New World Symphony (No. 9)
Composer: Antonin Dvořák
Conductor: Josep Caballé-Domenech
Date: March 11, 2017
This piece. THIS PIECE! I’ll be honest; it’s probably my favorite piece of classical music ever. Now that I know a bit more about it through the Colorado Springs Philharmonic’s Masterworks series, I feel I can appreciate it even more. Although even if I now know the Native American, African American, Czech, Beethoven, and Wagner influences that made this piece what it is, I’ve loved it for so long I have trouble picking out the references. Nevertheless, being able to identify the small segments that added to the spectacular whole that is this piece just added to my love of it.
If anything, the melting pot of musical motifs and themes that help to create a sound that is distinctly American, even from a Czech composer like Dvorak, is what the New World Symphony is all about. The ability for Dvorak to recognize the heritage of the Native Americans and the struggle of the African-Americans and put it into a musical form that highlights our innate need for freedom is just one element of his genius composition. Now, more than ever, I think this piece defines the hopes and dreams of people who yearn for a new world of equality and fairness.
Now, one may wonder why I am so enthusiastic about this piece. As it just so happens, I am a fan of the anime, One Piece. Right around the time I was getting into classical music in college, I was watching this anime when the story came to a critical moment in its plot. I still get chills whenever I hear the first few notes of the fourth movement because this segment of the symphony was used to musically emphasize the defeat of a tyrant who cast a desert kingdom into civil war. I know there’s not much plot background to the clip below (also linked here), but I implore you to watch it to get an understanding of why I feel this piece is so powerful, even outside the context of this particular anime.