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Thread: Help with structure of Dvorak's 9th

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    Newbies ArtemisofEphesus's Avatar
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    Question Help with structure of Dvorak's 9th

    Hello everyone,

    I have to do a presentation and analysis of a piece of music for school, the piece I've chosen is the allegro con fuoco (4th Movement) from Dvorak's 9th Symphony. (One of my favourite pieces.)
    I need some help with the structure - It's nothing I can comprehend, yet I don't think it is just through-composed either. Can someone enlighten me?

    Thanks in advance,
    Jo.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    One thing I discovered when I heard it for the first time back in 1996 was that the last movement contains alot of the themes of the previous movements in different guises.

    Also, mention it was inspired by America and her tunes. I also was led to belive that during this time, Dvorak skipped a few opus's to get to his opus 100! Cheeky!

    There's a lot more to talk about that just the music. just tell them how good it is - how it makes you feel.
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure the last movement is in Sonata form... But you're in luck because I have a nice book that gives a decent analysis of the movement:

    FOURTH MOVEMENT: Allegro con fuoco (fast, with fire). E Minor. 4/4 time. Sonata-allegro form.

    "Out of a tempestuous introduction emerges a marching song given out fortissimo by horns and trombones. Even the minor mode cannot dim the sense of power and promise, the high determination and courage that breathe through this music. The theme is repeated with heightened color by violins and woodwinds in high register. The music broadens into a torrent of triplets that courses onward, sweeping everything before it. There is a terrific energy and exultance about this transitional passage that leads to the second theme.

    The mood changes to one of reverie. The second theme, given to the solo clarinet, unfolds in broad curves of melody to a climax on the strings (note the frequent interruptions by the ‘cellos). We are plunged into a popular fortissimo melody, each of whose phrases ends with three detached descending notes. This third (or closing) theme is sung by flutes and violins.

    Expansive and joyous, it is a song for vast multitudes. The there descending notes at the end are repeated in the bass by ‘cellos and basses and then blossom out as the opening of the familiar tune “Three Blind Mice” bandied about by the orchestra with humor and imagination. Now deep down amidst the bass strings, how high up on the woodwinds, this distinctive descending motive persists in imitative style against an intricate countermelody and finally disappears, imitated by a number of instruments at various registers in a continuous downward curve.

    The development section is a rich mosaic of the three themes, the connective material, plus reminiscences of previously heard themes. The March theme on the horns, sounding mysteriously as from a distance, is pitted against fragments of the “Three Blind Mice” theme. Familiar melodies heard in new rhythmic patterns are interspersed among the energetic triplets that lent such a verve to the exposition. Echoes of the “Going Home” theme from the Largo wreathe about the March theme like a pale memory. The syncopated arpeggio of the opening theme of the Symphony suddenly spurts upward in a surge of excitement, ever more pressing, until the March theme appears fortissimo against downward chromatic scales. The music veers towards the home key of E minor.

    In the recapitulation, Dvorak touches upon the thematic material of the exposition. The March theme appears in E minor, strangely subdued. The dreaming second theme rises to a sonorous curve as before, but its orchestral coloring is altered. The popular song (third theme) has a plaintiveness about it. The recapitulation is in the nature of a brief review, preparing the way for the electrifying coda. The ascending-and-descending arpeggio of the opening movement gives way to a fortissimo entrance of the March theme. From a headlong climax we are thrust into the opening chords of the Largo, while the strings produce an upward thrust of great billows of sound. An abrupt diminuendo and a fragment of the “Going Home” theme sweep past in startling juxtaposition to the twitching opening rhythm of the Scherzo movement. It is as though all the themes we watched grow and expand in the earlier movements were hurrying past for a brief summation before the close. A last solemn announcement of the March theme, and we are swept into the final broad cadence on an E major—instead of minor—chord, an ending called, Tierce de Picardie."

    - From Edwin Stringham's Listening to Music Creatively

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    Newbies ArtemisofEphesus's Avatar
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    So it is in Sonata form. That was what I originally suspected and then dropped after further thought.

    Even the minor mode cannot dim the sense of power and promise
    Mode or key? Which mode?

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    Senior Member Morigan's Avatar
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    The key is E, and the mode is minor (it's either major or minor). You'll notice that the mode changes throughout the piece. That's modulation. Actually, only the coda is in major mode (brighter sound, etc.)

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    ah, which music school/university are you currently enrolled?

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    Also, mention it was inspired by America and her tunes.
    There is absolutely nothing that will rile a Czech person more than hearing that tired old story.

    Although quotes in this vein are often attribute to Dvořák, he never actually said anything of the sort. It is a case of the American public at the time hearing music that may have reminded them of their own folk music and immediately marking it as their own, as Americans often do.

