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Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 "From the New World," analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 4)

Watch the full performance here . Created by All Star Orchestra.

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Video transcript

- The fourth movement begins what one could say aggressively. The string writing is fortissimo, almost as loud as possible. The first theme after this short introduction is played by the trumpets, two trumpets playing in unison. Immediately that first theme is repeated, this time the trumpet an octave. The second half of this first theme then is extended, played in this case by the strings and then that gets repeated. We have a kind of exuberant second theme. It's a little different from anything we've heard from Dvorak before, because it's really not a melodic theme, it's not lyrical, the way so much of his music is, rather it's jovial and happy, woodwinds carry a fourth and this goes on for a while, until we arrive at the third theme, again piling up this gorgeous melodic material. The third theme is introduced now by the clarinet with a little echo from the timpani and the cello. Eventually the flutes join in, the first violins join in and it leads to yet another theme, theme four, so theme four starts out very lyrical and then all of a sudden there's a few bars of agitated music. Then there's a fifth theme, you know, those of us that study music all the time and you look at Beethoven, Brahms, you look at themes and five themes in the last movement, I mean, it's unbelievable. This theme again is a kind of jovial one and it very much is reminiscent of Bohemian or Czech folk music. After this theme is somewhat developed, what happens is very interesting, the horns, all five horns come in and play the first theme of this movement, but with a decrescendo, so they're played very strong, it gets softer and then a little fanfare on the trumpet, the woodwinds come back in repeating that fifth theme, or part of it, horns come back in again, repeated again as if to say, this is what's important, that's not important, our theme is important and that leads to the development and of course it's amazing what Dvorak does in this development. He also brings back material from the second and third movements, so at one point we have the woodwinds playing the English horn solo from the second movement, while the strings come in with a little comment on that, which is material from the third movement. This goes on quite long, until the trumpets and trombones play again the slow movement, English horn theme, but this time loudly. Then the third and fourth horn come in and they're playing the theme from the first movement, it's answered by the cellos and basses, then he yet brings in another theme, one that I don't think we've heard before, it is gorgeous, played by the violins and then answered by the cellos. Again he now brings in all the themes from all the movements and does it in an absolutely remarkable way. Eventually he leads up to a real climax, which of course now becomes leading it to the coda, leading it to the end of the movement and what you have is of course, you know, he's been repeating everything, but what he hasn't repeated yet were the opening chords of the slow movement, remember the brass chords happened at the beginning and the end of the slow movement, that hasn't come back yet, so in brilliant fashion he was waiting, you could just feel he's waiting for that moment. Sure enough it comes back, timpani banging away, the brass and the woodwinds playing this incredible harmonic sequence. This leads to the actual resolution of the movement, very imaginatively done, bringing back lots of material, varying the tempo and then at the very end, he does something very unusual, composers generally like to end pieces loudly, they like to have a big, crashing ending, so everybody screams and yells bravo. This symphony is a little more introspective than that and so at the very end of this great movement, he has the woodwinds and the brass play this last chord and make it softer and then what ends up happening of course is that the movement ends softly, it has not hurt the great success of this great masterpiece.