Holidays with the Symphony

Clinton Symphony Orchestra and RiverChor present Holidays with the Symphony

Join us on Saturday, December 14 at 7:30 in Clinton High’s Vernon Cook Theater for our Holiday concert. Our special guest this year is RiverChor. This concert is always a favorite as we explore new and familiar musical themes of the Holidays. Bring family and friends for a festive evening!

Our program is:

A Most Wonderful Christmas; arr. Robert Sheldon

Skater’s Waltz; Émile Waldteufel

Festive Sounds of Hanukkah; arr. Bill Holcombe

Messiah And the Glory * For Unto Us * Hallelujah!; George Frideric Handel

Fanfare to La Péri; Paul Dukas

The Nutcracker – Marche * Arabe * Waltz of the Flowers * Trepak; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

How Great Our Joy; arr. John Rutter 

Lua, Lua, Lua; Esther Scliar 

Farandole from L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2.; Georges Bizet

Pizzicato Polka; Johann Strauss, Jr. and Josef Strauss

Christmas Memories; Rosephanye Powell 

A Christmas Festival; LeRoy Anderson 


Please enjoy the following program notes:

Music to Dispel the Bleak Mid-winter Doldrums

It is interesting to note that several of the songs and carols that we use to celebrate the Christmas season were originally composed for other occasions, but have been, over time, appropriated for that purpose – to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child or to cast a holiday spirit over the doldrums of a “bleak mid-winter” landscape.


To offset the solemn, dignified, and reverential tone of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Away in a Manger”, we have the more celebratory and extroverted sounds of “Joy to the World” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Few people know, however, that “Joy to the World” (1719) was not written by Isaac Watts to glorify the birth of Jesus Christ, but in anticipation of His Second Coming. The tune of the song is attributed to George Frederic Handel (Antioch). Even fewer know that Charles Wesley’s piece, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” (1739) achieves its wonderful sonorities from the music of Felix Mendelssohn, adapted from his cantata Festgesang (1840) to commemorate Gutenberg’s invention of movable type printing. It was arranged to Wesley’s poem by English composer William H. Cummings (1855). Wesley himself had preferred a more solemn and stately music.

Russian composer Serge Prokofiev, returning from abroad and eager to placate his critics, agreed to score the film Lieutenant Kijé (1934). The film was a success and Prokofiev’s five-movement suite adapted from the score quickly entered the international repertoire. The fourth movement of the suite Troika is often used in Christmas concerts as “sleigh bells, rapid pizzicato strings, and piano combine to give the impression of a fast winter’s journey [in a] troika, a traditional Russian three-horse sled.” American composer Leroy Anderson, in contrast, was prompted by a heat wave in 1946 to compose his Sleigh Ride. Working in his yard repairing water pipes, Anderson envisioned himself in a sleigh drawn by horses galloping through a snow-covered New England landscape with the crisp winter wind whipping across his sweaty brow. Sleigh Ride was premiered by the Boston Pops in May 1948. It makes no mention of any holiday.


Heat waves also played major roles in the creation of two other specific Christmas songs. Mel Tormé and Robert Wells collaborated to compose one of the most recorded Christmas tunes, “The Christmas Song” (1945):

According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool…I saw a spiral pad on his [Wells’] piano with four lines written in pencil”, Tormé recalled. “They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.” (Wikipedia)

American popular music composer Irving Berlin gave differing accounts about where and when he wrote the most popular Christmas song of all time – “White Christmas” – more than 50 million sales in the United States, more than 100 million world-wide. Berlin, in the more popular version, claimed that he was staying at a hotel in La Quinta, California, during a particularly hot, sultry spell in 1940, when he began to reminisce about earlier times in New England with his family and friends – especially around Christmas time. Berlin, who liked to compose at night, took down the words and music that came rushing to him and called his secretary in New York:

Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!

More serious – or classical – music also has examples of music adopted, adapted, and/or arranged for the holiday season despite the music’s original intent.

The Farandole on tonight’s program comes from themes Georges Bizet used in his incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’;s play L’;Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles), first performed in 1872. Bizet originally wrote twenty-seven numbers of varying lengths to augment the drama, but both the play and the music were considered failures at the time. Bizet, to salvage something from his efforts, extracted four pieces from score which he re-orchestrated and published as his L’Arlésienne Suite. It was not until four years after Bizet’s death that the second suite was created.

