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Podcast

Dvořák: The American Quintet

November 1, 2019

On today's episode, Bruce Adolphe the resident lecturer of CMS talks about Dvořák's Quintet in E-flat major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Cello, Op. 97, “American”. Excerpts performed by Arnaud Sussmann, Angelo Xiang Yu, violin; Paul Neubauer, Matthew Lipman, viola; Nicholas Canellakis, cello.

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Transcript

Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand ChamberMusicSociety.org


We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio. During the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Our lecture today features Dvořák's String Quintet in E-flat Opus 97, The American. Originally recorded on October 9th, 2019. Welcome to the first Inside Chamber Music of the season.


It’s good to see you all here. (inaudible) What are you doing here anyway? That will come up, actually, believe it or not. So we're going to look at Dvořák's American Quintet. You also know, of course, there's an American Quartet and the New World Symphony. He was very involved with being an American. He was an honorary American for the few years that he was here.


He was, of course, Czech. But first and foremost, he was a violinist, which is why we have two violas in this piece. And he actually was a great violist. He played in the first quartet that played the premiere of the Smetana from my live quartet. And he also played under Wagner as conductor for a while, a very short while. But what did he have to do in America?


Why did he come to America? A lot of this is really the story of someone named Jeanette Thurber, who brought him to the United States, brought him to New York. She had studied in Paris. She was an American. And when she was a teenager, she studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory, and she decided that the Paris Conservatory was a great kind of school, and she wanted to have one in the United States.


So she came back and she married Thurber. Her name was- what was her name before that? Well, I'll look that up later. Oh, no, here it is. Meyers. Okay, so when she married Thurber, the two of them individually had a lot of money and they pooled their money. And she started the National Conservatory of Music in 1885. And then she also did quite a few extraordinary things.


She didn't just start the school, which was on East 17th Street. She decided that the school should throw open its doors, specifically giving full scholarships whenever possible to African-Americans, Jews, women and people with disabilities. Now we're talking 1892 she made that decision. A little bit ahead of her time or or maybe not. Maybe everybody else is way behind the times.


It really changed the history of music in America. But she didn't stop there because she realized you have to have an incredible faculty and you have to have somebody famous running the school that this is going to be a success. So she invited Dvořák who was one of the most famous composers alive at the time. He was, of course, Czech and he didn't want to come.


He was making what we would now, let’s see, the equivalent then of $600 a year. Now, I'm not saying that that's what it is by today's money. In those years it was $600 in Czechoslovakia a year, she offered him $15,000 a year. That is the equivalent of $400,000 a year now. So he might have been running a conservatory.


With that kind of money, he could have been a stagehand at Tully Hall. Little did he know. But anyway, so he liked everything about it. He he liked the money, which is what convinced him. But when he came here, she also gave him a charge, something he had to accomplish, a challenge. She picked him not only because she was famous, but also because he had established what was basically the Czech identity in classical music.


Now of course, they didn't use the word classical at the time for that kind of music or romantic or anything. But in the world of chamber music and symphonic music, he established a respectable- by respectable it means that Germans liked it. That is all that it means. That, with the help of Brahms, a respectable and admired kind of Czechoslovakian music.


How did he do that? Well, he decided to let what he felt was Czech folk music, which he didn't study, and he didn't have much exposure to it, but he was aware of it and he heard some of it. He took some of the Czech feeling some of the dance rhythms, and he incorporated those modes and ideas and rhythmic modes and melodic modes into his music and using the techniques basically of Beethoven, which means development, knocking a theme down to its small units, developing a large scale structure and writing some drama with huge architecture.


That concept, using some Czech influence. I don't even want- he never used actual Czech folk music. I'm not sure how much he knew about it. It's hard to say, but that's how he did it. And in fact, when he was first becoming well known in Europe, it was because of Brahms, because he entered, Dvořák and entered a competition as a young man, a composition competition, and Brahms was one of the judges.


And Brahms thought Dvořák was brilliant, partly because Dvořák was imitating the music of Brahms at the time. Which is the only kind of person that Brahms liked musically, which is fine. And so he made sure he got the award and he introduced him to his publisher, Simrock. Simrock immediately published the music, but put on the titles of all the scores and covers, I should say, not Antonin Dvořák, but Anton Dvořák making him German. Now, to make sure it wasn't too offensive to Antonin Dvořák because he knew it might be he put a period. Anton period Dvořák. You might still find scores like that if you have old scores, you know.


So Dvořák was very upset. He considered this a ethnic slur and he wrote, here's a letter to Simrock, the German publisher. Let's hope that nations which have and represent art will never cease to exist, no matter how small they are. You must excuse me, but I simply wanted to tell you that an artist also has his country, a homeland in which he has to have unshakable faith and for which he has a fervent heart.


He's talking about being Czech. Why you have to have unshakable faith, we're not going to get into that because that becomes a big issue in America. So she invites him to America with a huge amount of money. And she said, can you please do for America what you did for your home country? Find out, figure out how we should have an American style of...


