Dvořák's New World Symphony

Program Notes

FRI OCT 25, 8 pm | SAT OCT 26, 8 pm



Hidd’n Blue

FALLA (1876–1946)

Nights in the Gardens of Spain for Piano and Orchestra

  • En el Generalife (“In the Gardens of the Generalife”)
  • Danza lejaña (“A Dance is Heard in the Distance”)
  • En los jardines de la Sierra de Córdoba (“In the Gardens of the Sierra de Cordoba”)


Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, From the New World

  • Allegro
  • Adagio un poco mosso
  • Rondo: Allegro

We are excited to present Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno for his debut performance with the CSO. Gimeno is Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and incoming Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It is fitting that Gimeno will conduct the work of two prominent and influential Spanish composers, Francisco Coll and Manuel de Falla. Gimeno is a frequent collaborator with Francisco Coll and he is in the process of recording an entire album of Francisco Coll’s music. Javier Perianes joins the CSO in performing the symphonic impression Nights in the Gardens of Spain, which provides an impressionistic and evocative tour of the lush and water-filled gardens of Spain. The program concludes with Dvořák’s iconic Symphony No. 9, which was composed while the composer was living in America and fuses the composer’s typical Bohemian style with his American experience.


Francisco Coll

Born: 1985, Valencia, Spain
"Could Coll be the composer Spain has long been waiting for?" BBC Music Magazine (Helen Wallace), 20 March 2014

Known for:

  • chamber opera Café Kafka (2014)
  • Four Iberian Miniatures BBC Proms Debut (2016)

Hidd’n Blue

U.S. Premiere
  • Work composed: 2012, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra
  • Premiere: These performances are the work’s U.S. premiere
  • Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, clarinet, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cabasa, Chinese cymbals, congas, crotale, crash cymbals, glockenspiel, high hat, marimba, plastic bag of crinkled paper, ratchet, roto toms, sizzle cymbal, sleigh bells, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tam-tam, 2 temple blocks, tom-tom, 2 triangles, tubular bells, tuned cowbells, vibraphone, xylophone, harp, piano, strings
  • Duration: approx. 4 minutes

The music of Francisco Coll, among the most gifted young Spanish composers, has been performed and commissioned by leading ensembles across Europe and increasingly in America. Coll noted, “The sound world of Hidd’n Blue is colorful—rhythmic excitement, vibrant tone, startling harmonies—and builds to a vertiginous climax.”

In the Composer’s Words
In Hidd’n Blue, a deep, mysterious blue has been overlaid with swirling, lighter colours, and the lines of music function like the trees whose branches repeatedly divide in counterpoint to the base shade.

Nowadays society is dominated by uncertainty—in this work I wanted everything to seem simultaneously safe and unbalanced. Technically, the main material of the piece is a large canon but it rarely appears on the surface of the music: it is hidden. I am very interested in the union of opposites, and the use of extreme sonorities is a constant throughout the piece.
—Francisco Coll

Manuel de Falla

Born: November 23, 1876, Cádiz, Spain
Died: November 14, 1946, Alta Gracia, Argentina

Known for:

  • La vida breve (1913)
  • Noches en los jardines de España (1916)
  • El sombrero de tres picos (1919)

Nights in the Gardens of Spain for Piano and Orchestra

  • Work composed: 1909–1915
  • Premiere: April 9, 1916 in Madrid by the Orquesta Sinfonica of Madrid, conducted by Fernandez Arbós with José Cubiles, pianist
  • Instrumentation: solo piano, 3 flutes (incl. piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, crash cymbals, suspended cymbals, triangle, harp, celeste, strings
  • CSO notable performances: 9 previous subscription weekends | Premiere: February 1926 (Emery Auditorium), Fritz Reiner, conductor; Mme. Guiomar Novaes, piano | Most recent: September 2012, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting, Jorge Federico Osorio, pianist | In addition to Mme. Novaes, who gave the CSO premiere, other notable pianists who performed the work are Arthur Rubinstein (1944 and 1951) and Alicia de Larrocha (1985 and 2002).
  • Duration: approx. 23 minutes

Falla began Nights in the Gardens of Spain in Paris in 1909 and completed it in Sitges, near Barcelona, in 1915. José Cubiles was piano soloist when Enrique Fernandez Arbós conducted the premiere in Madrid on April 9, 1916 on a concert that also included El amor brujo. Falla subsequently revised the score.

Manuel de Falla learned to paint the musical colors of his native Spain while living in Paris from 1907 to 1914, where his friends included the Impressionist masters Debussy, Ravel and Dukas. Falla sketched his evocative Nights in the Gardens of Spain in 1909, during his French residency, but did not complete it until after returning home when World War I broke out. His biographer J.B. Trend wrote that this is “the first work in which Falla gave the true measure of his power as a composer.”