L’Arlésienne Suite No 2 was crafted by Ernest Guiraud, a life-long friend of Bizet. For his suite, he took three selections from the original source material, although he did take liberties with the arranging and scoring of the pieces. In Guiraud’s version of the Farandole, he augments the dance with a traditional French Christmas carol, March of the Kings. Thus, it is through Guiraud’s manipulation of Bizet’s original material that the Farandole is often scheduled on Christmas programs.

Messiah premiered the evening of April 13, 1742, as one of a series of charity concerts in Dublin, Ireland. George Frederic Handel, the German-born, Italian-educated, English citizen, composed this masterpiece over a three-week period during the summer of 1741 set to a libretto by Charles Jennens. Little is known of the reception the work received at its premiere, but it was a success when Handel led a performance in London the following year. Not until 1818 did an American premiere take place in Boston.

Handel altered and revised Messiah depending on the occasion and the musical forces he had at his command, and it was only in 1754 that an ‘authentic’ version was presented at a benefit performance for London’s Foundling Hospital.

The choruses from Messiah offer some of the most inspiring and stirring music that Handel ever wrote. Of particular note is the most famous of them, the Hallelujah chorus. The chorus comes at the end of part two and tradition dictates that the audience stands at this point, as King George II allegedly did in Handel’s time, to show deference to the King of Kings.


Peter Ily’ich Tchaikovsky
(1840-1893) considered his music for The Nutcracker ballet to be ‘infinitely poorer’ than that of his Sleeping Beauty. Following the success of his opera Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades), Tchaikovsky had accepted two commissions from the director of the Imperial Theatres – one for a ballet and another for a one-act opera. The director gave Tchaikovsky no options on the subject for the ballet; it was to be based on Alexandre Dumas père’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman‘s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

He began work on the score in early 1892 and finished the piece by late summer of the same year. The composer made a suite of eight of the numbers he had already completed and presented TheNutcracker Suite, Op. 72a to the St. Petersburg’s public on March 19, 1892. The complete ballet debuted in December 1892 to generally poor reviews. While the suite was an immediate success, the complete ballet did not achieve great popularity in the United States until the 1950s when it was featured on national television during the Christmas season. Since then, the ballet and the suite have become standard seasonal fare.


The great variety of music – both spiritual and secular – that boosts our holiday mood does much to, indeed, dispel the “bleak mid-winter” atmosphere and brings good cheer to all.

~Program notes by William Driver.

Musical Friendships – Brass Quintet

Closing our Musical Friendships chamber music concert will be a collection of music written by brass quintet. Join us this Sunday, November 10, at 3:00 pm, Zion Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa.

Arrival of the Queen of Sheba G. F. Handel/arr. Hauser

Exaltabo Te Giovanni de Palestrina/trans. Cooper

Tempting Davy’s Cup from Galleons and Cutlasses Kevin McKee

Moto Perpetuo from “Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge” Benjamin Britten/arr. Al Guss

Dave Hamburg and Lee Weimer, trumpets

Alan Gus, horn • Todd Slothower, trombone

Ron Morton, tuba

Enjoy the following program notes about the history of brass quintets and the composers of the pieces to be performed:

The Brass Quintet as an independent ensemble arrived relatively late in the chamber music realm and relied to some degree on the development of brass instrument design and manufacture in the last decades of the nineteenth century. While Russian composer and engineer Victor Ewald (1860-1935) is considered the innovator of the modern brass quintet, a French violinist and composer Jean-François Bellon (1795-1869) wrote several brass quintets in the 1840s primarily to display the virtuosity possible with the improved designs in brass instruments. Bellon, however, used a variety of instrumental configurations for his quintets, and it was Ewald who arrived at the modern equivalent of the brass quintet.

Photographic evidence from about 1912 shows that Ewald himself played in a brass quintet. It is seen to consist of two piston-valved cornets, rather than the modern choice of trumpets; a rotary-valved alto horn, rather than the French horn; a rotary-valved tenor horn, rather than the trombone; and a rotary-valved tuba (played by Ewald himself). Of these instruments, it is the alto and tenor horns that are most strikingly different from their modern quintet counterparts.

