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Discover the most interesting happenings in ensemble music – both locally and around the world – in lively posts by Jason and our staff.

Tonight: Dvorák, Iowa and American music

‘Inspiration for truly national music might be derived from the Negro melodies or Indian chants … These things are worth preserving, and no one should be above making a lavish use of all such suggestions. It is a sign of barrenness, indeed, when such characteristic bits of music exist and are not heeded by the learned musicians of the age.’

Antonín Dvořák on the centrality of ethnic and vernacular traditions to national musical styles, paired with a portrait by Gary Kelley inspired by the composer’s views. In 1893 – two years before he published the essay from which this quote is taken – Dvořák spent a summer in Spillville, Iowa absorbing the local culture and landscape [aspects of which would eventually make their ways into his own music].

Tonight wcfsyphony performs Dvořák’s most notable ‘American’ work, the New World Symphony, overlooking an Iowa river very much like the one he strolled daily during his stay here.