Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Symphony No. 9 (Dvorak)
The Symphony No. 9, opus 95, "From the New World", popularly known as the New World Symphony was composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1893. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular symphonies in the modern repertory. It is in four movements:
- Adagio - Allegro molto
- Scherzo: Molto vivace
- Allegro con fuoco
Dvořák wrote it during his visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895. Of the four movements, the second is the most popular with its wistful and nostalgic mood. The main theme to this movement was set to lyrics as a popular song, "Goin' Home".
- "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."
After the premiere of his new symphony, 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" (he 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".
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".
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. Nonetheless, many have proclaimed that the spirit of this symphony is quintessentially American, and the multiculturalism of the work has been cited as supporting this, in harmony with the nature of America as a melting pot.
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