Ewald wrote four quintets specifically for brass quintet and transposed a string quartet into a fifth quintet. Wikipedia offers the following summary since Ewald:

The contemporary brass quintet appeared in the late 1940s created by the Chicago Brass Quintet, followed in the 1950s by the American Brass Quintet and the 1960s by the Eastman Brass Quintet. However, it was 1970 with the founding of Canadian Brass that the brass quintet finally became a major hall (i.e. Carnegie Hall main stage) attraction and accepted as a legitimate member of the chamber music world…Canadian Brass established both the style and popularity of the quintet medium throughout the world…Notable contributions to the [brass quintet] literature include many commissions by modern ensembles such as the American Brass Quintet and transcriptions by other ensembles such as the Canadian Brass.

Arrival of The Queen of Sheba is the Sinfonia from George Frederick Handel’s oratorio Solomon, composed in 1748. Solomon is based on the biblical texts concering King Solomon of Israel. The music announces the beginning of the Queen of Sheba’s state visit in Jerusalem. It is often used today as a processional piece for weddings, state visits, etc.

Exaltabo Te is based on a motet by Palestrina. The composer wrote primarily for vocal forces and very little for instrumental ensembles.

Tempting Davy’s Grip from Galleons and Cutlasses for Brass Quintet is best described by the composer himself: I have always been a huge fan of pirates… For a while now I have been waiting for a good opportunity to channel some of this pirate love into a composition and…I have finally been able to do so.  With 2 contrasting movements, Phantom Ship and Tempting Davy’s Grip, this is my ode to pirates.

Moto Perpetuo from Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge is derived from incomplete work of Benjamin Britten, a set of variations. Britten took the sketches from 1932 and completed it in 1937 as a commission for the Salzburg Festival of that year. The Moto Perpetuo is the seventh variation of ten.

~Program Notes by William Driver

Musical Friendships – Clarinet Quintet – Brahms

Join us for an afternoon of chamber music presented by members of the Clinton Symphony Orchestra. The concert is at 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 10 at Zion Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa.

The third group on the program is:

Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115        Johannes Brahms

Rob Miller, clarinet

James Fudge and Theresa Johnson, violins

Hyun-Kyung Ryn, viola • Ann Balderson, violoncello

Enjoy the following program notes about Brahms and the Clarinet Quintet:

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) came late to the clarinet as a chamber music instrument. It was not that he did not relish the clarinet for its sound and weight within a combination of other instruments; his orchestral compositions, particularly the symphonies and serenades, clearly demonstrate otherwise. Rather Brahms had a low opinion of clarinetists as chamber players; based on his experiences, the art of clarinet playing had deteriorated since Mozart and Weber. In an exchange of letters between himself and his confidante Clara Schumann, the composer expressed, on the one hand, his admiration for the clarinetists in the Vienna orchestras who performed well in large ensembles; on the other hand, Brahms dismissed these same instrumentalists for their lack of ability to excel in solo work.

Thus Brahms’ friends were surprised when the composer took a sudden interest in the clarinet after he had unofficially retired from composing. But the transformation came not through any particular initiative of Brahms. Nor did it come about in association with his Vienna contacts. Rather it came about as a result of his friendship with the celebrated conductor Hans von Bülow who headed the orchestra in Meiningen. Bülow was the first important conductor who was not himself a composer by trade. He had assumed leadership of the Meiningen orchestra in 1880 following somewhat tempestuous conductorships at Berlin and Hanover. Eclectic in his musical tastes, he did not favor one school of music over another and served equally well as a champion both for Brahms the classicist and for Wagner the progressive.

From 1880 to 1885, Bülow built the Meiningen orchestra, never exceeding fifty members, into the finest in Europe. Members were expected to play scores from memory, and, at times, to play standing to show their commitment. The annual Meiningen music festivals founded by him attracted music lovers from all across Europe and the United States. Incidentally, it was Bülow who linked Brahms with Bach and Beethoven to form the ‘three Bs’ of music.

Bülow invited Brahms, ‘the great lion,’ to come to Meiningen to premiere the composer’s newly finished Piano Concerto No 2 in B-flat major, Op 83. There, Brahms came under the good graces of Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, the chief patron of the orchestra. The two got along famously, and, thereafter, Brahms’ scores were featured regularly on the orchestra’s programs, and, with an open invitation from the Duke, Brahms became a regular guest at the festivals. Strangely, it was not until a decade after he began his Meiningen visits that Brahms became fully aware of the orchestra’s chief clarinetist, Richard Mühlfeld.