And she wouldn't have said classical. She might have said modern because at the time modern meant the world of Brahms and Dvořák and Mahler. And not that they write the same way, of course, and the young Schoenberg even and modern meaning orchestral and chamber music and things that were not just in her opinion, unschooled music, what people just sing for fun and dance.


So he agreed to do that because the money was so good, honestly. He came here. This is really amazing. So he had to figure out how to do that now, probably. And this is just supposition. He was probably thinking, I'll find out with the American folk music is and I'll do the same kind of thing. Right? What else does he know how to do?


And it makes perfect sense. You find out what the sort of indigenous musical language is, the vocabulary of the people who already live there. But he didn't know anything about that and he had to do it really quickly. As soon as he got to America, they showed him the Wild Bill West show. They took him to, there was a huge Columbus Day parade, which he enjoyed in the way that he used to do it back then.


But thanks to some recent, I mean, very recent scholarship, we now have a different view of what gave him the idea. And this I will have to thank Michael Beckerman for this, who did the research back in 2003, who actually figured out what he saw and all the evidence. We know exactly what he saw that changed his mind.


There was a critic, James Honecker, music critic, now music critics in those days... I hesitate because there are some like this today, but this guy also taught piano at the National Conservatory. So he was a musician and a music critic. And he also looked at and read everything that was happening at the time and brought things to Dvořák.


They were thinking, this is the most famous person we've ever had in New York in the musical world. Let me have some influence on this guy. So he brought him something which is going to sound very bizarre to hear about it now. But before I read it to you, the result of this document is that Dvořák was announced in the Herald Tribune in an interview the following. This is a quote. Bear in mind, I have a lot of quotes because all of the non-PC language that you are going to hear tonight is because I'm quoting things.


So, “In the Negro melodies of America, I discover all that is needed or a great,” oh, sorry, “for a great and noble school of music.” I'll say that again. “In the Negro melodies of America, I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of American music.” This article and there was more about this, and he was talking about what we now refer to as spirituals, which at the time were called plantation melodies or slave songs.


So and we'll get back to in a minute. How did he know about these and who sang them and who played them and where did he read about it? But anyway, this article was so exciting to people that it got to Paris in, you know, just a few days. This is a long time ago, remember. And in Paris, even though we had Faure and the young Debussy and Saint-Saëns, etc., they didn't comment and weren't asked by the Paris papers about this because you only ask Germans. Seriously.


At the time. Paris was also struggling with the same thing that Czechoslovakia was struggling with. German musicians would tell you if this was a good idea or not. So they asked German musicians and a few Americans first Americans. Edward MacDowell, The MacDowell Colony. He said, “We have here in America have been offered a pattern for an American national music costume by the Bohemian Dvořák.


But what Negro melodies have to do with Americanism in art still remains a mystery.” Now, he actually, though, became interested in Native American, but at the time was called Indian Music, and he devoted himself to at least three huge Indian suites. And I'll play you a little bit one of them later. Joseph Joachim, the violinist and friend of Brahms and composer thought it was a great idea.


And interestingly, he was one of his students was a man named Will Marion Cook. Now, I'm just curious, how many of you have heard of Will Marion Cook? Three. Okay, that's all right, because we don't- his music isn't performed anymore. He was an African-American violin student of Joachim in Germany, who also came back and studied with composition with Dvořák because of the scholarship that was offered by Jeanette Thurber and he became a well-known composer of musical theater and entertaining music.


He didn't go into what we now call classical music. He wanted to pursue his violin career, but he found it so hard in America after not finding it hard in Europe, so hard in America that he dropped it and went into composing theater music and was very, very successful. Now, think, Dvořák taught Will Marion Cook and Will. Marion Cook's student was Duke Ellington.


That is really a close thing. I mean, it's right there. So when I say Dvořák did in fact change the history of American music, there is that feeling. Dvořák also had the student, Ruben Goldmark, who is the nephew of Carl Goldmark, the German composer, and Ruben Goldmark taught, for a long time, Aaron Copland. So again, Dvořák, Goldmark, Copland. And Goldmark also taught for three days only George Gershwin, which for Gershwin, that was a long time.


Apparently learned really fast. Quick story about Aaron Copeland. When he went to study with Dr. Goldmark, who was Dr. Reuben Goldmark, he went to the office and there were a lot of people waiting for lessons, it seemed. So he was waiting and waiting. And then he finally went and said, “I thought I had a lesson at a particular time.


Who are all these people?” She said, “Oh, are you talking about music lessons?” And he said, “Yeah.” She said, “That's his brother upstairs. This is Dr. Goldmark.” True story. So a lot of people had opinions about this. The worst opinion I can read to you about the idea, but the most obvious kind of German reaction is this. And I'll tell you who said it afterwards.


German musical literature. No one asked him about that. Right? They're asking about whether African-American plantation songs can influence and become through study and use some classical technique, some kind of American music. As the Czech music had become, this person said, “German musical literature contained no written text emanating from the Negro race, and however sweet the Negro melodies might be, they could never form the groundwork of the future of music of America.”


