Saturday, February 5, 2011

Antonín Dvorak: Symphony No. 9

This is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, playing the 4th movement to Symphony No. 9, popularly known as the New World Symphony. You can compare this version to a more recent one by the: Dublin Philharmonic, conducted by Derek Gleeson. 

Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), Czech composer:  In Harper's Monthly Magazine, February 1895, in an article, Music in America, Dvořák said: "The music of the people is like a rare and lovely flower growing amidst encroaching weeds. Thousands pass it, while others trample it under foot, and thus the chances are that it will perish before it is seen by the one discriminating spirit who will prize it above all else. The fact that no one has as yet arisen to make the most of it does not prove that nothing is there."

Antonin Dvořák, a Czech composer of Romantic music, composed the symphony in 1893 during his time in  the United States from 1892 to 1895, where he was the artistic director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Jeannette Thurber, a wealthy music patron, brought Dvořák to America and to New York in particular. He was paid $15,000 a year, twenty-five times what he earned in Prague. It was a princely sum, in keeping with a high-minded purpose.

The expectation was that he would create a particularly American musical style. Dvorak didn't disappoint, writes  "Dvořák took this last charge to heart. This inaugurated Dvořák's "American" phase, which produced his Ninth Symphony "From the New World," the String Quartet #12, the cantata The American Flag, and the String Quintet in Eb"
Dvořák  returned to Europe and Prague in 1895, when the Thurber fortune was affected by the economic depression of the 1890s. The building housing the conservatory, located at 126-128 East 17th Street, was demolished in 1911 and is now a high school.

The home where Dvořák resided and wrote the symphony, a three-story Italianate style row house constructed in 1852, at 327 East 17th Street near Perlman Place, was also demolished, in 1991, to make room for an AIDS hospice.

The buildings connected to Dvořák 's history in New York City are gone, yet Dvořák's music remains.