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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Dvorak Festival Winds Down With Iconic 'New World Symphony'

Sebastian Lang-Lessing

The last weekend of the San Antonio Symphony's Dvořák Festival is coming, but to begin we look back at last weekend’s "Rusalka."

“I was really proud and really happy with the result, and I think our understanding of Dvořák really changed with this piece," said symphony Music Director Lang-Lessing. "We really learned about Dvořák.”

Headlining this weekend are Dvořák’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, but as Lang-Lessing explained, before playing them the symphony tackles a contemporary piece by American Jennifer Higdon.  

"This week we put in a piece by Jennifer Higdon, 'The Blue Cathedral.' A great example of what is the American sound in our time," Lang-Lessing said.

Then comes the Fifth Symphony and Lang-Lessing describes Dvořák’s development like this.

“He already explores the whole orchestral palate of writing in a unique way, and had already found his own style. It’s very rooted in the Bohemian countryside,” he said.

And finally the Ninth, known as the "New World Symphony," is where Dvořák expressed his primary aspiration while in the U.S., to help the young country find its national musical identity.

"The 'New World Symphony' is also a description to Europeans as to what America feels like to a musician” said Lang-Lessing.

I noted to him that Neil Armstrong took the "New World Symphony" to the moon on Apollo 11.

“Exactly!" he said. "Because it’s a message to humanity. It’s not just a message from one nation. It really, in a very beautiful way, links the old and the new world and goes beyond because it embraces other cultures.”

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii