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Dvorák to Duke EllingtonA Conductor Rediscovers America's Music and Its African-American Roots$
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Maurice Peress

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195098228.001.0001

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Dvořák’s Symphony From the New World

Dvořák’s Symphony From the New World

(p.19) 3 Dvořák’s Symphony From the New World
Dvorák to Duke Ellington

Maurice Peress

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts with Dvorák's witnessing of the exuberant festivities for the 400th anniversary of Columbusás landing in the New World only a few days after his arrival and his first concert appearance. It is here that Dvorák often hears Negro Spirituals sung by his new assistant, Harry T. Burleigh, as he composes a new Symphony. Dvorák explicitly announces that his “newly completed symphony reflects the Negro melodies, upon which ... the coming American school must be based ... will be a surprise to the world”. He carefully signs his completed score and dates it, “Fine, Praised be to God! May 24, 1893, at nine in the morning”. In an unusual gesture, Dvorák returns to the score later that day to add a euphoric note, “Family arrives at Southhampton! (telegram l:33)”. Famous American and European musicians react to Dvorák's “negro music idea”. After that, the Dvoráks leave by train for their summer vacation in a small Czech speaking farm community in Spillville, Iowa. En route they stop in Chicago to visit the Fair.

Keywords:   Harry T. Burleigh, Negro Spirituals, Columbus Day, Spillville, Chicago

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