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Symphony No. 9 "From the New World"

In Nature's Realm


Anton Dvorak was a Czechoslovakian composer with an American heart, expressed in his collection of American folk songs entitled Symphony From The New World. One of the most familiar folk songs on this CD is the African American spiritual, "Going Home."

Although he loved his native land, and wrote many works inspired by folk tunes of
Czechoslovakia, he lived for several years in America, and was equally fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of the country. His greatest tribute to America was Symphony No. 9, entitled "The New World," which is one of the most popular of all orchestral works.


Symphony No. 9 "From theNew World"

In Nature's Realm


Anton Dvorak was a Czechoslovakian composer with an American heart, expressed in his collection of American folk songs entitled Symphony From The New World. One of the most familiar folk songs on this CD is the African American spiritual, "Going Home." 

Although he loved his native land, and wrote many works inspired by folk tunes of Czechoslovakia, he lived for several years in America, and was equally fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of the country. His greatest tribute to America was Symphony No. 9, entitled "The New World," which is one of the most popular of all orchestral works.



1.     Symphony No. 9 From the New World I Adagio

2.     Symphony No. 9 From the New World II Largo

3.     Symphony No. 9 From the New World III Molto vivace

4.     Symphony No. 9 From the New World IV con fuoco

5.     In Nature's Realm   

6.     Carnival     

7.     Dvorak and the Nationalist Movement 

8.     Dvorak in America   

9.     Listener's Guide: Discussion of Harmonic Development

10.   Listener's Guide: New World Symphony Movement II

11.   Listener's Guide: New World Symphony Movement III

12.   Listener's Guide: New World Movement IV 

13.   Listener's Guide: In Nature's Realm 

14.   Listener's Guide: Carnival   

15.   Dvorak's Final Years   



During the nineteenth century, composers in a number of countries placed their art in the service of patriotic sentiments. By evoking the idiom of their nations' folk music, and sometimes by quoting authentic folk melodies, they brought national or ethnic pride into the concert hall. At the same time, they enlivened their work with vibrant melodies, strong rhythms and colorful instrumentation that folk music inspired.

Nationalism, as this new musical development is generally called, was especially strong in those countries with strong folk-music traditions and whose people were subject to foreign political domination. Nowhere was this more true than in Bohemia, the land that constitutes most of what is now the Czech Republic. Long part of the empire ruled by Austria's Hapsburg dynasty, Bohemiahad for centuries been subjugated by its powerful neighbor to the south. But it had managed to retain its language and traditional culture, and the latter began increasingly to assert itself in music after the middle of the nineteenth century. The composer Bedřich Smetana established a school of Bohemiannationalist composition with tone poems, operas and piano pieces that employed rhythms and melodies derived from Czech folk music. But the great genius of Bohemian music would prove to be a younger composer, Antonín Dvořák.

In much of his mature work, Dvořák drew on the rhythms and melodic inflections of Bohemian folk music to give his music an unmistakable national identity. His intention in doing so was unabashedly patriotic. The composer was fiercely loyal to his homeland andproud of its culture. But at the same time he was a sophisticated musician with a deep understanding of the traditions of classical composition. So while some exceptional works like his Slavonic Dances emulate the sound of folk music, his symphonies, concertos and other major works adopt Bohemian traits in a more subtle fashion, absorbing them into a framework of thoughtful thematic invention and development. These pieces speak with a Czech accent, as it were, but they are fully conversant with the procedures of orchestral composition developed by Beethoven, Brahms and other masters.  

Dvořák'S LIFE AND CAREER: A Butcher's Son

Dvořák was born in 1841, the son of a butcher and innkeeper. As the eldest of his parent's nine children who survived infancy, he was expected to take up his father's trade. But a presumed destiny for life as a butcher was not Dvořák's only legacy. Like many Bohemian peasants, the boy's father had an innate musicality. He had learned to play the fiddle and reportedly had a fine singing voice. Antonín learned the rudiments of violin playing from his father, and soon was playing fiddle tunes to entertain guests at the inn his parents ran. Lessons in organ playing from the village schoolmaster provided grounding in a more sober musical tradition.When he was twelve, Dvořák was sent to the nearby town ofZlonice to continue his education while undertaking a formal apprenticeship as butcher. There he was fortunate to find two excellent music teachers who recognized his talent and encouraged him to develop it. Dvořák completed his apprenticeship when he was fifteen, but by this time music had made a claim on him. His father adamantly opposed any thought that he might undertake so risky a profession as that of a musician, and for nearly a year Antonín could not sway him. Finally, however, his uncle lent his support to the boy's desire - not just with words but with an offer to help pay for his tuition at thePrague OrganSchool. At this his father relented, and in September 1857, just after his sixteenth birthday, Dvořák set off for Prague. Music would occupy him for the rest of his days. 