Anton Bruckner. Now, it shouldn't be a surprise if you know Bruckner, because Bruckner was also anti-Semitic and he... it’s quite a story. He formed an anti-Semitic music society worshiping Wagner that hated Brahms because Brahms had all these Jewish friends. So this is no surprise here. Now, quickly, Will Marion Cook, getting back to him, wrote a lot about this conservatory. So just a few quotes.


“I went on to study in New York at the National Conservatory of Music, endowed by Mrs. Jeannette and Thurber. She made no distinction of color, creed or good looks. She didn't even care much about the money, Jews, Negroes and real white people.” That’s what it says. “Fact was, a little bit of everything, and everybody was in the musical melting pot.


All she and Dr. Dvořák asked was talent. Heaps of it, and the power of concentration on the subject at hand.” Then he talks about Burleigh. Now this is a name you might know. H.T. Burleigh, Harry Thacker Burleigh. This is interesting. Okay. If you’ve sung in a choir and if you've ever sung beautiful arrangements of spirituals, they were probably by Harry Thacker Burleigh.


He was also a student there. Burleigh, his grandfather had been a slave. Then his grandfather was granted freedom and became a lamplighter in Erie, Pennsylvania. Burleigh grew up doing the lamp lighting rounds as a little boy with his grandfather and hearing all the songs. He became a singer. And ironically, a woman who heard him sing said, “You really need to get a full scholarship and go study at Dvořák's new conservatory.”


That woman was Mrs. McDowell. Okay? Things get very complex. So he did and he went to study voice. He also in the orchestra, played timpani and was the music librarian and also played bass fiddle, which apparently he picked up very quickly and Burleigh though became a very, very close friend of the Dvořák’s. And that was based on the fact that he had a beautiful voice and sang the spirituals to Dvořák.


He had never heard them, so he sang them for him. And Dvořák said, “You have to come to my house and have dinner with us and sing these songs. I want to hear all of them.” And he interviewed him over and over, and he learned a lot from Burleigh. He knew more about that music, Dvořák, than he knew about Czech folk music, acutally.


And I'll get back to Burleigh in just a moment, but there is a document that I mentioned a moment ago. Here it is. The document that was brought to his attention, to Dvořák’s attention, that made him realize that he had to take these spirituals. This was the answer. James Honaker, the piano teacher critic, found this article, which was actually just published, but Dvořák didn’t read American papers.


His English was okay, his German was okay, but he didn't bother with this. And again, I am quoting. This is a really, by our standards now, a rather disturbing article. It's not meant to be, but it really, truly is. So just bear with me. It's called Negro Music, written in 19- sorry, 1893. But this is really a game changer for Dvořák.


And it really led to some good things, ironically, because of the relationship with Will Marion Cook and Burleigh and very and various other people. Quote, “To one who has passed his childhood in the South, no music in the world is so tenderly pathetic, so wildly uncouthly melancholy, so fraught with an overpowering heimweh-” There there's a word Dvořák would recognize German for homesickness. Heimweh. “As that of the Negroes.


When he hears one of these quaint old airs, he needs but to close his eyes and the potent spell of the music revivifies the past. Old memories that he had deemed forgotten rise as if obedient to the voice of enchantment. He is again a child in the cradle and his faithful old mammy rocks him as she bends over him by the firelight and croons this melody.”


So he writes out this tune. (music) Okay, so that's supposedly a plantation song. It may well be. If I told you it was Irish, you could believe that. If I told you was Appalachian, you could believe that because it could easily be. But let's keep going. I'll get back to that problem in just a moment. Skipping a few things here. In the moaning of the wind or the cry of the lost spirit we also hear this.


And he has another little tune very similar. (music) Now, here's his analysis of that tune, this writer, “Genuine Negro Music is invariably in a peculiar minor, which differs from the civilized scale in two particulars. The sixth note of the gamut is emitted in the seventh as a half tone lower. Try over the specimen given above, making it an F sharp instead of an F natural as it is modern music.


And notice completely the peculiar plaintive charm vanishes.” I'll do that for you. I'll pick, yeah, I'll do the same tune. Actually, the tune before it is more ripe for that. (music) Okay, let's not get into the Jewish holidays with this. That has actually nothing to do with this article. But he says if you add an F sharp, then it's modern.


Okay. But it gets a lot worse. “This scale is said to be that of the primitive races of the Eskimos, the Egyptians and the South Sea Islanders.” This is based on absolutely nothing at all. “Traces of it may be found in Meyerbeer and Chopin and Greig. Composers who have made free use of volkslieder.” Okay. “I have no doubt that this music, like Voodoo, is a remnant of former idolatry.


Doubtless many of these names have been sung for centuries before the shrines of fetishes in the dark jungles of Africa.” Now, I'm reading this because it gets- really important thing happens. And you have to understand, when you hear this music, there's a huge amount of controversy surrounding this that has died away. Just as this magnificent production of Porgy and Bess going on at the Met, which is totally amazing, had its controversy for very different but not unrelated reasons at one time.


