HomeComposersWhat’s in a number (Dvořák)?

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What’s in a number (Dvořák)? — 11 Comments

  1. clear as mud! i’m a professional musician and i’m still completely at a loss trying to figure out the numbering of dvorak’s symphonies.

    • He composed nine and published the last five, but not in the same order he composed them. Not that I’m claiming it should make sense to you. But if a conductor announces the 8th symphony for an upcoming program, and the music on everyone’s stand says no. 4, they need some explaining. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Well, HE didn’t publish any of them. Which is crucial to understanding the mess. Much of the disaster that is Dvorak numbering (including opus numbering) is due to the publisher Simrock, not to the composer.

    And it’s a great pity because there’s evidence from Dvorak’s original scores that he wanted to be meticulous about these things. If you look at them on this excellent website you will often find opus numbers that don’t match the ones that Simrock used, and Dvorak often recorded the exact dates he started and ended a composition. http://www.antonin-dvorak.cz/en/works/complete-list-by-genre

    • Thanks Trevor. Another part of the problem is that the Germans regarded the Czechs as somehow inferior people. Therefore Simrock, a German, felt free to do everything his own way.

  3. Mostly, though, Simon wanted to use ‘bigger’ (later) opus numbers because that implied he was publishing a composer’s more mature music, and of course music of a composer who’d published a lot and was therefore worth hearing… Part of the trouble was inconsistency – it wasn’t as if there was a method, just ‘give it a(nother) high number’…

    • Ah yes. Inconvenient conveniences reach out to bite us. It’s not just Simrock using higher opus numbers, though. Beethoven did it regularly. Op. 103 is a very early work. Apparently he figured he couldn’t get away with it any later than that.

  4. Interesting.
    I have long been wondering ho Number Four suddenly became Number Eight. Do we have an actual chronological listing of his nine symphonies—kwith dates of composition?

  5. I’m aware of the renumbering of the five later symphonies following publication of the four early ones – no. 1 in 1961, no. 2 in 1959 and nos. 3 and 4 in 1912. I believe the current numbers were adopted in the 1950s. What I don’t understand is why the old numbers still persist on orchestral parts more than fifty years later. The parts for no. 7 which we played in my local orchestra a few years ago were all printed “no. 2” but I’m sure weren’t 50 or more years old. Some had been altered to 7 in ink. This led our secretary, who writes the programme notes, to comment that the numbering of Dvorak’s symphonies is “bewildering” – surely an exaggeration. Do publishers just reprint parts without checking these details or can they not cope with renumbering?

    Haydn’s symphonies need renumbering but I don’t think anyone would risk doing it! And Bruckner’s while we are about it……

    • A lot of parts available for sale are simply printed from old plates, especially when the come from Kalmus or other reprint publishers. I’m sure a lot of people in a lot of orchestras find the covers of some symphonies by Dvorak and Schubert bewildering. Just think of how much fun it would be if a new Bruckner thematic catalog renumbers Symphony 00 as Symphony 1. It’s bewildering enough as it! As for Haydn, the 6th edition of the Kochel Mozart catalog changed all the K numbers. Who knows what a future editor of Hoboken might do? Two more cans of worms! Any more?

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