"What a wonderful manuscript! The most impressive aspect is the artful way the volume flows effortlessly from one chapter - and one section - to the next. Of all the books on American music at the turn of the century, none brings together so many interesting and richly interrelated dimensions as Dvorak in America. Congratulations!" Dr. Robert Winter Chair, Department of Music, UCLA
Blackwell North Amer
In 1892 the Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak arrived in New York City, where from 1892 to 1895 he worked as the director of the National Conservatory. "I did not come here to interpret Beethoven or Wagner for the public," he said, "but to give what encouragement I can to the young musicians of America.... I came to discover what young Americans have in them and to help them express it. The new American school of music must strike its roots deeply into its own soil."
Dvorak, a foreigner in a land filled with foreigners, had an ear freshly attuned "to the voice of the people," as he put it - the voice he heard in "the Negro melodies, the songs of the creoles, the red man's chant, or the plaintive ditties of the homesick Germans and Norwegians." By precept and example, he inspired his pupils and friends - such as Will Marion Cook, Harry T. Burleigh (both African Americans), Horatio Parker, and Maurice Arnold - to forge a uniquely American tradition; they, in turn, became mentors and teachers to a new generation of composers, including Charles Ives, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington.
Dvorak heard for himself the "dialects and idioms ... commingled in this great country" and expressed them in his own way in a dozen masterpieces written during his visit. His "New World" Symphony, for example - still the most famous ever written on American soil - was composed in New York amid what he called the "American push" of the streets. And two of his most celebrated chamber works, the F Major Quartet and the E-flat Major Quintet, were written during his travels through the prairies of northeast Iowa, which he described as the "American Sahara."
The contributors to this anthology are among the world's most distinguished authorities on Dvorak. They view the subject through the diverse lenses of the biographer, musicologist, cultural historian, archivist, educator, musician, novelist, journalist, and psychoanalyst. Further, they make discoveries of their own as new research continues to reveal information about the composer's life and music. Indeed, one lost and several neglected compositions are examined here. The composite portrait that emerges is strikingly pertinent to the modern age of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity. Dvorak and America constituted a unique intersection of culture, personality, and history that transcended a moment and identified an age.