Crossing the Pyrenees

“I spent seven unforgettable years [1907–1914] in Paris,” recalled Manuel de Falla late in his life. “Debussy, Ravel, Schmitt and Dukas were my best friends there...especially Dukas, who motivated me to compose, and made my works known in the city. There I wrote my Nights in the Gardens of Spain. I was so far from Spain that perhaps I painted the nights more beautiful than they really are.” The lure of sun-baked Spain was particularly strong in France during the early years of the 20th century, not just for a native son like Falla, but for other musicians, as well—Ravel wrote his Rhapsodie espagnole in 1907; Debussy’s Ibéria came one year later. Falla first conceived Nights in the Gardens of Spain as a set of solo piano pieces tentatively titled “Nocturnes,” and began sketching them in 1909. However, when he showed them to his compatriot composer, Isaac Albéniz, and to the pianist Ricardo Viñes, among the most important early performers of the keyboard works of the French Impressionists, they urged him to expand his piano miniatures to full symphonic form. But he was unable to complete the work before being forced to leave Paris and return to Madrid in 1914 because of the outbreak of war. After living in near poverty for most of his years in Paris, Falla became a celebrity upon his return home with the first Spanish performance of his opera La Vida Brève in November 1914, and he received a commission from the conductor Fernandez Arbós (also remembered today for his colorful orchestration of Albéniz’s Ibéria) to continue with the Nights in the Gardens of Spain. The piece was completed the next year in Madrid and in the picturesque coastal village of Sitges, which was also home to the painter Santiago Rusiñol, in whose house Falla put the finishing touches on the score. This, “the first work in which Falla gave the true measure of his power as a composer,” according to his biographer J.B. Trend, was premiered by Arbós, pianist José Cubiles and the Orquesta Sinfonica of Madrid on April 9, 1916.

Evocations in Sound

In speaking of Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Falla noted:

If these “symphonic impressions” have achieved their object, the mere enumeration of their titles should be a sufficient guide to the hearer. As in all works that have a legitimate claim to be considered as music, the composer has followed a definite design regarding tonal, rhythmic and thematic material, its purpose is to evoke places, sensations and sentiments. The themes employed are based on rhythms, modes, cadences and ornamental figures unique to Andalusia, although they are seldom employed here in their original forms. The orchestration as well frequently employs, in a conventional manner, certain effects that are peculiar to the instruments popular in those parts of Spain. The music does not pretend to be descriptive, but something more than the sounds of festivals and dances has inspired these ‘evocations in sound,’ for melancholy and mystery play their parts also.

The opening movement was inspired by the famous gardens of the Generalife, a 13th-century Moorish villa on a hillside overlooking the Alhambra in Granada. (In 1922, Falla settled within sight of that garden.) The clipped hedges, grottoes, fountains and avenues of cypress caused the 19th-century French writer Théophile Gautier to call the Generalife “a dream garden without parallel.” Dumas pére wrote, “Nowhere were so many orange trees, so many roses, so many jasmines gathered together in so small a place.... Nowhere will you see so many springs, so many leaping waterfalls, so many rushing torrents.” The villa’s name is said to have been of Moorish origin, Jennatu-l’arif meaning “gardens of the architect.” To portray these luxurious gardens, Falla created one of his most Impressionistic movements, sumptuously scored, richly harmonized and, as Abraham Veinus wrote, filled with “a strange fusion of tranquility and mystery.” The movement is not in traditional concerto form, but is built rather from variations and extensions of a melody of tiny, winding intervals presented at the beginning by violas playing tremolo and sul ponticello (“at the bridge”).

Falla did not specify a precise site for the second movement, called simply “Distant Dance,” though it is obviously the scene of a spirited fiesta. The rhythms, sometimes heard only vaguely, sometimes brought closer by a warm breeze, are vibrant and enticing. The theme is redolent of the sinuous leadings of Oriental melody. “The second and third movements,” wrote the composer, “are joined without interruption by means of a bridge upon which, beneath a tremolo of the violins in the highest register, are sprinkled, like distant echoes, the notes which began the fundamental theme of ‘Distant Dance.’ The bridge ends with an ascending passage for the piano, in octaves, which is resolved in a tutti [all together] with which the third and last movement begins.”

