On the ti­tle page of his 9th Sym­pho­ny manuscrip­t, Antonín Dvořák wrote „Z Nového světa“ „From the new world“; it’s thus be­come pop­u­lar­ly known as the New World Sym­pho­ny. And by “popularly” I mean re­al­ly, right up there among the most-played clas­si­cal work­s. I can pret­ty well guar­an­tee that al­most ev­ery­one will have heard, and re­mem­ber, the big swooshy melody at the front of the 2nd move­men­t.

Autograph of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9

The ti­tle is lit­er­al­ly cor­rec­t; it was com­posed in 1893 while Dvořák had a lu­cra­tive gig in New York as Direc­tor of the Na­tion­al Con­ser­va­to­ry of Mu­sic of Amer­i­ca. He was fas­ci­nat­ed by Afro-American and Na­tive Amer­i­can mu­sic; I quote: “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.”

About the 9th Sym­pho­ny, he said “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 colour.”

Per­son­al­ly, I can’t hear any of that in the mu­sic; it sounds like pure Mittel-Europa to me, and very, very good. Here’s the thing about Dvořák; the mu­sic is ba­si­cal­ly all re­al­ly good. His Re­quiem and Cel­lo Con­cer­to (al­so writ­ten in New York) are very dear to me.

I un­der­stand that most of you don’t have 45 min­utes to lis­ten to a whole sym­pho­ny, so just lis­ten to Move­ment #1, which has a big be­gin­ning and is full of great tunes, or #2, which has the fa­mous “New World Symphony” melody that ev­ery­one knows. The ques­tion is, for those of you who still “buy” “albums”, the ques­tion is which. The one I have, by the Czech Phil­har­mon­ic, is su­per, but not ex­act­ly easy to get. I’m go­ing to rec­om­mend Ge­orge Szell with the Cleve­land; one time when I was in a high-end au­dio store, the sales guy used the first move­ment to im­press me with what some big ex­pen­sive speak­ers could do, and boy was I ev­er im­pressed.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. Move­ments 1 and 2 on Spo­ti­fy; 1 and 2 on iTunes; 1 and 2 on Ama­zon. As for live per­for­mance how about the New York Phil­har­mon­ic a cou­ple of years back; they take it a lit­tle faster than most, but it works for me.



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From: Matěj Cepl (Jun 02 2018, at 23:02)

I am sorry, but for Dvořák and Smetana, you wanted the real stuff: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Václav Neumann. So, something like https://is.gd/QC1FAq (and you get Smetana’s Vltava on the top). Yes, it is mostly CDs on Amazon (if you want downloads you should go to the source, for example https://is.gd/ABrWs5 ).

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