A YEAR IN MUSIC: ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK / BERLINER PHILARMONIKER / RAFAEL KUBELIK – Symphony No 9 "Aus Der Neuen Welt” (“From The New World”) (1974)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

1974 is “supposed” to be a low year in music according to the Rolling Stone Established School of Thought, but there are dozens of albums that are personal favorites of mine (War Child, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Red, It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Rejuvenation, Eduardo Bort, Señora Azul, It’s Only Rock’n’Roll…). But the most important album for me would be Rafael Kubelik’s recording of Dvorak’s Symphony nº 9, since this was the first symphonic recording I enjoyed all the way through when I was 12 years old or so. (Although I’m more familiar with Ferenc Fricsay’s recording, also in Deutsche Grammophon).

The first movement is has two main themes, the epic horns theme and the slow, American folk influenced lyrical theme, and both had a long lasting influence in the scores of classic Hollywood (and beyond – there’s a strange oboe passage that always reminds me of “Revolution 9”), and the intermediate melody that connects both is no slouch either. Nice find of Dvorak to base the development on the second theme but making it sound as epic as the first.

The second movement is probably the best known, the one based in a spiritual melody, which is one of the heights of 19th century melodicism, but I’m also very fond of the opening, those majestic crescendo chords that again sound like coming from an epic movie (I think this guy and Holst were the most pilfered by Hollywood). There’s another melody that after being introduced is developed in a marching, processional arrangement that is one of my favourite moments from the work.

The scherzo is very good; Dvorak said part of the inspiration came from Amerindian and folk songs but I also see a strong influence from the scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth (but being that this is Dvorak’s Ninth it might be deliberate).Finally the last movement is to me the most disjointed (although its main melody is the first I knew from this work, since Miguel Ríos adapted it into a song way back in the 70s) but ends climaxing suitably in a brass pandemonium.

To sum up, one of the cornerstones of the symphonic repertoire and deservedly so. Like with Tchaikovsky, the melodic invention surpasses the structural craft, but the melodies are catchy and unforgettable.