Showcase January-February 2015 - page 34

while the Indians’ Dance was responsible for the
Dvořák actually visited Hiawatha’s land—here in southern
Minnesota and Iowa—but the symphony was essentially
complete by that time, so whatever influence Hiawatha
had on him was purely literary. Finally, it is worth noting
that in 1892, the year Dvořák arrived in the United States,
America was marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’
arrival in the New World.
the music: magical
alone of Dvořák’s nine symphonies
opens with a slow introduction. Within the space of
just 23 measures, the composer incorporates moods of
melancholic dreaming and tense foreboding, startling
eruptions and a surging melodic line. The main
section is launched by horns in an arpeggiated fanfare
motif in E minor, a motif that will reappear in all remaining
movements as well. Several additional themes follow.
The second movement contains one of the most
famous themes in all classical music, known to many as
the song “Goin’ home.” The composition is Dvořák’s own:
one of his students, William Arms Fisher, superimposed
the words of the spiritual after Dvořák had completed the
symphony. This theme, presented by the English horn, is
in the key of D-flat major, which is harmonically distant
from the key of the first movement, E minor. Dvořák
arrives at the new key through a sequence of just seven
somber chords played by low woodwinds and brass,
beginning in E minor and ending in D-flat major.
The effect is effortless, even magical, “like the drawing
back of a curtain revealing the scene to the spectators’
gaze,” to quote biographer Otakar Šourek. Although
Dvořák himself claimed the movement was inspired by a
passage from Longfellow’s poem, Šourek, himself a Czech,
believes the listener is equally entitled to imagine instead
that Dvořák is longing for his homeland: “the melancholy,
wide expanses of the South Bohemian countryside, of his
garden at Vysoka, of the deep solemn sighing of the pine
forests and the broad, fragrant fields.”
scherzo—molto vivace.
is one of the most
energetic and exhilarating movements Dvořák ever
wrote, and it borders on the virtuosic as well for the
dazzling orchestral display it entails. Contributing to the
bright colors and brilliant effects is the triangle, which
is employed in this movement alone. The contrasting
Trio section is a charming rustic dance introduced by the
woodwind choir and set to the lilting long-short-long
rhythm of which Schubert was so fond.
allegro con fuoco.
The finale, too, contains its share
of melodic fecundity and inventiveness. There are
several surprises. The development section treats not
only material from this movement but from the three
previous ones as well, especially the main theme of the
, which is fragmented and tossed about with almost
reckless abandon. The grand climax of the long coda
(which begins after the horn solo that amazingly covers
three full octaves—a greater range even than the famous
call in Strauss’
Till Eulenspiegel
!) brings back the chordal
sequence that opened the
, but now painted in
broad, majestic strokes in the full brass and woodwind
The fury subsides, the orchestra dies away to a whisper,
horns softly intone the finale’s main theme like an echo
from a far-away world. Violins proudly proclaim the
theme one last time, and the symphony seems destined to
end in E minor, the key in which it began.
But with a sudden shift of the harmonic gears, Dvořák
brings the symphony to a close in joyous E
The final chord, too, is a surprise—not a predictably
stentorian chord played
by the full orchestra,
but a lovely, warm sonority of winds alone, a sound that
lingers gently on the ears of New World audiences.
2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo),
2 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba,
timpani, cymbals, triangle and strings
Program notes by
Robert Markow
Program Notes
5, 6
1...,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33 35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,...64
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