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The American dream

Donald Macleod asks whether Dvorak's time in America, with its controversies and homesickness, was as successful as the composer had hoped.

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

“The Americans expect great things of me”. Dvořák’s arrival in New York in September 1892 has something of a mid-life crisis about it. Persuaded by the wealthy philanthropist Jeanette Thurber to take up a post of Director at the National Conservatory of Music, it was a chance to escape the shadow of his friend and fellow composer Johannes Brahms. America provided further successes, but also its own set of difficulties.

Today’s programme sees Dvořák embroiled in arguments about the nature of American music and struggling with homesickness. But he was also inspired by his time in America and we’ll hear music which began as a few scribbled notes on a shirt cuff in Iowa and a pieces written after a visit to the Minnehaha Falls.

Piano Trio in E minor, Op 90 (Dumky) (Allegro)
The Florestan Trio

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op 104 (2nd movt – Adagio ma non troppo)
Berliner Philharmoniker
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Violin Sonatina in G, Op 100
Jack Liebeck, violin
Katya Apekisheva, piano

Biblical Songs, op 99 (Oh, my Shepherd is the Lord & By the shore of the river of Babylon)
Dagmar Pecková, mezzo-soprano
Irwin Gage, piano

String Quartet No 12 in F major, Op 96 (American) (Lento)
Pavel Haas Quartet

Symphony No 9, Op 95 (From the New World) (1st movt – Adagio-Allegro molto
Royal Concertgabouw Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales

17 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Antonín Dvořák

    Piano Trio No 4, Op 90 (Dumky) (5th movement)

    Ensemble: The Florestan Trio.
    • HYPERION : CDA-66895.
    • HYPERION.
    • 9.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    Cello Concerto in B minor, Op 104 (2nd movement)

    Performer: Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • DGG : 447-413 2.
    • DGG.
    • 2.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    Sonatina in G major, Op 100 (4th movement)

    Performer: Jack Liebeck. Performer: Katya Apekisheva.
    • SONY 88697499632.
    • SONY.
    • 10.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    10 Biblical Songs, Op 99 (extracts)

    Performer: Irwin Gage. Singer: Dagmar Pecková.
    • SUPRAPHON : SU 3437-2-231.
    • SUPRAPHON.
    • 23.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    String Quartet No 12 in F major, Op 96 (American) (2nd movement)

    Ensemble: Pavel Haas Quartet.
    • SUPRAPHON : SU-4038-2.
    • SUPRAPHON.
    • 6.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    Symphony No 9 in E minor, Op 95 (From The New World) (1st movement)

    Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    • TELDEC : 3984-252542.
    • TELDEC.
    • 1.

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