Dvořák: New World Symphony

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Today's musical feature is the Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" by Antonín Dvořák, composed in 1893 during his three year visit to the United States (shown here is the 4th movement). Apparently,

Dvořák was interested in the native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. Upon his arrival in America, he stated:
"I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them."

But new experiences are usually filtered through one's existing frame of reference, and Dvořák was no exception.

Curiously enough, passages which modern ears perceive as the musical idiom of African-American spirituals may have been intended by Dvořák to evoke a Native American atmosphere. In 1893, a newspaper interview quoted Dvořák as saying "I found that the music of the negroes and of the Indians was practically identical", and that "the music of the two races bore a remarkable similarity to the music of Scotland".
Hmm. Makes you wonder how much of this music he actually listened to.
Despite all this, it is generally considered that, like other Dvořák pieces, the work has more in common with folk music of his native Bohemia than with that of the United States. Leonard Bernstein averred that the work was truly multinational in its foundations.
And in the music it influenced.
The speed metal song By the Gates of Moria by the band Blind Guardian borrows several melodies directly from the fourth movement of the symphony and the italian metal band Rhapsody of Fire used the main theme for their song The Wizard's Last Rhymes off the album Rain of a Thousand Flames.
Dvořák's influence is thus not only international, but interdimensional, reaching into dwarven realms visited by lonely children everywhere.

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janna said:

Very enjoyable post, Dave!

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on December 22, 2008 11:42 PM.

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