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

Video transcript
Gerard:The fourth movement begins what one could say aggressively. (aggressive music) 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. (grand music) Immediately that first theme is repeated, this time the trumpet in [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. (fast music) It's a little different from anything that we've heard from Dvořák 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 it forth, and this goes on for awhile 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 timpany and the cello. (calm music) Eventually the flutes join in, the first violins join in, and it leads to yet another theme, theme four. Theme four starts out very lyrical, and then all of a sudden there's a few bars of agitated music. (agitated music) Then there's a fifth theme. For those of us that have studied music all the time, you look at Beethoven, Brahms, you look at themes. 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. (jovial 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 play it very strong, it gets softer, and then a little fanfare in the trumpet. The woodwinds come back in, repeating that fifth theme, well part of it. The horns come back in again, repeated again, as if to say, "This is what is important. "That's not important, our theme is important." (trilling music) (sombre music) And that leads to the development. And of course, it's amazing what Dvořák 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. (lulling music) This goes on quite long until the trumpets and trombones play again the slow movement, English horn theme, but this time loudly. (triumphant music) 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 brings in yet 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. (tranquil music) 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 into the coda, leading into the end of the movement. And what you have is, of course he's been repeating everything, but what he hasn't repeated yet are the opening chords of the slow movement. Remember the brass chords happening at the beginning and end of the slow movement? That hasn't come back yet. So, in brilliant fashion, he was waiting, you can just feel he's waiting for that moment, and sure enough, it comes back. Timpany banging away, the brass and the woodwinds playing this incredible harmonic sequence. (grand music) 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 that is 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 they get softer. What ends up happening, of course, is that the movement ends softly. It has not hurt the great success of this great masterpiece. (suspenseful music) (music gently fades)