The Apprentice Years

In Prague Dvořák took lodgings with different relatives while attending clases in keyboard playing, singing and music theory. This was a difficult time for young man. Despite the generosity of his uncle and his relatives inPrague, he had very little money, and so he took to supplementing his meager allowance by playing viola in café and theater orchestras. After two years of study, Dvořák received his diploma from thePrague OrganSchool. Unable to secure a church position, he set about supporting himself by performing with various orchestras and by taking a few students. During this period Dvořák greatly broadened his musical horizons. As a viola player he got to know a good deal of the orchestral and operatic literature. A particularly important event in his development was the founding of the National Theater in 1862. Devoted to producing Czech opera inPrague, this institution became an important vehicle for furthering the cause of Bohemian nationalism in music, especially after Smetana was engaged as its director. Dvořák was a member of the National Theater's orchestra from its inception, and in this capacity gained first-hand contact with Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride and other works that either extolled Czech culture or availed themselves of the flavor and character of Czech folk music.For nearly a decade and a half Dvořák lived the precarious life of an itinerant musician in Prague. During the 1860s and early 1870s Dvořák produced a series of orchestral pieces, string quartets and other species of chamber music, songs, choral works and several operas. Much of this work involved a process of creative trial and error, but through this the quality of Dvořák's compositions steadily improved. Moreover he received important encouragement from Smetana, who directed performances of several of his orchestral pieces. In 1874 his comic opera  King and Charcoal Burner was produced at the National Theater inPrague. Though hardly a great success, it helped establish Dvořák as a promising Czech composer.Music did not occupy quite all of Dvořák's attention during this time, however. For some years, beginning in the 1860s, he had courted one of his piano students, a goldsmith's daughter named Anna Cermáková. Finally, in 1873, with the composer's fortunes on the rise, she consented to marry him. This event inaugurated a hopeful period in Dvořák's life. He dearly loved Anna and found considerable satisfaction in the domestic life and family they created together. He had enjoyed some success as a composer, if only locally, and felt his creative powers increasing year by year. Perhaps he dreamed of recognition beyond the musical circles of Prague. But it is doubtful that he anticipated how quickly, or how high, his star was about to ascend. 

Brahms the Benefactor

In July 1874, less than a year after he was married, Dvořák applied for a grant of financial assistance offered by the Austrian government to artists throughout the Hapsburg empire. Dvořák trusted that he would qualify on all three counts. In February 1875 he received word that a jury of eminent musicians had been sufficiently impressed with the compositions he had submitted to award him a subsidy totaling about half a year's income from his usual occupations. Greatly encouraged, Dvořák applied for the prize again during each of the next three years. On each occasion his application was approved, but the final time brought an additional reward. The jury judging the applications for aid included the composer Johannes Brahms, widely respected as one of the best musical minds of the day.Brahms had been pleased to see Dvořák receive support from the Austrian government. Now he did something more, recommending the Czech composer to his own publisher, Fritz Simrock. As a result of that contact, Dvořák's music began to circulate for the first time beyond the confines of Prague. The association with Simrock also led to the creation of Dvořák's first hugely popular composition, theSlavonic Dances, which the publisher commissioned in the hope that it would equal the success of Brahms's recent Hungarian Dances. He was not disappointed. These pieces captivated the public and did much to enhance Dvořák's growing reputation.Brahms and Dvořák remained on cordial and mutually respectful terms as long as they both lived, this despite pronounced differences in their personalities. Dvořák revered his older colleague and considered his music a standard to be met, particularly in the sphere of orchestral composition. Brahms, for his part, continued to display a generous spirit toward his Czech counterpart. When Dvořák's "New World" Symphony urgently required proof-reading in order to ensure the first European performance, Brahms set aside his own work in order to do the task. Worried about Dvořák's ability to support his large family, he offered to place his fortune at the Czech composer's disposal. 

