21-22 YSOPB Final SINGLES - Flipbook - Page 68
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 (“From the
New World”) (1893)
ANTONIN LEOPOLD DVOŘÁK
(September 8, 1841-May 1, 1904)
CLASSICAL SERIES: DVORAK'S NEW WORLD
A very active performing musician, Dvořák began writing symphonies in
the 1870s. His first efforts were reminiscent of Schumann and Mendelssohn
with some Bohemian nationalist flavor. As time went on and his career
received a much-needed boost by Johannes Brahms, he became more
involved in writing and promoting nationalist music. His passion and
distinct voice found their way into his orchestral works.
In 1892, Dvořák was invited to visit the United States to help in the
establishment of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He
traveled around the US to offer encouragement and inspiration to many
American composers as they sought their personal “voices.” He was also
inspired himself: the musical results were, most notably, his String Quartet
in F, the Cello Concerto, and the “New World” Symphony.
The popularity of this symphony is easy to understand. The themes are
either folk-like or based on arpeggios, easy to follow yet not trite or
overly sentimental. The symphony is constructed cyclically with themes or
motives appearing in all movements as a way of unifying the work. The first
movement begins with a dark introduction that builds slowly, almost like
a ship sailing through a dark ocean, eventually arriving at a new country
that offers both promise and potential danger. The melodies, particularly
the “Goin’ Home” folk song used in the slow movement, are memorable.
There is a great deal of rhythmic activity, but none of it is so complex as to
confuse the listener. In the Finale, he recalls thematic materials used in the
previous movements to “sum up,” further unifying the work.
In short, the symphony is a wonderfully balanced work that is complicated
enough in its craft for the connoisseur yet clear enough in its expression for
those who just want to enjoy the sounds. Contrary to some initial opinions,
the piece is not based explicitly on any Native American songs or Negro
spirituals; Dvořák made an effort to quell those impressions right away,
saying that he was only inspired by America, not interested in creating
“American” music. Despite that fact, it is in America that the piece has
been most enthusiastically received.