Thursday, January 10, 2008

New World Symphony and Discord

The figure of Antonin Dvorak looms large in this story. In the throes of a New World epiphany, he impetuously espoused a future for American music based on "negro melodies." For three years, beginning in the fall of 1892, he found himself embroiled in a sustained and often bitter debate over issues of race and national identity that pitted against each other the two cities in which American classical music was born. In Boston — a Brahmin enclave with entrenched traditions, however young — the Czech composer was denounced as a "negrophile"; in New York — then, as now, a city of immigrants — he was embraced as a mentor of genius.

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