Success at Home and Abroad

In the years that followed, Dvořák cemented his reputation as both an outstanding composer in the classical tradition and as a musician whose work gave expression to the spirit of his nation. During the 1880s he traveled widely, conducting his music inGermany, Russia and repeatedly in England, which demonstrated particular enthusiasm for his works. But his affection for his native country never waned. Dvořák proudly asserted his Czech nationality. In one famous incident he upbraided Simrock, his publisher, for printing his name in its German form, "Anton," instead of the Czech "Antonín." When his success as a composer finally brought a measure of financial independence, Dvořák declined Brahms's suggestion that he move toVienna; instead he purchased a house in the countryside about forty miles fromPrague.
Dvořák's success never went to his head. He remained all his life an essentially simple man, more comfortable around peasants and tradesmen than with artists and intellectuals. Apart from music, his family claimed the greatest share of his time and attention. He devoted his leisure time not to intellectual pursuits but to watching trains; locomotives fascinated him. In short, he had risen considerably above the circumstances into which he had been born, but he never lost touch with his "roots" among the common people of his country.

 The New World

By 1890, Dvorák was a national hero in his native Bohemia, and soon the rest of the world joined in showering him with honors and invitations. One of the latter came from an unexpected source. On June 5, 1891, a telegram arrived from a Mrs. Jeanette Thurber ofNew York: "Would you accept position Director National Conservatory of Music New York October 1892 also lead six concerts of your works."Dvorák was at first disinclined to consider this offer. Deeply attached to his homeland, he had little desire to separate himself from his friends country. But Mrs. Thurber persisted, and her terms were generous. Dvorák would be well compensated and his duties light, leaving plenty of time for composing. In November he accepted the position, and in September 1892 he sailed for America.Dvořák's American sojourn, which lasted the better part of three years, proved one of the most remarkable episodes in his career. During this period, Dvořák wrote several outstanding compositions - his Ninth Symphony, a String Quartet and a String Quintet - whose characters reflect to some extent his experience ofAmerica. He also conducted concerts of his music in New York, Boston andChicago, and attended the triumphant first performance of the Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall. But not all his activities were taken up with music. After enduring a bout of homesickness during his first season inNew York, the composer acted on the suggestion of one of his students that he visit the small farming community ofSpillville, Iowa, which had been settled by Czech immigrants. And so, in the company of his wife and children, Dvořák crossed half the continent to a town in the ruralMidwest, where he spent the summer of 1893. The residents of Spillville may have been awed at first to find a famous musician in their midst, but Dvořák felt very much at home among people of the same Czech peasant stock that formed his own background. 

Final Years           

In 1895, having spent most of three years as head ofMrs. Thurber's National Conservatory, Dvořák returned to the homeland he loved so deeply. The composer , now divided his time between Prague and his country house. He made a few trips abroad - toEngland, for example, and toVienna for the enormously successful Austrian premiere of his "New World" Symphony- but he grew increasingly content to remain close to his home and family.             During his final years, Dvořák turned his attention to opera, a genre he had neglected for over a decade. His last three works in this form, all completed after 1899, are widely considered his finest compositions for the stage and still enjoy frequent performance inPrague. In March 1904 the composer decided to walk from his house in the Bohemian capital to the railway station, there to look at the locomotives, always a favorite pastime. On the way home he caught a chill and became seriously ill. Dvořák never fully recovered, and he died suddenly on the evening of May 1. His passing was an occasion of national mourning, with thousands lining the route of the funeral procession. As the entourage passed the National Theater, where Dvořák once played viola in the orchestra, a movement of his ownRequiem was performed at the top of the steps leading to its entrance.  


