

By the way, what chords do you all play? If you look at the Dover score you'll see that the notes in the opening chords are different from other commonly used scores.

How much of this is Wihan and how much of this is Dvorak? I somehow never knew Dvorak's music to be static. I see it as very dynamic (no pun intended). Flexibility with tempo markings do not detract from the greatness of the piece. Sorry, I'm not about to go turning on the metronome every measure...I'll leave that for the bean counters.

I chose to put my energy in performing it well rather than arguing over legalistic points....I know I'll draw some fire from the "tempo police" here but if it's a crime then let me be so persecuted. I chose freedom and responsibility.



Paul Tseng, Cello Chat Moderator

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The San Diego Cello Society Edited by Paul Tseng ICS Staff  at: 4/12/00 6:59:08 pm

MaryK 
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Re: Tempi
Kind of a long post for not pursuing an argument, eh, Paul? ;)

MaryK

Paul Tseng ICS Staff 
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Re: Tempi
Hi Mary,

It was more of a final statement...

Shall we create a new sport of picking on peoples' posts? Anyone can fall prey, you know, as long as someone is willing to do the picking. Who shall we pick next? hmmmm....you? :evil :)


Paul Tseng, Cello Chat Moderator

My Website - New and Improved!
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Zaraak
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Re: Tempi
In the broadcast last year on PBS of Slava playing the the Dvorak on Live from Lincoln Center (I believe), they showed Beverly Sills interviewing him. He stated in the interview that he was rehearsing the Dvorak a long time ago with a conductor who had studied with Dvorak (I can't remember his name) and this conductor was telling Slava that Dvorak didn't necessarily follow his own tempo markings in the score, or something along those lines. I haven't seen the recording in some time, but I found the interview almost as entertaining as the performance.

Greg

Tim Finholt 
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Back-up Moderator time
Easy, you two.

Betsy C 
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Re: Tempi
I purchased my own copy of the aforementioned Naxos CD tonight. First of all, bless the folks at Naxos for making music such as this available to all of us. I was discussing with a cello friend tonight just how subjective musical taste is and how at times there is no rationalization for why a certain recording, interpretation, artist etc. appeals to one of us and does not appeal to another. I was surprised at the difference in this rendition as opposed to the other Dvorak Cello Concerto recordings I have heard in the past. This was my first exposure to Feuermann as well. I immediately responded positively to this recording and to him. I love Leonard Rose's version, and really did not like Fournier's at all. I loved Truls Mork's version (perhaps because it was a live performance, but it was inspiring). To me, that is part of the joy of music- you find something that appeals to YOU and you internalize it, it becomes a part of you and sometimes there is no other explanation than that it touches some part of your soul. Whew, I just made myself tired with that philosophical digression.

G M Stucka 
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Slava and Czech conductor
The conductor referred to in Zaraak's post is probably Vaclav Talich (1883-1961). If I'm not mistaken, Slava made his first commercial recording of the Dvorak with this legendary maestro.

Edited by G M Stucka  at: 4/13/00 12:01:02 pm

Zaraak
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Re: Slava and Czech conductor
Thanks Gary, I was going to watch it tomorrow to get the name, but I guess I don't have to now. I'll just watch it for the entertainment! :)

Greg

MaryK 
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Re: Tempi
Go for it, big guy! :)

MK

Paul Tseng ICS Staff 
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Re: Tempi
Not worth my time....<yawn!>

And now for something completely different....

Krispy Kreme hits San Diego....wohooooo! I just found out.


Paul Tseng, Cello Chat Moderator

My Website - New and Improved!
The San Diego Cello Society

Paul Tseng ICS Staff 
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To Gary Stucka and OyOy from James Nicholas
This is a message from James Nicholas. He emailed it to me because he couldn't access the cell chat board and wanted me to post it for him.

