Dvorak in America

“Classical music in America,” so says writer, historian, and promoter Joseph Horowitz, “suffers terribly from its insularity.” What I believe he means is that music removed from the context of its creation, yet performed repeatedly over a course of years, continues to exist abstractly, but loses the emotional attraction and relevance it may once have had.

In the quote above, Horowitz was referring to his Dvořák in America, a multi-media educational project first created in 2004 that focuses on the relevance of Antonin Dvořák’s three year (1892-95) visit to the United States and the works that he created here: the Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) and the Cello Concerto in B Minor. Using his scholarship of Dvořák as an example, Horowitz urged orchestras to take broader intellectual and cultural approaches to music, “rather than just cranking out concerts.”

Clearly, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra wished to have its own “Dvořák in America” moment, for it has included both the “New World” symphony and the Cello Concerto in its fall lineup. There’s quite a bit of reading available on the subject; I list here a couple of accessible sources–

  • Book: Classical Music in America, Joseph Horowitz, W.W. Norton
  • Book: New Worlds of Dvorak: Searching in America for the Composer’s Inner Life, Michael B. Beckerman, W.W. Norton (can be a bit esoteric for some readers)
  • Book: Dvorak in America: In Search of the New World, Joseph Horowitz, Cricket Books/Marcato  (designed for young adult readers)
  • Website: Dvorak American Heritage Association,  http://www.dvoraknyc.org/Dvorak_in_America.html
  • I can also highly recommend the chapter “Invisible Men” from Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise, Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux


The KSO’s Dvořák concerts:

October 20 and 21
Copland: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo
Theodore Wiprud: Violin Concerto (World Premiere with violinist Ittai Shapira)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)

November 17 and 18
Enesco: Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1
Dvořák: Cello Concerto (with cellist Zuill Bailey)
Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra


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