Byline: Bill Gowen
The Ravinia Festival goes for a touch of true Americana by its selection of Antonin Dvorak's "New World" Symphony for the second year of its "One Score, One Chicago" educational initiative.
Ravinia will feature this work in several performances this summer, along with a comprehensive educational outreach program in collaboration with city and suburban schools and libraries. As with last year's first edition of "One Score, One Chicago," a 24-page study guide is available, including a compact disc on which music director designate James Conlon conducts the London Philharmonic in a complete performance of the "New World" Symphony, as well as providing spoken analysis of the music.
"One of the aspects that most appealed to me when I accepted the position of music director was Ravinia's community outreach and education program," Conlon said. "There's a general concern about the future of classical music. We're planning to roll up our sleeves and be proactive about promoting the future of the music."
Why the "New World" Symphony?
First, there's the connection between this summer's celebration of Ravinia Park's centennial and the 100th anniversary of the death of Dvorak on May 1, 1904.
Second, this symphony communicates its musical and emotional ideas (many of them of American origin) to the audience in a forthright manner.
Dvorak, born Sept. 8, 1841, in Prague, the capital of Bohemia (today, the Czech Republic) was a composer whose music was firmly set in the Austro-German tradition nurtured by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, and expanded to its most comprehensive form by Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler.
However, Dvorak was also part of the so-called "nationalistic- romantic" movement among composers. A partial list includes Dvorak's countryman, Bedrich Smetana, along with Scandinavian composers Edvard Grieg (Norway), Jean Sibelius (Finland) and Carl Nielsen (Denmark); numerous Russian composers, including Peter Tchaikovsky, Modest Mussorgsky, Reinhold Gliere and Nicolai Rimsky- Korsakoff; as well as British late-romantics Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Arnold Bax, etc. Most were greatly influenced by folk music and literature from their native lands.
However, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ("From the New World"), composed in 1893, holds a special place in music history. …