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Dvořák, New World Symphony

Keys to the Orchestra by Jean-François Zygel

What is a symphony? What is the role of each instrument in the orchestra? What is a variation? What is a theme? In his Clefs de l'orchestre, Jean-François Zygel seeks to convey to a wide audience the keys to understanding a work from the symphony repertoire performed at the Maison de la Radio. Accompanied by the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra and prestigious conductors, the pianist decomposes the work with humour and provides a context for a clearer explanation.

Dvořák, the New World Symphony: the voice of the composer

Antonin Dvořák once declared for the New York Herald that the future of American music should rely on popular black American songs. He considered theses songs to be representative of the American country and traditions, so according to the composer they are necessary to the creation of a national school of music.

Antonin Dvořák, "La valeur des mélodies nègres," New York Herald, 21 mai 1893.

The voice of the critics. The controversy: what is American music?

Does pure American music really exist? Can a symphony by a Czech composer be considered as American? For James Huneker, the answer is no. Dvořák's Symphony contains a great variety of different influences (Irish, slavic, Scottish, black and German) but its heterogeneous nature doesn't make it American. Besides, according to the critic, the style is Dvořák's style, that is Czech.

On the contrary, in the opinion of Henry Edward Krehbiel, the real identity of a piece of music depends not only on its composer, but also on the place where this music has been conceived. That is why he told to the New York Daily Tribune that the black American songs that inspired Dvořák, as well as his Symphony, are the products of American institutions, of that particular political social and geographical environment in which black slaves lived and worked. If the raw material comes from Abroad, Krehbiel affirms that the result is certainly American.

James Huneker, Musical Courier, December 20 1893

Henry Edward, New York Daily Tribune, January 7 1894

Movie director : Stéphan Aubé
Collection : The Keys To The Orchestra by Jean-François Zygel
Playlist : Musics from the Americas
Musical period : Romantic music

Duration : 01 h 14 min
Location : Salle Pleyel (Paris, France)
Recording date : 2007
Production date : 2008
Production : © PDJ production / Radio France SCEREN - CNDP / naïve
Available version(s) : FR

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