Review: Horowitz’s “Dvořák’s Prophecy,” exploring classical music’s exclusion of Black and Indigenous composers

Posted on: December 15, 2021

“In ‘Dvořák’s Prophecy,’ Joseph Horowitz examines the systematic exclusion of Black and Indigenous composers from the American classical repertory,” writes Martha Anne Toll in Friday’s (12/10) Washington Post. “The book is a timely contribution to our growing national recognition that this type of exclusion characterizes most aspects of American culture. The title refers to a prediction by Czech composer Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) that Black music would be the foundation of a ‘great and noble’ school of American classical music…. Against the specter of American racism, Horowitz takes a nuanced look at why Dvořák’s prediction did not come true. He cites the failure of America’s 20th-century classical-music establishment … to acknowledge, much less mine, its cultural past…. Generations of composers and other musicians, as well as audiences, have not studied, learned about or listened to a key part of their national heritage. Count me among them. I’m a classically trained viola player…. My music education was typically White, steeped in European-Russian tradition. This book made clear how much was missing…. The book is a sincere and erudite effort to right ignorance and wrongs, and to bring this long-forgotten music into the sunlight.”