365 Days, 365 Files: Antonin Dvorak – Symphony No. 9: I. Adagio; Allegro Molto

I’m not a big fan of 19th Century classical music. It’s a personality thing.

I’ve got enough of an analytical mind to prefer absolute music, such as the kind written by the 18th Century bigshots — Mozart, Hadyn and Beethoven. And of course, the dissonance of 20th Century music is far more interesting to me.

Music from the Romantic era, on the other hand, is the source from which overwrought movie soundtracks are borne. The stereotype of the temperamental artiste took root in the 19th Century, and the works from that era can get pretty bloated.

A quick scan of my classical collection pretty much eschews music from the 19th Century with one exception: Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor.

Also known as the "New World Symphony", it was Dvorak’s attempt to cast rural American music in a European form. Folk music and hymns from America influenced the melodies in the symphony.

The "New World Symphony", though, has something a lot stronger going for it — hooks. Classical music tends to bore young listeners because the melodies are often too indistinguishable from the rest of the piece. (I know that was my excuse as a kid for preferring Duran Duran over Bach.)

Not so with the "New World Symphony". The opening melody of the first movement probably won’t unseat Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for the most recognizable classical melody, but it’s hard to forget it too.

I started building my classical collection around 1990, so this recording of the symphony comes from 1991, performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur.

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