So right here, this is the most important quote from this thing. Same article. “When our American musical Messiah sees fit to be born, he will then find ready to his hand the massive lyrical and dramatic themes with which to construct a distinctively American music.” Now, this article, we know for a fact, was handed to Dvořák, right as soon as he got here and it said the musical Messiah will come and figure out that you have to use these spirituals to write American music.


And somebody, Jeannette Thurber, who is paying him $400,000 a year, said, “Could you figure out how to make American music?” And he was thinking, “Ah.” It doesn't take too much to figure this out, right? So there's more to this than that. But before- poor guys are just sitting here waiting to play. But before we get to that, a little bit about Harry Burley, because it's so interesting. Harry Burley studied harmony, primarily harmony and counterpoint.


He wrote some nice music, but he really spent most of his time making incredibly interesting arrangements of the spirituals. He made them famous more than Dvořák because Dvořák didn't use any of it. He just imitated them. But Burleigh who not only sang them for Dvořák, he harmonized every one of them. But what's amazing now we can easily see that he harmonized them in the styles of European composers like Dvořák and then later Debussy.


So, I'll just give you a quick example. And when Marian Anderson and various other people who followed her sang spirituals at concerts, they used Harry T. Burleigh's beautiful arrangements. And of course, Burleigh was first criticized by both whites and African-Americans musicians for dragging the spirituals into the debate. Then he was criticized for making them sound so European so he couldn't win.


Except he did, because he's great, did a great job, and he never let it bother him. And he died in 1940 something. So he had plenty of time to see how successful he was. So at the end of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, which we know is the first thing that he sang for Dvořák. it ends... (music)


If you're just going to play the chords that would normally go with that. Of course, there were no chords normally because these were sung in unison. But, basically, (music) that's it. In his version, it's... (music) That's quite different. Okay? And that's not something that he- I mean, what's ironic is he learned those harmonies by studying harmony at the conservatory under Dvořák.


So they actually helped each other become what they wanted to become. Steal Away, which is not as famous a spiritual- I mean, of course it is famous. In his version, before the voice comes in. This is the introduction. I'm going to stop on the first chord. (music) All right. It's Tristan. It's not the right key, but he starts with the Tristan chord.


And don't think he didn't know that. And then... (music) But starting with that Tristan chord is a reference that only a certain kind of sophisticated musician would have got. So, Burleigh was a fascinating figure. And if you start to look for him, you'll see there's a lot of music. And he also wrote a fantastic string quartet set of variations on Go Down Moses.


Okay, so another aspect- now we're getting ready to play this excerpt from the second movement. Alert. I mean, come out of dreamland. Another amazing little story is that Dvořák had various people who were very close to him for musical reasons, but also because he had agoraphobia and he needed to have someone walk him around New York because he was terrified of certain kinds of town squares and busy places.


Little did he know how busy it would get later, but one of them was a man named Joseph Kovarik, who actually is Kovacic because he was Czech. But he was a Czech... I mean, his parents were Czech, but he was born in America, but his name is still Kovacic. He was his closest companion. He was also a violist like Dvořák, and they, together...


You guys should really be moved by this. They spent a lot of time just viola-ing together. You know, I'm not sure what the verb- is there a verb for that? Viola-ing? Yeah. Okay, so one day Kovacic... I'll just read you- I'll just quote it. “I brought,” this is from the diary of Kovacic. “I brought a few patriotic songs home with me.


The next day, the master,” everyone called Dvořák the master, which is problematic. But you understand. “The master carefully studied those texts and made some comment that it was a pity for America to use an English tune for the national anthem.” Because the national anthem, unbeknownst to our president at the time, was, you know, My Country Tis of Thee, which came from God Save the Queen, and it's an English tune.


And so he played it for him. And Dvořák apparently was upset that it was an English, tune, because here he was trying to save America musically, and they're using an English melody. And he said in his diary, he writes, “Dvořák notated this in his sketchbook and started improvising around it and said, ‘There. This is going to be the new American anthem.’”


And Dvořák apparently had intended to revise and sort of re harmonize and slightly re sculpt My Country Tis of Thee. And he did it in a notebook which is lost. But I'll tell you where it is. Let's play the opening of the slow movement of this quintet. You listen for My Country Tis of Thee. Might take a little time. (music)


It's pretty obvious, isn't it? Did you ever hear that story before? It's not conjecture. It's a fact that that is where it ended up and that he had intended to do more with it and put words to it and everything, but he didn't. It's not that different from My Country Tis of Thee, but it's so out of context that it's remarkable.


Now, getting back to the spirituals, what Dvořák gleaned from the spirituals primarily was that they are in the pentatonic mode. And, now, the pentatonic mode, I don't want to go on and on about this because Bobby McFerrin does a much better job. But if you've never seen Bobby McFerrin explaining the pentatonic mode, Google that some time on YouTube. Now, there are many, many tapes.


He was trying to make the point, which is very well known in music circles, that the pentatonic mode is the mode not only of the spirituals, but of Celtic music, of Chinese music, of a lot of Thai music, of certain, of a lot of English folk music, basically, and Russian folk music. It's unbelievable how much folk music is pentatonic.


