Dvořák’s New World Symphony cover

Dvořák’s New World Symphony


Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia!
Carl St.Clair uses Dvořák’s popular symphony to explore three historic links between the United States and the Czech people. First, Dvořák’s remarkable journey to the United States helped to identify a unique American voice. Some 25 years later, America played a central role in the creation of a democratic Czechoslovakia. Today, a new Orange County institution, Pangea World, explores and expands the wealth of knowledge between nations.
Due to the celebratory nature of this event, business attire is preferred.
Doors open at 2 p.m. There is no intermission during this 90-minute concert.
Box Office: (714) 755-5799
Pacific Symphony

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Dvořák’s New World Symphony

2018‑19 Sunday Matinees Series

Carl St.Clair, conductor



Adagio – Allegro molto


Molto vivace

Allegro con fuoco

This concert is generously sponsored by Pangea World (Dr. Hana Alaya).




Almost exactly 125 years after Dvořák’s Op. 95 burst upon the American scene, it’s hard for us to imagine the sensation it caused.

The strange performance history of this popular symphony is a mix of instant success and lingering disappointment.

Contemporary newspaper accounts of the premiere, which took place before Christmas 1893 at Carnegie Hall, evoke a scene of clamorous tribute that was repeated again and again. “There was no getting out of it,” Dvořák said in describing the ovation to his publisher, “and I had to show myself willy-nilly.” Subsequent performances took on a carnival atmosphere and were often held outdoors with hugely augmented orchestras.

Despite its inescapable nickname, this was not an “American” symphony, but rather a symphony “from the New World.” Yes, Dvořák was deeply inspired by American musical sources in composing it. But as a Czech nationalist and visionary music educator, he believed strongly that composers should discover their own musical roots in the cultural sources of their respective homelands.

During his stay in New York City from 1892 to 1895 he discovered an abundance of diverse ethnic sources lying fallow in America and a potentially magnificent classical tradition waiting to be born. Not even his passionate advocacy and the public’s euphoric embrace of his ninth symphony could bring acceptance of these ideas—at least, not in his own lifetime.

Dvořák was, with Smetana and Janácek, one of the three principal composers of the Czech nationalist movement and was the one who achieved the greatest international prominence. He had come to New York at the invitation of Jeannette Thurber to serve as director of the National Conservatory of Music. Hearing the richness of what we now call “roots music,” he was baffled by the American intelligentsia’s dismissal of folk music as primitive.

In interviews he insisted that the future of American music should be founded on what were called “Negro melodies,” a classification that also included Native American tunes. “These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States,” he told an interviewer in the New York Herald.

“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.”

Drawing upon Native American songs and African-American spirituals, this symphony broadly captures the spirit of both traditions without specifically quoting individual melodies. Listeners everywhere recognize the distinctively American sound in “From the New World” as soon as they hear it. The symphony opens with a portentous adagio that gives way to a quick allegro, with a minor key that seems to communicate the excitement of discovery and unknown frontiers.

Among the Sierra Nevada, California (1868), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Albert Bierstadt

The emphasis on brasses and woodwinds, as opposed to strings, gives the movement a fresh sound that separates it from European idioms. The Czech nationalist propensity for sketching landscape in music is evident in this movement, but the landscape itself—with its rocks, crags and rushing waters—is like a musical evocation of the heroic landscapes by the Hudson River School of American painters such as Alfred Bierstadt.

These artists were active at the time Dvořák composed the symphony and were well known to him. They successfully integrated the same aesthetic elements he sought to include in the symphony: a dramatic evocation of America’s unique heritage, a sense of its natural beauty, and an epic, virginal wildness combined with formal execution embodying the refinements of European academic training.

Why shouldn’t Dvořák, with a new world of folk music at his command, match the visual vocabulary of the Hudson River School’s towering cliffs and misty rivers with folk and folk-like melodies?

The first of these melodies—to some listeners, at least—is a solo theme for flute in the first movement that may be suggestive of the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” But it is in the largo in the second movement, which has gained acceptance as the song “Goin’ Home,” that we begin to hear it most clearly.

Whether it existed in song form before the symphony was written has not been settled beyond doubt; we do know that in gaining knowledge of the African American legacy of folk song in America—including the deeply moving “sorrow songs” combining the themes of death, loss, and physical return to the Creator—Dvořák worked with a remarkable African American named Harry Burleigh, who knew this music firsthand and whose blind grandfather was a former slave.

“Goin’ Home” certainly has all the characteristics of these songs. It is likely (but not certain) that while working on the symphony, Dvořák demonstrated the melody for Burleigh, who later executed it as a song with the lyricist William Arms Fisher.

The sadness and the transcendent quality of “Goin’ Home” was perfectly suited to another of Dvořák’s primary sources for the Symphony No. 9, Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” In the symphony’s second movement, a quiet largo, this sad theme provides context for the dramatically poignant death of Minnehaha as it unfolds within her father Nokomis’ wigwam with Nokomis on watch and Hiawatha separated from her in the forest.

