Dvořák: Symphony No 9 in E minor (New World); A Hero's Song

Reviewed on Tue 11 Jun, 2013

Dvořák's Ninth Symphony, the beloved "New World", Op 95, composed in 1893, with its haunting melodies reminiscent of American folksongs, is also his most economically constructed, and makes interesting use of cyclic themes and motives. Andris Nelsons directs an expressive performance that is especially sensitive to dynamics and articulation. One can disagree with his variable tempi in the first movement, which slows down for the "Sweet Chariot" third theme, but the orchestral playing is admirably clear, and the overall sound is excellent throughout. The "New World" was Dvořák's last symphony, but he continued to write important orchestral music, notably the Cello Concerto and five symphonic poems, of which the last was the rarely-heard Heldenlied (Heroic Song), Op 111. This twenty-minute work, premiered in 1898 (the conductor was Gustav Mahler), is certainly heroic, and sprawling in form, with constantly changing moods both lyric and dramatic. The performance is sonorous and spellbinding.
–Mark DeVoto