abOut thE prOgraM
Just as Dvořák helped to identify a nationalistic sound for his Czech homeland, upon arriving in New York, Dvořák hoped to encourage American composers to do the same by utilizing the sounds of Native Americans and African Americans. Dvořák wrote four Americanthemed works. Two are rarely performed: the American Suite for orchestra and the cantata The American Flag. The other two are among his most famous works: the “American” String Quartet, and the “New World” Symphony. Premiered in 1893 at Carnegie Hall by the New York Philharmonic, the “New World” Symphony was a tremendous success.
Minnehaha. The third movement, inspired by a dance scene at Hiawatha’s wedding, is a relentless and rhythmically driven movement from start to finish. In the vibrant and powerful Finale, Dvořák masterfully combines new themes with melodies from the rest of the symphony. The music moves inexorably to its conclusion but with a surprise at the end: as the loud final chords are sounded, the winds sustain a chord that gradually dies away, thus making this the only Dvořák symphony to end softly. © Program notes by Christopher Russell
The work begins with quiet hints of things to come and is soon shattered by forte chords from the orchestra. Dvořák uses the main theme in the French horn in some guise in every movement. Although Dvořák composed only original melodies for this work, there are places where the themes resemble folk melodies. For instance, the woodwinds perform the second theme in natural minor, giving the music a more folk-like feel. The third theme, heard in the flute, resembles the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
the CZeCh phIlharmonIC
The second movement is the emotional heart of the work. It contains the most famous solo ever written for the oboe’s lower-sounding cousin, the English horn, performing a melody later used by Dvořák’s student William Fisher for the song “Goin’ Home.” Like many of Dvořák’s slow movements, this one reaches a tremendous climax and then returns to the opening melody. The music dies away with the final chord played only by the double basses.
For more than a century, the Czech Philharmonic has represented the pinnacle of Czech cultural achievement, delighting audiences across the globe with its warm, vibrant sound. Today, the orchestra is enjoying a renewed reputation as one of the most exciting ensembles on the world stage, performing with artists including Hélène Grimaud, Lang Lang, Janine Jansen, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Frank Peter Zimmermann, to name but a few. The Czech Philharmonic has also been joined by soloists Garrick Ohlsson, Frank Peter Zimmermann and Alisa Weilerstein in recording Antonín Dvořák’s complete symphonies and his three concertos under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, the orchestra´s chief conductor, to be released in 2014 by the Decca label.
While in the United States, Dvořák had hoped to write an opera on the story of Hiawatha, and the second movement was believed to depict Hiawatha’s return home and the death of
The Czech Philharmonic has a history of working with outstanding musicians. Dvořák himself conducted the orchestra in its debut performance on January 4, 1896, at the