Now. Why is that? There are many theories that have to do with how the world developed in terms of travel and DNA and all kinds of- But I'll tell you, there's a simple musical reason, which is it has no dissonance in it, built in. So it is the mode that you can improvise. Like if you if you were given an instrument and you knew nothing and you wanted to make up folk tunes and you were talented, you would eventually tune your instrument to a pentatonic mode.


In fact, the cello (music) or we could also say the viola up into the violin. One, two, three, four, five. These are the violin, open strings. (music) Add the cello. If you put those notes in order, it's the pentatonic mode. Because it's the first fifth, it's the first open fifth, it’s the first five of them. So it's very natural and beautiful and resonant. Music from all over the world found this the same way.


And there's a minor and a major version without having to change anything. If you play only black keys on the piano, it so happens to work out that you get all the pentatonic, basic pentatonic modes. (music) You can keep going. But for example, songs like... (music) I don't know. I'm just fooling around. Anything you do on these keys will sound like something, and I have a few with me and even some Native American, American Indian tunes from the North, Pacific Northwest.


They're pentatonic also. Now there are people working on the idea that, you know, the Chinese went through the Bering Strait and they came and they became the Native Americans. That may be true, but the pentatonic mode is everywhere. And when Orff designed the Orff instruments that children can learn on, all of the improvising instruments are pentatonic because you can't really go wrong.


Like if if, hey, let's do this. (music) Let's use D, E, G, A, B. Okay. And you guys just do whatever you want. (music) Okay? Now, now... Now let's do a slow moody one. Same thing. (music) Let's make it E, the bottom. Same notes. E the bottom. (music) Okay. You see how easy this is? So, folk cultures from all over the world stumbled upon this the same way.


And it's one of the miracles of music, and it is truly the international mode. What's great about Bobby McFerrin’s video is that he teaches an audience to do it by singing and dancing and having them sing with him. And the most incredible things happen. By dancing, I mean, he leaps from space to space, each space representing a pitch, and the whole audience gets it immediately.


All these strangers sing this thing perfectly together, just like that these strangers here, who have only had these instruments for a few hours, have learned... So, Paul Robeson said about this... this is Paul Robeson. I'm not going to tell you is who he was, because if you don't know, you can leave now. No, okay. Okay. Now you can always look it up on your phone.


It's okay. You know, I don't have to tell you any facts. You realize that? Because you can... Okay. “These African-American songs-” he did not say African-American, but whatever he said was taken out of this particular document. “These African-American songs, ballads, poetic church hymns are similar to the songs of the bards of the Scottish Hebrides, the Welsh bards of the Druid tradition and the Irish bards, which inspired Sean O'Casey.


They are similar to the unknown singers of the Russian folktales, the bards of Icelandic and Finnish sagas, the singers of American Indians and the bards of the Veda hymns in India, the Chinese Poet singers, the Hassidic sects and the bards of our African forebearers.” He put it pretty straight there. I mean, I think I said a similar thing. It was just this has been discussed over and over, and it's quite an extraordinary thing.


I do have- I'm not going to bother playing them, but I have pentatonic music from all over the world here. But I'm going to play one thing because there was another movement that happened as a result of Dvořák. So, he even though the African-American pronouncement is what caught on and he taught Will Marrion Cook and Burleigh and other people who became very famous and taught other people and it just went on.


Will Marion Cook not only taught Duke Ellington, but he was the person who told Harold Arlen that he should write songs. Before that he was a singer and a pianist, and he had made up something. And Will Marion Cook was the music director. He said, “Hey, you should write.” So, you know, you can't say that he wouldn't have done it otherwise.


But it's all connected to Dvořák.. But the other thing that Dvořák said is that we should look at Native American music. Well, he didn't know anything about that at all. The only thing he saw in New York when he made that first pronouncement was the Wild Bill West- Whatever. Wild West show with Wild Bill Cody and a lot of people putting on a show and they did Custer's Last Stand, enacted by various Indian tribes that had nothing to do with it and for applause and money.


So that's what he saw. But then he took his famous vacation in Spillville, Iowa. In Spillville, Iowa- to get away from New York because he was, he needed a rest. He wanted, actually, to go back to Czechoslovakia for a short time to Bohemia. But it's not not enough time. So he went to Spillville because his friend Joseph Kovarik was from there and told him there are hundreds and hundreds of Czech people living there.


You'll feel right at home. You can speak Czech for a while. So he goes back there. He gets very inspired by the beauty and the Czech life and the food and everything, and they put on, the local Indians, put on a Kickapoo Indian show for him. None of them were Kickapoo Indians. They were various other tribes, mostly from the Pacific Northwest.


He was told they were Iroquois, none of them were Iroquois. He was given examples of their music, which they were making up stuff, you know, right and left and using violins. I mean, it's like absolutely ridiculous. But he did meet some people who were genuinely of their culture, but most of it was people being paid to entertain this famous guy, and they did whatever they could do to make a show.


And they were putting on a show just like everybody else, you know. So it wasn't that realistic in any way. But he did hear certain tunes. But before I get to that, even though he didn't really know anything about Native American music, he did, by just saying what he said and being famous launched an entire Indian-ist movement in America.


