Category: Dvorák

  • The Sadness of the New World

    In 1893, Dvorak and his family traveled from New York to Chicago by train to visit the World’s Fair. From Chicago, they went to Spillville, Iowa, a farming community of Czech immigrants. While in Spillville, Dvorak met and heard the music of Native Americans for the first time. As his son described it, they were: […]

  • The Happy Heaven of Harlem

    Many artists moved to Harlem, where they were free to cultivate the inner life. Langston Hughes, the most famous poet of the Harlem Renaissance, reading his poem “I, Too”: The Harlem Renaissance was the artistic flowering of the Great Migration. As Duke Ellington wrote in “Drop Me Off in Harlem”: I don’t want your Dixie,You […]

  • The DNA of American Classical Music

    While driving to Target to buy a new vacuum on Black Friday (oh, the glamorous life of an adjunct!), I turned on the radio to the classical station, which was in the middle of this piece, in a new arrangement for piano quintet (piano, two violins, viola, and cello). At first I thought it was […]

  • The DNA of American Folk Music

    Engraving of Pocahontas (1595-1617). In 2018, in response to pushback against her longtime claims of Native American ancestry (including from President Trump, who refers to her mockingly as “Pocahontas”), Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren had her DNA tested, and made the results public. The test indicated that Warren had a Native American ancestor […]

  • Going Home

    The second movement of Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”). What is the instrument that plays the poignant solo? It was thought that Dvorak took this melody from an African-American spiritual that his student and assistant, the composer Harry T. Burleigh, sang for him.  (For more on Harry T. Burleigh […]

  • Classical Music Can Save Your Life

    It saved this violist’s life during the Great Depression. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen told the great African-American mezzo-soprano Barbara Conrad in the 1970s that her singing might make the difference between life and death for someone in the audience. Miss Conrad was one of the students who broke the color barrier at the University of […]