Music Monday: Dvorak’s “From the New World”

I know a lot of people who, when they think “classical music,” they think of floaty, soft music that just kind of drifts around the air. Flutes and violins, maybe a piano or the occasional oboe. It’s hard to blame them for that perception, since it seems that’s mostly what NPR and other classical music radio stations play. And to be fair, a lot of classical music is like that. But not all of it.

I mean, Beethoven was essentially the equivalent of Jimi Hendrix in his day, and Mozart wasn’t popular until after his death because his music was too “brash, overspiced and too complicated for the average listener.” Bach is a common subject of heavy metal covers.

So, today I’m sharing Dvorak. I can’t say why, exactly, but I’ve been on a Dvorak kick lately. Especially his New World Symphony. As a single piece (with four movements) it has a range of experiences and expressions that blend and evolve to and from one another that make it unique in the classical world (in my opinion). Unlike so many other classical works, which so often are just interesting combinations of sounds where the composers playing around with notes to see what they can do, From the New World Symphony tells a story. It has more than just drama, it has plot. When I got to see it performed live recently, the conductor mentioned how she believed the piece reflected Dvorak’s experience visiting America and reflected those feelings as well as feelings for his home in Prague.

Any which way, this is music that inspires me and I hope it inspires you too.

 


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