Tracing the roots of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony

Posted on: November 26, 2018

“Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what’s great about a culture,” writes Tom Huizenga on Saturday (11/24) at National Public Radio. “That’s exactly what Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was when he came to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century…. Out of that experience, he wrote … Symphony No. 9, subtitled ‘From the New World,’ … [declaring], ‘The future of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies,’ … ‘It was radical,’ … says JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic…. He wove American roots music into his vast symphonic canvas. And, inspired by black spirituals, he came up with a bittersweet melody that would become a spiritual of its own: the ‘Largo,’ the symphony’s second movement, a kind of song without words scored for the English horn…. ‘Most people who know “Goin’ Home” assume that it’s a spiritual that Dvořák quoted,’ [music historian Joe] Horowitz says. In fact, it was the other way around…. ‘The roots of American music—whether it be African-American or Native American or ragtime or Louisiana bayou music—all of that has now become accepted as a rich part of our fabric of our musical life,’ Falletta says.”

Posted November 26, 2018