Is the symphony specifically programmatic, a musical retelling of Longfellow’s poem?

While the idea of the sorrow song supports this idea in a general way, the frenzied scherzo that follows the second movement largo seems much more specific. The musicologist Joseph Horowitz relates it to the dance of Pau- Puk-Keewis at Hiawatha’s wedding, and Hiawatha’s pursuit through the forest; wild and percussive, its whirling rhythms match both the Native American sources Dvořák studied in the U.S. and the driving metrics of Longfellow’s poem, underlined by re-emergent timpani.

1865 Illustration depicting "Hiawatha's Departure", a scene from the poem "Song of Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

It can also suggest Hiawatha’s own feelings of grief and expiation. But when specific lines of Hiawatha’s dance are juxtaposed with the music of the scherzo, one cannot escape the conclusion that Dvořák wrote the movement as a literal dance for Pau‑Puk‑Keewis. Even more convincing is the matching of scherzo passages to Hiawatha’s chase through the woods and climactic battle with Pau-Puk-Keewis, even though this music—like the rest of the symphony—can be fully enjoyed as abstract expression for its own sake.

The final movement is an allegro that moves from the scherzo’s E minor into a triumphant E major, the first sustained major section in the symphony. Here Dvořák seems to shift his gaze upward from a single, poignant tale to a distant horizon, presenting us with a nation’s destiny.

There is a fateful quality to the clarion brasses and thundering percussion as the symphony draws to a close; in it, contemporary listeners heard a musical portrait of a young country that was youthful but vigorous and bold, ready for a place of leadership in the community of nations.

It took more than a century, but Dvořák’s conception of an intrinsically American compositional style has finally prevailed not only in our great jazz composers, but also in the unclassifiable works by musicians such as Mark O’Connor and Bela Fleck, whose creations can quote Bach and Bluegrass in a single bar.

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in-chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

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Pangea World’s mission is founded upon the principles and credentials of the TCR economic‑development model (“Tourism for Conservation through Research”). The TCR is a vision and art of crafting and distinguishing a strategic union of an economic or business aspiration (of a nation or a tourism/hotel enterprise), frontier scientific research and proactive natural and cultural conservation.

This union is catalyzed by an original instrument of “TCR Heritage Themes” that capture the dynamics and inter‑relationships among multiple heritage resources in a manner that systematically and simultaneously augments the scientific, conservation and economic importance of these resources.

Pangea World’s president, Dr. Hana Ayala, is the originator of the TCR model. The TCR has been endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution that has produced one of the most extensive databases available in the tropics), and other prominent international agencies.

The TCR has been featured in media ranging from Insula – International Journal of Island Affairs (September 1995), Hotels (March 1999), Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly (August 1997, October 1998, February 2000, and June 2000), and Condé Nast Traveller U.K. (December 1999) to Science (28 May 1999), Scientific American (December 1999), Architecture (April 1999), Civilization – The Magazine of the Library of Congress (December 1999/January 2000) and Business Panama (May 2004 and August 2004).

Dr. Ayala has woven the TCR model into Pangea World’s ultimate objective to value the earth’s evolutionary and ecological fabric as an unbounded reservoir of latent scientific knowledge that could propel the emerging global knowledge economy as profoundly as oil has shaped the industrial economy. This objective was formally unveiled at a United Nations invited event in New York in September 2010 and at international conferences hosted by the West Coast Headquarters (Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center) of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in September 2005, April 2009 and February 2014.

Top officials at UNESCO and the National Academy of Sciences as well as several Heads of State and diplomats have endorsed Pangea World’s mission and its potential to expand the world’s geography of sustainable wealth. Villa Tugendhat—architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s World Heritage masterpiece of free-flowing space, located in Brno in the Czech Republic—is now the official emblem of Pangea World’s transnational endeavor to ignite a next-generation knowledge economy powered by free-flowing natural knowledge capital.


GroupWayne Baruch and Charles F. Gayton conceive, produce and direct milestone events, television broadcasts, concert and theatrical productions, and recordings throughout the United States and worldwide. In 2006, Baruch Gayton Entertainment Group created and produced the Opening Celebration of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa; in 2016, they produced Carnegie Hall’s 125th Birthday Concert Gala, featuring performers ranging from Yo‑Yo Ma to James Taylor to Michael Feinstein.

Baruch Gayton Entertainment Group’s distinguished track record of producing spectacular events includes the Bicentennial Celebrations of the U.S. Constitution, Presidency, and Bill of Rights; the Eiffel Tower Centennial; 50th Anniversary of Israel; various Three Tenors and Luciano Pavarotti concerts and television specials; They have produced FIFA World Cup Opening and Closing Ceremonies, America’s Cup Opening Ceremonies, and Super Bowl halftime shows, as well as contributing artistically to two different Olympic Opening and Closing ceremonies.