If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:11:29

Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 "From the New World," analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 2)

Video transcript

- Now we get to the second movement. What's interesting about the second movement, of all the many things interesting is that it's marked largo and very often it would be played as the Largo from the New World Symphony, because it's such a famous melody and everybody knows this melody. It began as an andante, an andante is a faster tempo and so he envisioned this as fast as he was writing it and then he thought, well, maybe that's not correct, maybe it should be a little slower, so he wrote larghetto. It was premiered by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in 1893 and Anton Seidl, a very great conductor did it quite slowly and so as a result Dvorak changed it yet again and made it a largo, so it started out as an andante, then a larghetto and a largo, interesting to see how a great artist, a great conductor like Seidl could influence a great composer like Dvorak. It begins with a very famous brass chorale, horns, trumpet, trombone and tuba, at the end of these few bars, it makes a decrescendo and the strings take over playing the exact same chord and then the most famous English horn solo of all time, it is one of the most beautiful solos, there are many people believe that it's influenced by Negro spirituals, one could make the argument that it's also influenced by Czech folk music, whatever the influence is, it is gorgeous. At the end of this statement of the beautiful melody of the English horn, that opening chorale is repeated, this time played by the woodwinds and the horns, again he uses that same imaginative, orchestrational idea. The woodwinds finish their chord, the brass come in playing the same chord fortissimo, then the decrescendo and the strings just remain singing that same exact chord very softly and then they play. The English horn comes back and plays it again, we have a couple of muted horns, that bring us to theme two, it's marked a little bit faster, of course we do that, played by the flute and the oboe. The second theme is then extended by a beautiful clarinet duet and the clarinets play their gorgeous duet, violins come in playing the same melody and we move to yet another melody, this one played by the violins and the clarinets is almost funereal, this is very heartfelt, gorgeous music played very poignantly and very softly primarily by the strings. Then this leads to yet another theme, as I keep repeating, Dvorak is just full of ideas and now we have the third theme, this one is completely different character, starts with the oboe, then the clarinet, then the flute, then the violins, then the cellos and the basses. So here you have this kind of light that enters his work and then what happens? The trombones come in in an ominous way playing the first theme from the first movement, the horn theme slower. The trumpets play a fanfare version of the English horn solo that we had just heard and the strings play the third theme from the first movement, it's hard to keep track of which number theme it is, but if you just listen to the trombones playing one theme, the trumpets playing another and the violins playing another and see how it all fits together in an absolutely brilliant way. This is a very short transition bringing us back to the beautiful English horn solo. The English horn solo then is extended by 10 solo string players, four violins, two violas, two cellos and two basses. What I'd like you to notice in this is the silences, he plays a little bit of this beautiful theme very softly and poignantly and then there's a stop and then he does it again and there's another stop and then he reduces it to just three players, solo violin, solo viola and a solo cello, then the full string section comes in and it brings us back to the chorale that opened the movement, it's darker sounding and I'll tell you exactly why, even though you wouldn't even notice, why does it sound darker, why does it sound more reserved, more introspective? It's because orchestrationally he eliminates the trumpets, so you hear the trumpets at the very beginning, here there are no trumpets, so that kind of more brighter sound is missing, ends very beautifully with very unusual three-part chord played by the double basses, it's hard to imagine if anyone before this time had ever written something where a trio of double basses or three voices of double basses would end a symphonic movement, quite remarkable.