Musical Notes ♫♬ (Archive)

                Dvořák wrote in a variety of forms: his nine symphonies generally stick to classical models, but he also worked in the newly developed form of symphonic poem. Many of his works show the influence of Czech genuine folk music, both in terms of elements such as rhythms and melodic shapes; amongst these are the two sets of Slavonic Dances, the Symphonic Variations, and the overwhelming majority of his songs, but echoes of such influence are also found in his major choral works. Dvořák also wrote operas (of which the best known is Rusalka); serenades for string orchestra and wind ensemble; chamber music (including a number of string quartets and quintets); and piano music Dvořák had a prominent role to play in the development of American music. The second half of the nineteenth century saw a blossoming of national styles, as countries looked to their cultural roots to celebrate their heritage through music that evoked these themes and folk melodies. He found the inspiration he needed for American music in the melodies of Native and African Americans. In his opinion, these were the melodies that would contribute most heavily to the foundation of an American musical style. Dvořák was introduced to African American spirituals through his friendship with Harry Burleigh, one of his students who later became his personal assistant. Burleigh shared with Dvořák many of the songs his grandfather used to sing to him, and Dvořák encouraged Burleigh to transcribe and perform many of these melodies. Burleigh's performances of these native melodies would later influence musicians like Marian Anderson.

                The song cycle of 10 Biblical Songs, op.99, was written in March 1894. It was at this time Dvořák was informed of the death of the famous conductor, and his close personal friend, Hans von Bülow. Just a month earlier, he had been grieved to hear that his father was near death, far away in Bohemia. Dvořák consoled himself in the Psalms. The resulting work, considered the finest of his song cycles, is based on the text of Czech Bible of Kralice. As fate would have it, his father died two days after the completion of the work.

                Lisa will perform the following works based on these Psalms:

Psalm 98: 1-8, “Sing Ye A Joyful Song”

Psalm 23: 1-4, “God Is My Shepherd”

Psalm 25: 16-21, “Turn Thee To Me”

Psalm 145:1-7, “I Will Sing New Songs”

Psalm 63:1-8, “Hear My Prayer”

If you’d like to hear the Biblical Songs performed again as well as some other gems of the sacred repertory, Lisa will be giving a concert on Tuesday, October 21st entitled “Inmost Calm-a concert of sacred song” featuring the works of Barber, Dvorak, Grieg, Malotte, Ravel, and others.  The concert begins at 6:00 pm in St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University (Amsterdam Ave. @ 117th Street).  Admission is free and open to the public. 

                                Gretchen Mundinger

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Daily Bible Verse

  • Malachi 4:1-6

    5Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

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