=================================
Hats off to Oy-oy and Gary Stucka for playing "the composer's advocate"
(see Erich Leinsdorf's book of the same title) in the matter of the
Dvorak concerto and what may seem like unusually fast tempi by the
standards of present-day recordings. It seems improbable that one can
enter into the spirit of a work, or find out what it's all about,
without honestly examining an element as fundamental as tempo. As an
example: in the wrong tempo, the trombone solo in 6/3 chords from the
"Tuba mirum" of the Mozart's Requiem is identical to a passage in
Lepoello's "escape" aria in Act 2 of Don Giovanni). In the case of
earlier music, choosing a basic tempo can be a challenge, but in the
case of the Dvorak cello concerto, there are no serious ambiguities. One
has to read the directions before one can claim to be more faithful to
the spirit of the "law" (as it relates to a musical composition) than
the letter. At the opening of the first movement, Dvorak clearly writes
"Allegro", not "Moderato", or "Allegro comodo" or "Allegretto". Even
though the word "Allegro" can be interpreted subjectively, Dvorak also
qualified it with an unambiguous marking: quarter note = 116. The
nineteenth-century tradition of slowing down for the second theme is
confirmed here, but note that the quarter note only slows down from 116
to 100. These are subtle nuances of tempo; the second theme is still
within a general context of allegro.

In the second movement, the marking of 108 to the eighth-note (or 54 to
the quarter note) works very naturally both for the tempestuous middle
section and for the flanking A-sections. Dvorak even indicates "Tempo I"
at the beginning of the stormy G-minor central episode, ruling out any
posibility of a different tempo, and this section cannot move much more
slowly than 108 without sounding limp.

Similarly, in the last movement, Dvorak's numeric and verbal tempo
indications again involve fairly subtle variations in tempo. Even in the
nostalgic "dream-sequence" coda (which was not part of Dvorak's original
plan, but an afterthought inspired by an emotional crisis), the slowest
tempi indicated numerically are: quarter note = 84 (at Meno mosso, bar
437), and 76 (at Andante, bar 459).

It is thought-provoking that it is not only Feuermann whose tempos may
seem unusually brisk to ears more accustomed to recent recordings.
Casals, who was already 19 or 20 when the piece was composed, performed
it in between 33 and 34 minutes in an early recording with George Szell.
These earlier performers, plus Dvorak's own indications in the score,
suggest that the composer's conception of this piece was much more
solidly rooted in the Mozartian-Beethovenian concerto tradition than in
the realm of the Romantic tone poem, with its freer forms and
non-formulaic tempi.

By the way: please note that not only in the newer Artia score, but also
in the older Simrock score and all reprints from it, the chords in the
solo part of bar 90 in the first movement are correct, and make much
more harmonic sense than those printed in the solo part of virtually
every available edition. There are no augmented chords and no parallel
fifths in bar 90!!!!

Lest anyone believe that Dvorak was indifferent to the details as to how
this "conzerto" [sic] was to be performed, it should be known that the
manuscript score is rife with alterations and retouches in blue, red,
and regular pencil, presumably made during the rehearsals before the
premiere. Dozens of bars of cello figuration were rewritten, some of
them only achieving their final form at the third or fourth revision.
Dvorak also took upon himself the task of making the piano reduction,
rather than leaving that time-consuming task to an arranger. And as a
testimonial to Dvorak's concern that the integrity of his masterwork
remain intact, see the following excerpt of his letter of October 3,
1895, to the publisher Simrock:

"I do not agree with my friend Wihan [the dedicatee] in regard to a
number of places. I do not like many of the passages, and I must insist
upon my work being printed as I have written it. I shall only then give
you my work if you promise not to allow anyone, even my honored friend
Wihan, to make changes without my knowledge and permission. Therefore,
no cadenza like the one Wihan wrote for the last movement. It must be in
the form which I felt and conceived. No cadenza is to be found in the
last movement, either in the score or in the piano reduction. I told
Wihan right away, when he showed it to me, that it would be impossible
to patch in a piece like that. The Finale closes with a diminuendo, like
a sigh, with reminiscences of the first and second movements; the solo
fades out to pp; then it sells up and the orchestra concludes in a
stormy tone. That was my idea, and I cannot abandon it".

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