Mühlfeld joined the Meiningen orchestra as a violinist in 1873. He was seventeen at the time. By 1876 he was appointed first clarinet in the orchestra after having taught himself the instrument, and as the orchestra’s reputation under Bülow’s leadership rose, so did Mühlfeld’s. Mühlfeld specialized in playing the clarinet concerti of Mozart and Weber, and it was the Mozart concerto that Brahms heard in a private concert for the composer arranged in March 1891 by Fritz Steinbach, the successor to Bülow as conductor at Meiningen. The spirit to compose arose again in the aging composer.

Brahms was so enthused by Mühlfeld’s artistry that he immediately wrote to Clara Schumann, ‘It is impossible to play the clarinet better than Herr Mühlfeld does here.’ So moved was he that Brahms set at once to composing for the clarinetist as much as for the clarinet. In the course of the following summer, he composed two chamber works specifically for Mühlfeld: Trio in A Minor, Opus 114, for piano, cello, and clarinet, and Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op 115. Both works were premiered at Meiningen in November 1891. The Trio was performed by Brahms, piano, Robert Hausmann, cello, and Mühlfeld, clarinet. For the Quintet, Brahms called on his old friend Joseph Joachim for whom he had written his Violin Concerto to lead his quartet with Mühlfeld as soloist again. It was the first time the Joachim Quartet had used an assisting artist other than a string player, prompting a contemporary of Brahms to joke: ‘it was on this occasion that the Joachim Quartet lost its virginity.’

On Mühlfeld’s playing of the Clarinet Quintet, an occasional substitute player with the Joachim Quartet reported that three qualities stood out.

He used two clarinets, A and B-flat, for the slow movement, to simplify the gypsy section; he had a fiery technique with a warm tone—and a big vibrato.

When asked if he meant ‘rubato’ rather than ‘vibrato, the old man answered,

vibrato—much more than Joachim, and as much as the cellist.

In 1894, Brahms added two additional compositions to the clarinet repertoire with the Clarinet Sonatas, Op 120, both for Mühlfeld, ‘the best wind player I know.’ On the occasions that they were together, Brahms would introduce Mühlfeld as ‘Fraulein Klarinette’ and ‘prima donna’, placing the clarinetist in the class of ‘an operatic soprano.’

~Program notes by William Driver

Musical Friendships – Piano Trio in C Major – Haydn

Enjoy chamber music presented by members of the Clinton Symphony Orchestra on our Musical Friendships concert on Sunday, November 10, at 3:00 pm at Zion Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa. The second piece on the concert will be:

Piano Trio in C Major, Hob.XV;27             

Joseph Haydn

Nadia Wirchnianski, piano

Asa Church, violin • David Spaulding, violoncello

Please enjoy the following program notes about the composer and piece:

Seventeen ninety was a watershed year for Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). In that one year Haydn’s life and fortune were turned upside down. Emperor Joseph II died on February 20, 1790, an event that threw Austria and its empire into a period of prolonged mourning. Less than a week later, the wife of his patron and employer Nicolaus Esterházy died; Haydn spent a good deal of his time trying to console the desolate Nicolaus, but Nicolaus himself succumbed by the end of September, to be succeeded by his brother, Anton. Anton, seeking to save on expenses at an uncertain time, released nearly all of the court musicians, and relegated Haydn to a part-time position with commiserate pay. Anton, to Haydn’s delight, had little use for his services and permitted Haydn to travel as he saw fit. Haydn wasted little time in using his new-found semi-independence and rented an apartment in Vienna. At long last he was away from his isolated existence at Esterházy and free to mingle in an appreciative society and to engage in commerce with his Viennese counterparts.

Haydn was the most famous and most sought after composer in Europe in his time; thus when London impresario Johann Peter Salomon, in Germany searching for music talent to import to England, heard that Haydn might be available, he pounced, only to find a surprisingly responsive Haydn. The composer had entertained an English tour for more than a decade, but his duties as kapellmeister at Esterházy had prevented him from such an undertaking. Now, he could undertake a tour without fear of antagonizing his new patron. And Salomon assured him that the English public revered his music above all others, and, more important, that he would be richly rewarded.

