Dvorák was 45 years old, and he was already an international success. Johannes Brahms had helped him enormously earlier in his career, and Dvorák’s previous symphony--No. 7—sounds remarkably like the older composer. With his Symphony No. 8, Dvorák wanted to create a unique, more Bohemian voice. He wrote to a friend that it would be “different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out in a new way.” And indeed it is!
Each of the four movements overflows with themes of Bohemian folk influence, and they are developed in a way that sounds at times almost like improvisation. The abundance of melodies reminds me very much of one of my other favorite composers: Mozart! This symphony has always been a favorite of mine, as it so effortlessly expresses happiness, peace, and the sheer joy of being alive.