Dvořák began work on his Ninth Symphony in January 1893, a few months after he arrived inNew York. He finished it in May. The work was performed for the first time the following December at Carnegie Hall to a highly enthusiastic audience, and it has remained since then among the several most familiar and popular of Dvorák's works. Dvořák confirmed to Anton Seidl, the conductor of the first performance, that he intended the symphony's subtitle, "From the New World," to mean "Impressions and greetings from theNew World." This is very different than a tone painting of American life, which many commentators have held the score to be. The composer bears some responsibility for this confusion, however. On more than one occasion during his American sojourn he expressed interest in black spirituals and Indian tribal music - he even had Harry Burleigh, a black student at the American Conservatory, sing spirituals to him - and he once alluded to the "peculiarities of Negro and Indian music" in the themes of this symphony. But, as he also emphasized, there are no actual quotations of any American music in the "New World" Symphony. Moreover, the "peculiarities" of its melodies, particularly the prominence of "gapped" or pentatonic scales, are also those of Czech folksong. Americans can be proud that this composition was born on their soil, but we should acknowledge its typically central-European character. Dvořák observes the classical symphonic convention of prefacing the first movement with an introduction in slow tempo. The meditative atmosphere of this passage finally is shattered by an ominous figure rising up from the low strings and brass. A timpani roll and suspenseful tremolo note high in the violins then herald the principal theme of the movement proper, a theme given out by the horns and woodwinds.Dvořák develops this idea in highly dramatic tonal language and balances it with two less weighty melodies, the first introduced by the woodwinds, the other presented in the low register of the flute. Already we can hear the concern for thematic cohesion that is an important aspect of this score, for the rhythmic profile of the third subject is strikingly like that of the first.The ensuing Largo presents Dvořák's most famous melody and surely one of his most exquisite. But the beauty of the celebrated English horn solo should not obscure the strange power of the brass chords that frame the movement, the melting poignancy of the second melody, the poignant treatment of the main theme by muted strings fading to momentary silence near the close, nor the dramatic reappearance of the principal theme of the first movement.The opening measures of the third movement are patterned closely on those of the scherzo in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and the succeeding passage manages to attain some of that work's fierce energy. Before the movement is through, we again hear recollections of the symphony's initial Allegro.The finale provides a summation of the entire composition. Dvořák returns at the outset to the dramatic rhetoric of the first movement and soon, in a lyrical clarinet melody, to the gentle mood of the Adagio. Later the composer becomes even more explicit in his resume of the symphony, developing not only the characters but the actual themes of the earlier movements in a comprehensive and exciting conclusion.  


Dvořák's symphonies and concertos, the music by which he most frequently is represented in the concert hall, reveal the loyalty to classical genres and compositional demeanor advocated by his friend and mentor, Brahms. The forms of these works adhere closely to traditional models and reveal little attempt at the kind of programmatic description we find in the compositions of such "radical Romantics" as Berlioz and Liszt. Yet Dvořák was not immune to the influence of his more experimental colleagues. Wagner's music, generally thought of as opposing the classicism of Brahms and his followers, provided the model for several of his operas. And in the field of orchestral music, Dvořák, despite his success as a symphonist, made a number of attempts to exploit the dramatic possibilities of program music.            One of the most ambitious of these attempts was conceived in 1891, when the composer began writing a set of three concert overtures which were to express an elaborate biographical program. He originally planned to call these NatureLife and Love, and intended them to be performed as a set. During their composition, however, Dvořák abandoned the idea of a unified work and eventually settled on the titles In Nature's Realm,Carnival and Othello. Although these pieces remain loosely connected by a common theme that appears in all three, each stands quite easily on its own. } * [These      two paragraphs can, if necessary be cut and replaced by the one that follows:]            { In 1891 Dvořák began writing a set of three concert overtures which were to express an elaborate biographical program. He originally planned to call these pieces NatureLife and Love, and intended them to be performed as a set. During their composition, however, the composer abandoned the idea of a unified work and eventually settled on the titles In Nature's RealmCarnival andOthello. Although the overtures remain loosely connected by a common theme that appears in all three, each stands quite easily on its own. }In Nature's Realmoffers a hymn to the beauty of the natural world. Its main theme follows the outline of a pentatonic scale, a scale often associated with nature in Western concert music. The subject appears tentatively at first, in a brief allusion during an introductory passage and then in the voices of the woodwinds before receiving a full statement from the entire orchestra. Dvořák counters this idea with a complex second theme of dance-like character. Although the overture's central section brings hints at a darker, or at least more dramatic, aspect of the natural world, the recapitulation paragraph restores the music to the bright atmosphere of its initial minutes.


Dvořák's Carnival Overture has proved by far the most popular portion of the orchestral triptych he wrote in 1891. This piece unfolds in a broad ternary plan, the kind that analysts often diagram as A-B-A form. Dvořák opens with bustling, vivacious music whose festive character is quite in keeping with the title of the work. But with a clarion note from the French horn, an instrument the Romantic composers associated with the forest and magic, Dvořák suddenly transports us far from the carnival scene to a more pastoral setting. Now he offers a contrasting section given over to the gentle voices of the English horn, clarinet, and rustling strings. The music has the character of a woodland reverie and includes a brief reference to the pentatonic "nature" theme from the overture In Nature's Realm. This bucolic interlude proves relatively short-lived, however, and Dvořák soon returns to brilliant atmosphere of the carnival. His reprise of the opening material leads to a lively, noisy conclusion.