Salomon’s contract with Haydn covered one year, but the demand for Haydn’s presence in London and the desire for more of his compositions brought about a one-year extension and eventually to another residence during the 1894-95 music seasons. Haydn made enough money during these two tours to finally give him the peace of mind in his final years that only financial security can bring.

Haydn was a short man, unhandsome, with a large aquiline nose disfigured by polypus, a condition he suffered much of his adult life. A survivor of smallpox, his face was pitted with the marks of that disease. Consequently, Haydn himself was amazed that so many pretty women seem to find him attractive. “They couldn’t have been led to it by my beauty,” he confessed to one early biographer.

Not long after arriving in London in 1791, Haydn received a letter from Mrs. Schroeter; she invited him to give her a music lesson “whenever it is convenient.” Haydn accepted the offer, and, thus, began a relationship that lasted beyond his second visit in 1794-95. At least twenty-two letters passed between the two during Haydn’s sojourns in the English capital. Letters from Mrs. Schroeter to Haydn clearly indicate that their relationship passed beyond the platonic to the intimate. The copies of the letters are in Haydn’s handwriting and were discovered by his biographer Albert Christoph Dies in Haydn’s “second London notebook.” Dies further reported in his 1810 biography of the musical giant, that Haydn had admitted his affection for a widow in London “who loved me…a beautiful and charming woman and I would have married her very easily if I had been free at the time.”

On most evenings that he was not otherwise engaged in concerts or meetings, Haydn dined with Mrs. Schroeter at her residence. Surprisingly, the two carried on their romance beyond the prying eyes and ears of London gossips; friends may have been aware, but no broad reports ever surfaced about the “old man and the young widow.” After Haydn’s departure in 1895, Mrs. Schroeter looked after some of his business affairs and was an initial subscriber to his self-published oratorio The Creation. Although they never met again, some scholars conjecture that they kept in touch with each other, possibly up to the time of Haydn’s death in 1809.

The Piano Trio in C major, Hob XV:27 is from a set of three such trios, written not for Lady Schroeter, but for another lady of Haydn’s acquaintance, Therese Jansen. Haydn had met the accomplished amateur pianist during his London visits. She was a favorite student of composer Muzio Clementi and was considered a piano teacher of note in her own right. She did not perform publicly, but did participate in private music-making among friends. Haydn dedicated two of his piano sonatas to her, as well. This trio signals that she must have been quite a fine performer.

~Program notes by William Driver

Musical Friendships – Serenade for Flute, Violin, & Viola – Beethoven

Opening our Musical Friendships chamber music concert on Sunday, November 10, 3:00 pm at Zion Lutheran Church will be:

Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25           

Ludwig van Beethoven

Madeline Oglesby, flute

Hana Velde, violin • Ann Duchow, viola

Please enjoy the following program notes about this piece:

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) arrived in Vienna in 1792, the year after Mozart’s death. He began his studies with the notable composer Joseph Haydn, but finding his temperament at odds with the venerated Master, Beethoven sought out instruction with Antonio Salieri and Johann Albrechtsberger; but these teachers lasted a short time, as well. He then set out on his own. Increasingly, he discovered that his compositions had an audience. He composed piano sonatas and large ensemble works that were quickly accepted for publication, but sales were modest at first, and like any aspiring young composer, he wrote pieces for occasions for small groups of players and for various combinations of instruments to earn living expenses.

The bulk of his compositions during his early Viennese period focused on works for piano and the usual instrument groupings, but he did compose for non-traditional combinations. The Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op 25 is one such work, unusual in that the piece has no bass line. The piece was offered for publication in 1801 and was an immediate success. It is not known whether the piece was written for a specific group or whether it was composed for general consumption. Whatever the case may be, the Serenade proved so popular that Beethoven authorized another composer, Franz X. Kleinheinz, to arrange the score for piano and flute/violin, and it was offered in 1803 as Opus 41.

