It often surprises classical music lovers in this country to learn that the great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1842 1904) spent three years in the United States. Homesick though he was, the extended stay vividly shaped his music from that time and had a profoundly liberating effect on American composers' recognition of their own often-neglected musical heritage. "I did not come to America to interpret Beethoven or Wagner," Dvořák said. "I came to America to discover what young Americans had in them and help them express it."
Notably, Dvořák asked Americans to find inspiration in Native American and African American tunes and songs, encouragement he followed himself in such works as "New World Symphony," the "American" string quartet, and the haunting slow movement from his Sonatina for Violin and Piano. Dvořák composed the Sonatina's Larghetto at the base of Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota, hurriedly jotting down its melody on his shirt cuff since he had no paper at hand.
The Class Notes video Antonín Dvořák in the New World follows the composer's travels from Europe to New York City and the American Midwest, arriving at last at Minnehaha Falls. The video introduces teachers and their students to one of classical music's great composers, helping them share his admiration for the Native American and African American musical voices that long preceded classical music here. And Minnesotans may be especially glad to learn of Dvořak's productive visit to one of their state's most beautiful natural landmarks.
Class Notes videos featuring Ojibwe Anishinaabe singer and cultural leader Lyz Jaakola can be found here and here.
To view more Class Notes videos, go here.