Symphony No. 9, II: Largo

I’ve always thought when listening to the 9th symphony by Czech composer Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), that the second movement, the largo, is so understated and unique that it almost doesn’t belong with the rest of the work. 

The movement starts so simply, peacefully, and as one online reviewer comments, it says so much with so little. While I like passages from the rest of the symphony, sometimes it goes off frenetically into other directions which, in my opinion, doesn’t suit the piece and takes away from the theme of a voyage. I am sure there are explanations for why it was written that way; perhaps sudden storms at sea?

Anyway, the second movement is beautiful and evocative of a long journey into uncertainty and challenge of settling in a new place. (Though it doesn’t even begin to consider how immigration to the “New World” affected those whose ancestors had already lived here for a hundred thousand years.) 

I found a version of the piece conducted by Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), whom I featured last week with his interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Summer” from The Four Seasons. I chose this one as I enjoyed it more than others I came across. (And unlike his quicker version of “Summer,” von Karajan’s version of the Dvořák largo is relatively slow, which is crucial to the mood of the music.)

When I was listening to the video, my sweety walked into the room, saying, “Mmmm, ‘Goin’ Home,'” referring to a spiritual version of the piece, with lyrics written in 1922 by William Arms Fisher, a student of Dvořák. 

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985 at the Großer Saal des Wiener Musikvereins, Vienna, Austria.  

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