The Serenade for Flute, Violin, and Viola in D major, Op 25, was written according to the standards established by Mozart in his great serenades with the full compliment of movements, but with pared down instrumentation. Serenades in Beethoven’s time were not necessary works for lovers, but rather pieces for particular occasions, designed to entertain, and often performed outdoors. Such “Gebrauchsmusik” (music for a purpose or “use-music”) does not seek to find deeper meaning in life or explore the soul of a nation, but does offer to entertain and audience for an evening in the park or at an afternoon social gathering. As one observer of this Serenade explained

The six movements find the young Beethoven at his most carefree and effervescent: even the Andante and variations (which would become a conduit for profound thoughts later in his career) is as light as air and bubbling with melody and witty repartee. Anyone who only knows Beethoven from the symphonies, sonatas and concertos has a very pleasant surprise in store

The Serenade is a most delightful breath of fresh air from the mighty composer of later years. ~Program notes by William Driver

Join us as the Clinton Symphony performs Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 9 in E minor, Op 95, ‘From the New World’

The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will be kicking off their 66th season on Saturday, September 21 at 7:30 pm. The concert, entitled “From the Countryside” will take place in the Centennial Auditorium of Sterling High School in Illinois. More information about the concert may be found here. Please enjoy the following program notes about this work.

Antonín Dvořák –

Symphony No 9 in E minor, Op 95, ‘From the New World’

In 1889 Antonín Leopold Dvořák (1841-1904) became a professor of composition at the Prague conservatory, where he was known as a tough instructor who demanded that his students nurture their own voice. It was his mode of instruction that brought him to the attention of American philanthropist, Jeannette Thurber, who wanted to encourage American composers to create a uniquely American form of musical expression. To this end, she helped establish the National Conservatory of Music of America and invited Dvořák to head the institution, at the princely sum of $15,000 per annum.

Dvořák knew what Thurber expected of him when he accepted the offer. As he explained to one of his Prague colleagues:

I am to show them the way into the Promised Land, a new, independent art, in short a national style of music!

Within a few days of his arrival in New York in September 1892, Dvořák began to assemble the materials he would consult in fashioning a new symphony to showcase his nationalist intent for his students.

Dvořák recognized that his knowledge of American folk and customs was limited, but he knew, as well, that the country was a motley mix of various cultural strains. He chose to concentrate on two cultures, the native Indian and the African American. He felt, with some reason, that other prominent cultures were still too closely connected with their European roots to be seriously considered as singularly American. To him, then, the “inspiration for truly national [American] music might be derived from the Negro melodies or Indian chants.” Despite protestations from American composers, Dvořák maintained his opinion until he departed American shores in 1895.

In his search for authentic American music material, Dvořák consulted with music critic Henry Krehbiel on Amerindian songs and chants and with a student at the Conservatory on African American slave songs. The student, Harry (Henry) Thacker Burleigh, had learned the tone and timbre of slave songs from his grandfather. His mother had inculcated this tradition in Burleigh, as well, when she sang the old songs as she went about her household chores.

Dvořák began the preliminary sketches for his new symphony in January 1893 and by mid-February; he was hard at work on the full score. He completed the work in May, and it received its premiere on December 16, 1893, in Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The symphony was an outstanding success, with performances quickly scheduled by other American and European orchestras.

Some controversy arose almost immediately over the “American themes” that Dvořák utilized in his Symphony No 9 in E minor, Op 95, ‘From the New World’. The composer himself no doubt fueled the flames when he stated in an article for the New York Herald that American composers could find everything they needed for a national music in the melodies of African Americans, specifically referring to plantation and work songs, as well as minstrel show tunes. Burleigh wrote, “Dvořák saturated himself with the spirit of these old tunes and then invented his own themes.” Some confusion came about particularly after William Arms Fisher, a student of Dvořák’s at the conservatory, put lyrics to the Largo melody to produce Goin’ Home, which soon became a ‘spiritual’ incorrectly credited as a plantation song.

In fact, Dvořák became caught up in an idea to compose an opera or cantata based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, a project that Burleigh attests held the Czech composer’s attention throughout his tenure at the Conservatory. In his Herald article in December 1893, Dvořák wrote that he drew the Largo second movement from sketches “for a later work, either a cantata or opera…which will be based upon Longfellow’s Hiawatha.” The precise inspiration for the famous Largo is the famine scene from the poet’s epic tale.

Dvořák further wrote the third movement Scherzo was “suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance.” Yet the composer wanted to quell any contrary ideas that he had used any melodies or tunes not of his own design.

A more appropriate subtitle for the Symphony No 9 may be Song of Hiawatha rather than From the New World. One should bear in mind, however, that the work is Dvořák’s letter home, from the new world to the old world. Notwithstanding all the attention to the influences of his temporary home, Symphony No 9 is a Bohemian symphony written by a homesick Czech composer.

Program notes are graciously written for us by William Driver.