There was a lot of music written in this genre. Some of it is quite great, some of it is terrible. Most of it now seems quite dated. But here is a song by, well, it's a piano piece called An Old Man's Love Song. It's part of a huge set of Native American inspired or what was called Indian tunes, harmonized by Arthur Farwell.


Now, Arthur Farwell was really famous as an Indian-ist for a while, and he started his own press called The Wa-Wan Press, which was which is a real word. And he was very serious about his research into Native American kinds of music. The tune is pentatonic. Here's the tune. (music) It's much slower. Now, I’ll play you what Arthur Farwell wrote. (music) So anything pentatonic about it has disappeared.


But it's exactly like Dvořák because Dvořák, he was imitating Dvořák in a way but he had a little bit of his own personality. Dvořák took the pentatonic tunes. He made his own pentatonic versions. Although he lifted little things here and there, tried to make it as authentic feeling as possible. And then he wrote the same kind of music he would normally write.


So the harmonies take away the pentatonic feeling. You would never know it was pentatonic unless you’re really concentrating on that, isolating all the harmonies out of it. Arthur Farwell wrote that in 1901. Believe it or not, I'm a friend of his son. Think about this because Arthur Farwell kept having children very, very, very late in life.


He had many children and he has one who is now in his mid eighties, who is an actor, who a bit of a career on Broadway. Jonathan Farwell and I met him in Colorado. I didn't know who he was. He just said, I'm Jonathan Farwell. And he had understudied Yul Brenner in King and I and stuff like that.


And I said, “Farwell, are you related to Arthur Farwell.” He said, “He's my father.” And I went, “Oh, right.” And he said, “Yeah.” Anyway, so but he did hear, Dvořák, did hear this tune in Spillville, sung by some Indians there. (music) He also heard this rhythm. This is a drum rhythm with some pitch also from a tribe in that area. (music)


If you put them together, (music) it's getting very close to... (music) which is actually in this piece. So he did in this case seem like he took an actual Native American tune and used it as the second theme. Now, we're about to get into this movement. But before we need to just play the opening of this second movement, because this is where he put some drumbeats that he heard, which are very simple.


But it's the idea that he starts the piece, the second movement this way. (music) Yeah, so that rhythm is also something that is supposedly a Native American rhythm. Now, if I told you it was Czech, you'd be fine with that because it could be. Is there Czech folk music that's pentatonic? Yeah, there's some. So the whole thing, it's a little bit strange, but he did make a real effort to do this and it does speak to people.


And he did write the quartet, the American Quartet and the American Quintet in Spillville. The New World Symphony, you will find occasionally they say he wrote it, it's Spillville, but this turns out not to be true. He wrote that in New York before he went to Spillville. He put a few final touches on it there. Now, what's important about that rhythm that you just heard is that it’s on an F sharp.


That may not seem important, but it's going to be. That F sharp is very important. Now, remember, back to that article that I read to you about the the primitive mode and the modern mode, that the difference was whether you take the F and make it F sharp. And then I made it an F sharp and it sounded like some kind of Jewish hymn.


But it's true that if you take this minor scale (music) with a lowered seventh, which is perfectly common in all kinds of music, if you raise it, it's much more typical of a lot of classical music up until the mid-19th century where it becomes more flexible. Well, this entire piece has an argument going on between F sharp and F natural or G flat and F natural.


And that is one of the principal underwriting architectural points compositionally of this entire piece. Now, that is far less like a friendly information than everything else I've said so far. But for Dvořák, he's a composer, so he has to have, because he was indebted to Beethoven, he has to have a few intervals and notes and things that are going to be the catalyst for the action.


So it so happens that he did think of the F sharp leading tone and the F sharp like this as being the point of the piece. And I hear Kristin saying yes because she gets it right, Kristin? Having played this piece you say, “I get it.” Okay. So let's hear the opening viola solo. Actually, let's hear all of it up until number one B, where the minor happens. It’s the opening of the first movement. (music)


Now, if we were to take out the F sharps, which we're not going to do, there would be no dissonance because it's all in E flat with the tune being pentatonic. And a drone, which is typical of Scotland. Maybe some other, many other folk cultures. But what's it doing here? I don't know. (music) But this F sharp and then that F sharp is there as a warning that F sharp is going to be important.


Now F sharp can also be a G flat. It's an F sharp here. It's a G flat here. Now it's part of E-flat minor. So Dvořák uses this very simple device. It's called inharmonic. Of making a note, F sharp and G flat, of those two things. That's what the whole thing spins on. So the next phrase, if you play that is in E-flat minor, because he's taking that F sharp and making it into a flat. G flat. (music) Okay, great.


Now up to that point, he took his E-flat major, pentatonic tune. Now he's harmonized it as E-flat minor, primarily because he wants that G flat. Then he comes into a cadence, and now we get a very simple statement, let's just keep going, of that of the main melody expanded, totally pentatonic. Nothing is getting in its way. (music)


Okay. Wow. Okay. Yeah. So it's totally pentatonic until you get the dominant chord. This big chord. Which you heard. (music) That is saying, we're actually in E-flat major because that has (music) the leading tone which would have been in pentatonic, not there at all. Or if it were in a minor pentatonic kind of thing, it would have been flatter.


