Composers Datebook®

Dvorak's Eighth

Composers Datebook - Feb. 2, 2024


On today’s date in 1890, Czech composer Antonin Dvorak conducted the first performance of his Symphony No. 8 in Prague, on the occasion of his election to the Bohemian Academy of Science, Literature and Arts.

By 1890, Dvorak was a world-famous composer, honored in his own country and abroad. Within a year of its premiere, Dvorak conduced his Symphony No. 8 again in London, Frankfurt and at Cambridge University, where he received an honorary doctorate in music in 1891.

Despite some mysterious and melancholy passages, Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony is usually described as “sunny,” “idyllic” and “pastoral.” Its final movement opens with a brass fanfare, perhaps a reference to a century-old tradition of signal trumpeters playing from the towers and parapets in Prague, a sight and sound that visitors to the famous Astronomical Clock tower in that city’s Old Town Square can still experience today.

It’s amusing — and perhaps revealing of something deep in the national spirit — that at a rehearsal of this finale, legendary Czech conductor Rafael Kubelik quipped to his players, "Gentlemen, in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle — they always call to the dance!"

Music Played in Today's Program

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904): Symphony No. 8; Berlin Philharmonic; Rafael Kubelik, cond. DG 447 412

On This Day


  • 1669 - French composer and organist Louis Marchand, in Lyons;

  • 1813 - Russian composer Alexander Dargomizhsky (Gregorian date: Feb. 14);

  • 1873 - Austrian operetta composer Leo Fall, in Olmütz;

  • 1875 - Austrian-American composer and violinist Fritz Kreisler, in Vienna;


  • 1594 - Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, age 68, in Rome;

  • 1789 - French composer, organist and harpsichordist Armand-Louis Couperin, age 61, in Paris;

  • 1934 - Brazilian composer and pianist Ernesto Nazareth, age 70, in Rio de Janeiro;

  • 1974 - Belgian composer Jean Absil, age 80, in Brussels;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 83 ("Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde") performed on the Feast of the Purification as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1725 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 125 ("Mit Fried und Frued ich fahr dahin") performed on the Feast of the Purification as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1795 - Haydn: Symphony No. 102, in London at the King's Theater, with the composer conducting;

  • 1884 - Loeffler: "Fantastic Concerto," by the Boston Symphony, Emil Paur conducting;

  • 1890 - Dvorák: Symphony No. 8, Op. 88, in Prague, with the composer conducting;

  • 1900 - Chadwick: "Adonais" (Elegiac Overture), by the Boston Symphony, Wilhelm Gericke conducting;

  • 1900 - Gustave Charpentier: opera, "Louise," in Paris at the Opéra-Comique;

  • 1920 - Stravinsky: ballet, "The Song of the Nightingale," at the Paris Opéra, with choreography by Massine;

  • 1921 - Bretan: opera "Luceafarul" (The Evening Star), in Cluj, Romania;

  • 1926 - Cowell: String Quartet No. 1 ("Quartett Pedantic"), at Aeolian Hall in New York City by the Ralph Henkle String Quartet;

  • 1977 - Ned Rorem: "A Quaker Reader" for organ, in New York City;

  • 1978 - Peter Maxwell Davies: Symphony No. 1, in London at Royal Festival Hall, by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Simon Rattle conducting.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®