The ‘Bonus Notes’ of Dvořák’s 7th Symphony


Of all the symphonies of Antonin Dvořák my favorite is the 7th. While his 9th symphony is epic and immensely more popular, and the 8th has its strong appeal, the horn parts and the Romantic sweep of the 7th really hit home for me.

And – in the final measures there is typically an extra bonus that is a lot of fun to play.

A few highlights

The Horn I part starts out with plenty to chew on and digest.

The first page alone covers a wide scope; the feel is that of turbulence and drama. In a sense it is almost operatic, and this probably explains why I enjoy this piece so much.

(All the excerpts below are for Horn in F.)

Right out of the gate, the 1st horn has a lot to do.

In the second movement, a brief solo scores very high on my imaginary list of favorite orchestral horn solos.

It is a sublime moment.

A favorite spot.

Horn III

Take a look too at the Horn III part available from the IMSLP page.

Like Dvořák’s other orchestral works, it has an active third horn part with occasional solos and lead moments peppered throughout.

The home stretch

Looking at the final page of the Horn I part, we see mostly tutti passages. The piece is winding down and the end of the tunnel is in sight.

The rather unassuming ending.

At face value this ending looks relatively straightforward.

However there is an unwritten tradition where different notes are played in the final Molto maestoso. I am not sure where this tradition began, but I have been told that it was something that George Szell commonly did with the Cleveland Orchestra and that it perhaps began there.

“Bonus Notes”

This bit of re-orchestration does have some merit; it adds volume and depth to an important line that otherwise may not be heard.

The passage in the red box below is typically doubled by the first horn player, sometimes in tandem with Horn III or even a trumpet. I performed it once where – at the conductor’s request – the entire horn section joined in.

We liked that con mucho gusto but in hindsight, it might have been overkill.

The horns typically play these notes.

Unlike tricky transpositions, this practice is something that most conductors expect or at least know about.

If you are a section player playing this piece, a consultation with the principal is probably a good idea. For example, I could see a number of reasons to double only the first three measures – or even just the first two – of the clarinet part highlighted above.

What notes?

Ah… but what are the notes to play you ask?

I will only give a small hint: Clarinet in A is equal to Horn in A.

Bonus resource

University of Horn Matters