But we get a nice... (music) Sorry. Now, what starts to happen? We'll play a little further. The G flat starts to come back. You'll hear (music) There it is. It actually comes back a little before that. And then you're going to hear this. (music) Let's play right where you stopped. You're going to hear a lot of these G flats, which will make you want to hear F sharps.


You'll see what I mean. Go ahead. (music) Okay, hold it. Now. That's how I do things in children's concerts. Hold it. Okay. So basically the passage you just played right here. (music) Can I just hear violin one and viola one? Starting... (music) Okay, What you're hearing is... (music) This is an F. This is an F sharp. Over and over. That’s pretty dissonant for this time.


He doesn't want to just leave it there. But you have... (music) The context keeps changing and then but this is still here all the time. And then now it's in F sharp. Before it was a G flat and then it finally gives in to G minor. So in other words, there's a conflict between E-flat minor where it's a G flat and D. F sharp leading to G minor.


It's in a conflict between which way is it going to go? Is it going to stay G flat? And E flat? Is it going to go to F sharp and go to G minor? Back and forth. That is a very long dissonance with all the possible chords you could think of, which were all of them really, that could possibly contain those two things.


And then when it resolves, we get this. (music) No, he don’t. That would be F sharp. We get the Native American pentatonic too. So let's back up a little bit. This is the most dramatic aspect of this. But think about this. You're a composer obsessed with Beethoven, which is what Dvořák was, as well as Brahms, right? So that means everything has to make sense.


You have to, as Brahms would call it, it's got to be unassailable. It has to be perfect. Everything you think of has to be manifest. So he now has given us this G flat. He's made it into F sharp. So the G flat has already been very comfortable as part of E-flat minor. But then when he gets to this key, there's no f sharp. It's gone.


So you're thinking, “What happened to the F sharp? Is it ever going to come back?” Just hold on to that thought because he does not let go of that at all. Okay. Can we play, just to rub that in and start in the same spot and keep going into the tune. (music) Okay, great. Now to make the point really, really powerfully as best I can, there are two spots that I want to point out because there are many beautiful things that happen in this piece, and some of it's extremely sophisticated harmonic writing because when they called him the master, they really, he was one of the living masters of harmony and...


Composition in general. And he does almost everything that you can think of from the harmonic perspective of that time in this piece, even in just this first movement, but a few incredible moments. One is how the F sharp emerges. If we look at the second ending... We'll have to back up just a little bit. Let's see. If we can play starting at- ah, where you have unison B-flats. (music) Whoops.


110, 109, 108, 107. And then go to the second ending in just a moment. What's going to happen is the F sharp comes back in a way that actually is a reference to Beethoven and then something incredible happens. I'm just going to tell you. I can't stand it anymore. He actually goes into the key of F sharp minor.


Now, that is very unusual because he's in E-flat major. He goes eventually to the key of F sharp minor and sometimes F sharp major as a dominant of B. But, in other words, F sharp, which is not a key that makes any normal harmonic relationship to this, except that it makes perfect sense. And really that's what composition is about.


F sharp. It's not right or wrong. It's the circumstances, it's the context. And he made a context where he had to go to F sharp, which is very, I want to say, far away key. But there are people like Tovey who hated that expression, but he's dead, so it's okay. Alright. So let's start right here. (music) Right there? (music)


Okay. Okay. So he goes into F sharp major. There's a hint of F sharp minor. I already let a lot of things happen. But let me go back up a little bit because I have to say something about Beethoven here. When you heard this little passage in the violins, actually, he could have four before the first ending. Just the to violins for a moment. (music)


Okay. Now what that normally would be... (music) Would be this... or... but it's this. It's a little strange. And that's... a couple of reasons. But the main thing is what he's drawing out is this F sharp. Here, it's a G flat, which then becomes... Now it's an F sharp. So it's a G flat and then an F sharp. And that brings us briefly to E minor.


Now, I mentioned Beethoven because we know for a fact that Dvořák taught his composition students the following way in America because it's highly documented. He said, “Take one of those plantation songs, take a segment of it, and keep playing with the melody until you have a theme that's like a Beethoven theme.” Which he felt was always to be found. And then take a Beethoven sonata and copy exactly the chord progressions, the modulations and everything using this theme instead.


And you will learn how to write music. That's what he did. And I did that. I'll get back to it in just a minute to see what it was like. But here when he does this, this G flat and then going to E minor is very reminiscent of here. (music) You know this? Anybody want to play this right here?


Oh, you know it without looking? How about starting at... (music) Okay? (music) Okay, that's it. It just happens. It's the exact same chord progression. Very good. That was not planned. Totally not planned. Okay, bavo. No, but that was exactly the same thing. The E-flat minor G flat becomes an F sharp goes into B chord and goes into E minor. It's exactly the same.