    The truth is that Dvořák, without actually citing folk-songs, uses folk elements in his music, such as pentatonic scales, flattened 7ths (especially in the minor keys) and melodies based on rising and falling 3rds, just to name a few. The fact is that these elements are common to the folk music of many nations.

    The reason this idea with the Symphony from the New World caught on...

    ... mind the name, it is not called the "New World Symphony"...

    ... is that it is easy and convenient to think of it this way for the casual listening public, it gives program-note writers something to write in their program notes, it gives marketing people something by which to market the piece, it gives cover artists something to draw on the cover and it gives Americans a good feeling that yet again, they have inspired and influenced a European artist.

    But these simplicities jsou bohužel totálně mimo (unfortunately miss the point entirely). It is much, much more productive and informative to compare the techniques used in the construction of the melodies and harmonies in this piece to his earlier symphonies and slavonic dances, to discover where their true origins lie, rather than to fashionably dismiss the content as American.

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    Newbies ArtemisofEphesus's Avatar
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    ah, which music school/university are you currently enrolled?
    Well... None, actually. I'm in year 10 at high school. (I'm fifteen!)

    Thanks for all the help, it will come in useful, I'm sure. The last post was especially interesting!

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    I do apologise Kurkikohtaus. I'ts only what I've heard!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Obviously, Elgar, it's not your fault, I didn't take it to be your opinion. There is a century of inapropriate propaganda behind this work that has influenced the world, and I'm actually glad that I can stand on the soap box here, just for a little bit, and try to set the record straight.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtemisofEphesus View Post
    The last post [i.e.: post #7] was especially interesting!
    Yes, goddess, it was. We're lucky that Maestro K. posts here. He's on my short list of most valuable posters. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I know I run a severe "trade deficit" of knowledge received versus knowledge given vis-a-vis his revelations. All of this makes me feel somewhat conflicted about offering a dissent... but dissent I must.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    It is a case of the American public at the time hearing music that may have reminded them of their own folk music and immediately marking it as their own, as Americans often do.
    and
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    ...it gives Americans a good feeling that yet again, they have inspired and influenced a European artist.
    are invidious generalizations that shed more heat than light on this issue, I think.

    The following quote is attributed to Dvořák: "[it] pleases me very much and will differ very substantially from my early compositions. The influence[key point here- emphasis is NOT mine]of America can readily be felt by anyone with 'a nose.'" (Source: Michael Steinberg- The Symphony). Another attribution, dating from 1/1893 and found in the CD notes to my belovèd Kondrashin/VPO recording states "It seems to me that the the American soil will have a beneficial effect on my thought, and I would almost say that you will hear something of this already in this new symphony." Since these were presented as correspondences, it should be a simple matter of routine scholarship to confirm their veracity.

    I recognize that this doesn't make it an "American" work any more than the influences of Brahms and Schubert make it a Germanic work. However, I think the issue that some influences from the land where it was composed "contributed some stanzas" to this masterwork is settled, at least on the (presumably reliable) testimony of its creator. I don't think that we claim Dvořák as "American" any more that the Japanese claim Věra Čáslavská. We just recognize (like they do) that they did their most famous work away from native soil

    What is not subject to any dispute is that the New York premiere of Symphony 9 provided Antonín Dvořák with the most resounding public success of his lifetime, receiving approbation to a degree he had never received before, nor was ever to receive again.
    Last edited by Chi_townPhilly; Nov-09-2007 at 21:22. Reason: Things for which I have to thank the SuperModerator
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtemisofEphesus View Post
    Well... None, actually. I'm in year 10 at high school. (I'm fifteen!)

    Thanks for all the help, it will come in useful, I'm sure. The last post was especially interesting!
    So, I suppose you don't need to have a particularly sophisticated analysis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustav View Post
    So, I suppose you don't need to have a particularly sophisticated analysis.
    Were you about to elaborate one anyway?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
    Were you about to elaborate one anyway?
    Nope, I know my limitations.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    However, I think the issue that some influences from the land where it was composed "contributed some stanzas" to this masterwork is settled, at least on the ... testimony of its creator. I don't think that we claim Dvořák as "American" any more that the Japanese claim Věra Čáslavská. We just recognize (like they do) that they did their most famous work away from native soil.
    Dear Chi_town, forgive my overzealousness and generalizations in my post, this issue touches a nerve with me and I tend to overreact. I can fully agree with you on what you say above.

    The problem lies in that the specific correspondances you quote and the idea of influence get filtered very thin as they work their way down from scholars to the general listening public. In the end, the Symphony is often presented as a collection of Negro Sprituals and "Indian" melodies in concert programs and (cheap) liner notes, without reference to the Czech folk-roots of Dvořák's material. This is what riles me.

    Otherwise, thanks for your kind words and I'll try not to fly off the handle so much in the future.

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