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  • Diana Morales

A dive into Antonin Dvorak's renowned piece "A New World" : On the Grid

Antonin Dvorak is a well-known composer, and this piece is one of his most famous ones that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. Take a journey with me to describe how this piece is an emotional story of change, remorse, and excitement. In 1892, Dvorak moved to New York City, his first time in America, from his small apartment in Prague, he embarked on a new era in his life. Here in New York, he composed “From the New World.” He resided in America for about 24 months and was inspired by African American spirituals and Native American culture. Even though his time in America was short-lived, he was very homesick and missed his family. He stopped traveling, composed very little, and passed away quietly in Prague on May 1st, 1904. Dvořák's visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895 marked a significant period in his life and career.

When you listen to Symphony No. 9, Dvořák's symphony shows various musical concepts, such as harmony, melody, and rhythm, engaging with both European and American musical traditions. He composed this piece during his trip to the United States from 1892 to 1895, which was an essential moment in Dvorak’s career. He wanted to bring his new American surroundings into his compositions while showing his advancement in invention and themes in his music. After being created, it was not performed until seven months later, in New York, on December 16th of the same year. The key to this symphony is in E minor, including an arrangement of instruments such as the piccolo, oboe, tuba, and violins. It lasts approximately 41 minutes and is his most popular symphony in terms of international context. The way this piece flows and is filled with unity is genuinely an example of his mastery of music. He reminisces about themes experienced in previous movements, giving the symphony a parallel expression.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 blends the American influences he experienced while bringing them

Back to his European romantic roots. The progressions are richly textured, and with the chords he used and the chromaticism, he truly displays how he has immersed himself in American life. While he brings vitality into the symphony, Dvorak brings elements of traditional folk music and spirituals. The second movement in the symphony expands the piece; he uses textures and harmonic colors to illustrate a sense of emotional depth and grandeur. The symphony has a distinct characteristic rhythm that can be shown by its vitality and moments of dotted rhythm. Here, he explores the different sounds of Afro-American melodies, folk dance, and american indian melodies. They bring the piece an infusion of energy and drive, particularly in the third movement. His innovations in the rhythmic characterizations make the listeners captivated, entertained, and moved by the piece.

The distinct movements in this piece include 4, beginning with the Adagio. Allegro molto, continuing with the Largo, followed by the Molto Vivace, and ending with the Allegro con fuoco. The first movement is introduced in Adagio. It shows Dvorak’s inspiration for the American period he was living in. The melodic outline in this piece has characteristics that appear in other compositions from Dvorak. As it progresses, the sound of the movement changes from an American-sounding piece to an Indian one and then moves to a Czech polka. It closes with it being rhythmically equivalent to the main theme. The second movement, titled Largo, has an impressionable arrangement of chords with the wind instruments. There is a moment where there is a somber and nostalgic mood that can be described as Dvorak’s homesickness, which is continued by a sort of funeral march. The third movement has an A-B-A form, which he was inspired by after reading it in Henry Lonfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” written in 1855. The rhythms stir the energy in part A and are then contrasted by its middle section, giving the piece a folk dance feeling of reminiscence of Dvorak’s Czech heritage. The 4th movement can be described as eloquent and passionate. It brings the piece to its emotional conclusion. Dvorak lets the entire orchestra play, and they build towards the triumphant ending of the piece, which gives the listener the energy of the new world he is now living in. He truly shows how someone exploring America for the first time can feel without using any verses or lyrics but just the captivation of music.

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