And Dvořák, of course, did he copy this? I don't know. But he told people, his students, to look at Beethoven's modulations, do exactly the same thing with your own theme. And that's how you learn to compose. And it makes perfect sense. Then we get into this huge F sharp major. There's a flirtation with F sharp minor.


In the interest of time, since there's so much more to do, I'm just going to say, give you examples of one or two other things, and then we have to hear this piece straight through. But I think to summarize... Can I possibly summarize this? Well, I'll say this. That Dvořák came to America. He was told he had to somehow solve everybody's musical problems.


He figured the folk music worked in Czechoslovakia. If he wrote like Beethoven and used folk music, I'll try it here. He needed some folk music. James Honaker came and gave him this thing called Negro Music, which was a racist document, but still had in it a lot of praise for, in a rather bizarre manner, completely not understanding the musicology from European perspective or any other perspective.


But Dvořák said, “This is great.” And then he also happened to meet Harry T Burleigh, who was already a student at the school, and Harry T Burleigh sang spirituals for him. He got hooked on those and eventually he started using the pentatonicism of spirituals, not probably realizing that he had already used it in his some of his Czech stuff because many of his Czech pieces, the endings are pentatonic. Because in Czech folk music, very often they're major.


But the last four bars are pentatonic. It's called Pentatonic Cadence. He used them all the time. He forgot, I guess. Anyway, so then he made these proclamations and he wrote the quartet and the quintet. Now, two things. I took the two melodies from the first movement, and I said, “What would Harry Burleigh do with those two melodies if they were connected into a pseudo spiritual?” Which is what some of his own songs ended up being like.


So here's just how you could put the two tunes together and make it very simple instead of complex. (music) So those are Dvořák-like harmonies with those two melodies. Now, one more little thing, because I couldn't resist Dvořák's composition lesson, which is to take a spiritual melody and use the techniques of Beethoven's Sonata. What a great idea.


So I did a mini version of that for you. (music) Okay, well, I didn't practice it, but there it is. Okay. So now we have an understanding of the complexity of Dvořák being called an American and an honorary American, his American music. It's not a simple story, but it worked out well for American music. But I want to say one last thing before you play this.


Aside from Arthur Farwell of being an Indian-ist, the legacy manifested itself exactly as Dvořák had described in the music of somebody named William Grant Still. Is that a name, you know? Okay, some people know that name. William Grant Still was an African American composer who did exactly what the Dvořák was saying. But unlike the white composers who was doing it, he wasn't white, which meant it didn't have any exotic qualities.


It didn't have any sense of the other. Even Gershwin wrestled with this, because Gershwin's music was heavily based on a whole experience that he had personally, not only with African-American spirituals, but the blues, and also with shouts and all kinds of things. He was deeply involved in that culture, and he developed a popular song style that manifested eventually when he wanted to become a more classical composer in Porgy and Bess.


But it's still the only dilemma of Porgy and Bess has to do with the fact that he's a white composer, and that changes how we understand what he thought he was doing and how people take it. It's still an ongoing, interesting phenomenon. It happens to be great music, which is one of the reasons, like a lot of other- you know, there was a review in The Times that mentioned some controversy connected without explaining what it was with the idea of Porgy and Bess and that person...


Does that mean that time is up? No. And that person who wrote the review said, didn't seem to understand or make a reference or at least acknowledge the fact that in the history of opera, this is really common. It's not my phone, is it? No, it’s not my phone. Okay. And what I mean is to a lesser extent, Carmen's Bizet is a French person's fake g****, fake Spanish music.


It really is. Puccini's Turandot. What is that? A Persian story retold as Chinese with fake Chinese music by an Italian. If you start to worry about- there are two ways to look at this. It's great or it's terrible. It's up to you. The thing is, for a long time, everything was so isolated that it was possible for a French musician in Paris to think of Spain as exotic.


I'll never go there, but it's, the food I hear is good. And I understand that they use these weird pentatonic melodies there, which they seem to use also in China and Persia and and Ireland and Appalachia and everywhere else. But that's basically- even Stravinsky. His first, in two ways. His Nightingale Opera has a kind of pseudo pentatonic Chinese in it, which he later regretted.


He just didn't like the fact that people could hear it as Chinese imitation. He was upset by that. It's a great piece of music though. Fabulous piece of music. But ironically, even his own Russian music is a little like that because there he was in Paris studying Russian stuff so that he could sound Russian during his Russian period, which he dropped when he didn't need it.


It's very interesting. This whole relationship of the self to the exotic and how to define that. And another way to look at it is Gershwin did not think of it as exotic. He felt like that was his culture. He didn't see any difference whatsoever, which is a very healthy thing. So what is exotic and what is international and what is global is always being redefined.


And the only way out of this is to stop thinking of nationalism, which is unfortunately, where we are in a big way politically is nationalism and isolationism. All this nonsense. It is the global culture that is like the Silk Road, that kind of mentality which YouTube helps, where music and the whole world is one thing and then it doesn't matter who does it. It doesn't matter who plays it.


And it shouldn't. It is everybody's. Okay. Now, let's hear this first. (music) We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures.


As well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. See you in two weeks.