About the performance of Dora’s “Symphony” in Leipzig in memory of Nikisch


Did you know that on this very day, February 10, 1920, the integral version of the Symphony in F sharp minor, Op. 41 by Dora Pejačević? The Dresden Philharmonic was conducted by the prominent conductor Edwin Lindner. The performance, like the previously incomplete one in Vienna on January 25, 1918, when two movements were performed, caused great enthusiasm among both the critics and the listeners. Driven by this enthusiasm, Lindner encourages great conductor Arthur Nikisch to include the Symphony in the program of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. According to Academician Koraljka Kos, Nikisch does so, and this is confirmed by the article published in the Dresden newspaper after the first performance of the Piano Sonata in B flat minor (April 19, 1921). Unfortunately, the plan was not realized. Nikisch passed away suddenly, and Dora’s music had to wait a full hundred years to sound like in a beautiful Gewandhaus, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Arthur Nikisch’s death.

Even this idea of performing Dora’s Symphony could not pass without difficulty. Of the two performances scheduled, only the first was held on February 3rd, 2022, while the second, on February 4th, which was to be broadcast live by the Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, Gewandhaus director Andreas Schulz had to cancel “literally at the last minute due to certain positive PCR tests of musicians of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, which during the day could no longer be replaced by replacements.” (more).

Anyway… Dora’s Symphony welcomed her performance! The critic Peter Korfmacher in the Leipziger Volkszeitung on February 5th points out that Dora Pejačević “was a great composer” and adds: “Many of the themes of her only Symphony have an irresistible appeal. Long jumps to target phrases, just like skillful instrumentation are reminiscent of Strauss. The inner items radiate, in the literal sense of the word, a completely unique and unheard of charm, although they lag behind the strength of the first movement. Scherzo became entangled in erratic harmonies. In the end, the Finale, which doesn’t really end, but simply stops at one point, and then it “pulls”. Too much for a serious parallel to be drawn with Bruckner. But that doesn’t have to be the case at all. What Pejačević develops at the beginning from dissonances similar to those in Elektra, is ardently, exciting yet unspent music at the height of her time, a time when music was at a high level.”

And what does Korfmacher write about Andris Nelsons who conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra? Something that might have hit Dora. “Andris Nelsons doesn’t seem to believe the Symphony, which was premiered in Dresden. He leaves the matter to the Orchestra.” Indeed, not commendable… “But that is why the Orchestra works. First of all, woodwind players, from which Pejačević elicits rich tones of mahogany color. And the rest of the composition is up to par: striking brass players, intoxicated strings. But the Maestro is satisfied with the collected beauties, which his Orchestra brings in abundance. He owes us a formative idea. Too bad! In fact, this Symphony would be the right one for the God-given instinctive musician Andris Nelsons “, concludes Korfmacher.

Jelena Vukovic
(translated from a German excerpt from a review: Davor Merkaš)
photo by @Gewandhausorchester

* The Croatian Music Information Center thanks the Gewandhaus Orchestra Sheet Music Archive for the text of Peter Korfmacher’s critique published in the Leipziger Volkszeitung on February 5, 2022.

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