Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 “From The New World” (Karajan & Vienna Philharmonic)

Conducted by Herbert von Karajan, the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) performs Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” Op. 95, B. 178.

The symphony was composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1893 and also known as “The New World Sypmhony”.

Movements

  1. (0:37) Adagio, 4/8 – Allegro molto, 2/4, E minor
  2. (10:42) Largo, common time, D-flat major, then later C-sharp minor
  3. (23:30) Scherzo: Molto vivace – Poco sostenuto, 3/4, E minor
  4. (32:07) Allegro con fuoco, common time, E minor, ends in E major

Where the name comes from

Dvořák was interested in Native American music and the African-American spirituals he heard in America. As director of the National Conservatory he encountered an African-American student, Harry T. Burleigh, later a composer himself, who sang traditional spirituals to him and said that the Czech composer had absorbed their ‘spirit’ before writing his own melodies. Dvořák 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.”

The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered on December 16, 1893, at Carnegie Hall conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, Dvořák further explained how Native American music had been an influence on this symphony:

“I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral color.”

In the same article, Dvořák stated that he regarded the symphony’s second movement as a “sketch or study for a later work, either a cantata or opera … which will be based upon Longfellow’s [The Song of] Hiawatha (also known as Ayenwatha, Aiionwatha, or Haiëñ’wa’tha; Onondaga; was a pre-historical Native American leader and co-founder of the Iroquois confederacy)” (Dvořák never actually wrote such a piece). He also wrote that the third movement scherzo was “suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance”.

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”. Most historians agree that Dvořák is referring to the pentatonic scale, which is typical of each of these musical traditions.

Sources

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