The Kennedy Center

Symphony in D major, Op. 24

About the Work

Jan Vaclav Vorisek Composer: Jan Vaclav Vorísek
© Kryštof Spirit

The piano virtuoso and composer Jan Václav Hugo Voríšek was one of the last Czech musicians (later on termed "Czech musical emigrants") who, in the second half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, left their homeland to seek fame and fortune abroad. The desire to meet Ludwig van Beethoven in person was one of the main reasons why Voríšek interrupted his studies of law in Prague and, in the autumn of 1813, departed for Vienna. In addition to composing, he regularly gave concerts, and his virtuosic technique soon earned him the reputation of being one of the finest pianists in the Austrian capital. During his performances for Viennese aristocrats, he actually encountered his idol Beethoven. Voríšek completed his only symphonic work, the Symphony in D major, Op. 23, in January 1823. The composition was first performed at a concert of the Vienna-based Society for Friends of Music alongside Beethoven's oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. Considering the fact that it was Voríšek's first symphonic piece, its maturity is truly amazing. The composer did not linger with a slow introduction, which until then was relatively common: the main theme appears right at the beginning of the first movement, which is noteworthy for its compactness and torrential cadence. It is similar in the following movements, which display the composer's inspired inventiveness and superb instrumentation. The Beethovenian heroism and pomp is overridden by conciseness and effective use of the available means, with elements echoing Baroque style flashing through in places, as in the case of Mozart's late works.