[dvawr-zhahk, -zhak; Czech dvaw-rzhahk]
Dvořák, Antonín, 1841-1904, Czech composer. He studied at the Organ School, Prague (1857-59) and played viola in the National Theater Orchestra (1861-71) under Smetana. With the performance (1873) of his Hymnus he attracted wide attention. In 1884 he went to England to conduct some of his works and eight years later moved on to the United States. While director (1892-94) of the National Conservatory, New York, he composed his most famous work, the Symphony in E Minor, Op. 95, From the New World (1893). It conveys with great exuberance Dvořák's impressions of American scenes and folk music and at the same time evokes nostalgia for his native land. After his return to Prague he was professor and director of the conservatory there. He drew freely on Czech folk music and materials in his works, which are outstanding for their rhythmic variety, melodic invention, and brilliant instrumentation. They include nine symphonies (two published posthumously), as well as symphonic poems, concertos, overtures, string quartets and other chamber music, operas, songs, choral works (mostly religious), and some piano pieces, notable for their freshness of romantic imagination.

See biographical studies by G. Hughes (1967), J. Clapham (1966), V. Fischl, ed. (1943, repr. 1970), and M. B. Beckerman (2002).

"New World Symphony" redirects here; for the Miami-based orchestra, see New World Symphony Orchestra.

The Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World" (Op. 95), popularly known as the New World Symphony, was composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1893 during his visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular in the modern repertory.


This symphony is scored for an orchestra of the following:

2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (one doubling on cor anglais), 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in E and C, 2 trumpets in E, C and E flat, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba (second movement only), timpani, triangle (third movement only), cymbals (fourth movement only), and strings.


The piece has four movements:


Dvořák was interested in the native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. Upon his arrival in America, he stated:

"I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them."

The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered on December 16, 1893 at Carnegie Hall (which was the home of the Philharmonic until 1962), conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, Dvořák further explained how Native American music had been an influence on this symphony:

"I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral color."

In the same article, Dvořák stated that he regarded the symphony's second movement as a "sketch or study for a later work, either a cantata or opera ... which will be based upon Longfellow's [The Song of] Hiawatha" (he never actually wrote such a piece). He also wrote that the third movement scherzo was "suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance".

Curiously enough, passages which modern ears perceive as the musical idiom of African-American spirituals may have been intended by Dvořák to evoke a Native American atmosphere. In 1893, a newspaper interview quoted Dvořák as saying "I found that the music of the negroes and of the Indians was practically identical", and that "the music of the two races bore a remarkable similarity to the music of Scotland". Most historians agree that Dvořák is referring to the pentatonic scale, which is typical of each of these musical traditions.

In a 2008 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, prominent musicologist Joseph Horowitz asserts that African-american spirituals were a major influence on the 9th symphony, quoting Dvořák from an 1893 interview in the New York Herald as saying, "In the negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music.

Despite all this, it is generally considered that, like other Dvořák pieces, the work has more in common with folk music of his native Bohemia than with that of the United States. Leonard Bernstein averred that the work was truly multinational in its foundations. Nonetheless, many have proclaimed that the spirit of this symphony is quintessentially American, and the multiculturalism of the work has been cited as supporting this, in harmony with the nature of America as a melting pot.

Critical reception

At the Ninth Symphony's premiere at Carnegie Hall the reception was one of perpetual cheering. The end of every movement was met with thunderous clapping and Dvořák felt obliged to stand up and bow. In a letter to his publisher Simrock he stated how there was "no getting out of it, and I had to show myself willy-nilly".

Influence on other composers

It has been claimed that the theme from the largo was adapted into a spiritual-like song "Goin’ Home," by black composer Harry Burleigh, whom Dvořák met during his American sojourn, and lyricist William Arms Fisher,, but the song was actually written by Fisher and based on Dvorak's Largo theme.

Notes and references

Further reading

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External links

Recordings of this symphony


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