The first movement of Dvorak’s Symphony no. 7 overwhelms us with its cosmic panoply of extremes. It quickly sprints towards a sharp peak, only to reveal a range of ever-higher peaks beyond: the road map for this survey of the universe. In less than eleven minutes, this movement cycles through a series of several scenes, each one a pairing of a quiet interlude with the climax towards which it grows: a humbling, noble declaration of grandeur. The rippling waves of those stunning climaxes barely have time to fade, receding into faint little whispers of echoes, quaint reminders of the episode just passed, before they begin defying the law of entropy and sprouting again into the first steps in a chain reaction that will lead to yet another supernova.
It would be hard to imagine a better summary of the sublime passion experienced throughout a human life.
The second movement takes those meek, unassuming interludes from the first movement and develops them, amplifying them and giving them their due attention, teaching us that this, too, is a worthy aspect of life, and one worth celebrating. For a quarter of the entire composition, we are invited to meditate on the lazy and mundane days we take for granted at the time. This movement is the sound of Candide working in his garden. But this is no mere peaceful reverie, for even here there are suggestive clues that remind us that, even if we do become comfortable during these easy times, they won’t last forever. Drama will appear again soon.
Movement three, however, takes this tour of life in a different direction. Continue reading →