The finale, “In the Gardens of the Mountains of Córdoba,” according to J.B. Trend, portrays “an evening when a party is in progress, with a zambra of Gypsy musicians.... The word sâmira was used by the Moors in Spain for a revelry by night, or even for a quiet nocturnal meeting at which a number of people passed the night together telling stories, like those of the Thousand and One Nights. But as no real sâmira was complete without music and dancing, the word also came to be used for a band of musicians.... As the persecution of the Moors increased during the 16th century, their sâmira were prohibited by Philip II. But he had forgotten to reckon with the Gypsies, who began to arrive in Granada about the time the Moors were driven out, and preserved something of their manner of performing music.” Falla’s fiery music is built in the form of a copla with a refrain-like estribillo, and resembles the classical rondo. A quiet ending suggests welcome sleep at sunrise after a night of revels.

What to Listen for:
With his Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Falla employed themes that are based on rhythms, modes, cadences and ornamental figures peculiar to Andalusia, though seldom in their original forms. Certain effects unique to the instruments popular in those parts of Spain also appear, though the music does not pretend to be descriptive of the region or locations for which its movements are named. The opening movement was inspired by the famous gardens of the Generalife, the second and third movements evoke a spirited fiesta, and the third portrays, according to Falla’s biographer, “an evening when a party is in progress, with a zambra of Gypsy musicians.”

Antonín Dvořák

Born: September 8, 1841, Nelahozeves, Bohemia
Died: May 1, 1904, Prague

Major composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Known for:

  • Stabat Mater (1880)
  • Symphony No. 9, From the New World (1893)
  • Cello Concerto in B minor (1895)

Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95,
From the New World

  • Work composed: between December 19, 1892 and May 24, 1893 in New York
  • Premiere: December 16, 1893, New York, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Anton Seidl conducting
  • Instrumentation: 2 flutes (incl. piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, crash cymbals, triangle, strings
  • CSO notable performances: 33 previous subscription weekends | Premiere: February 1895, Anton Seidl conducting (Pike Opera House), just over two years after Seidl conducted the world premiere | Most recent: November 2015, Louis Langrée conducting (subscription concert), and April and July 2017, Louis Langrée conducting special tour send-off concerts (Taft Theatre) | Every Music Director of the CSO has conducted the New World Symphony. The CSO has also performed this work on tours of Europe (2017), Asia (1990, 2009), the U.S. (1921, 1952, 1958, 1997), and on its 1966 world tour (the CSO was the first American orchestra to make a world tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State), as well as at Carnegie Hall (1997).
  • Duration: approx. 40 minutes

Antonín Dvořák had risen from humble rural beginnings in Bohemia to become one of the world’s most famous composers by the time he arrived in New York City in September 1892 to head the new National Conservatory of Music. He found inspiration for the “New World” Symphony he composed here in the traditional spirituals sung for him by his student Henry Thacker Burleigh, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania who became a pioneer in securing a place for African-Americans in this country’s concert music.

Finding Inspiration Abroad

When Antonín Dvořák, aged 51, arrived in New York on September 27, 1892 to direct the new National Conservatory of Music, both he and the institution’s founder, Mrs. Jeanette Thurber, expected that he would help to foster an American school of composition. He was clear and specific in his assessment: “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. They can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.... There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot find a thematic source here.” Dvořák’s knowledge of this music came from Henry Thacker Burleigh, an African-American songwriter and student of his who sang the traditional melodies to the enthralled composer. Burleigh later recalled, “There is no doubt that Dr. Dvořák was very deeply impressed by the Negro spirituals from the old plantation. He just saturated himself in the spirit of those old tunes, and then invented his own themes.”

The “New World” Symphony was not only Dvořák’s way of pointing toward a truly American musical idiom but also a reflection of his feelings about his own country. “I should never have written the Symphony as I have,” he said, “if I hadn’t seen America,” but he added in a later letter that it was “genuine Bohemian music.” There is actually a reconciliation between these two seemingly contradictory statements, since the characteristics Dvořák found in Burleigh’s indigenous American music—pentatonic (five-note) scales, modal minor keys with a lowered seventh degree, rhythmic syncopations, frequent returns to the central key note—are common to much folk music throughout the world, including that of his native Bohemia. Because his themes for the “New World” Symphony drew upon these cross-cultural qualities, to Americans, they sound American; to Czechs, they sound Czech.

Blending Musical Cultures
The “New World” Symphony is unified by the use of a motto theme that occurs in all four movements. This bold, striding phrase, with its arching contour, is played by the horns as the main theme of the sonata-form opening movement, having been foreshadowed (also by the horns) in the slow introduction. Two other themes are used in the first movement: a sad, dance-like melody for flute and oboe that exhibits folk characteristics, and a brighter tune, with a striking resemblance to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, for the solo flute.

Many years before coming to America, Dvořák had encountered Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, which he read in a Czech translation. The great tale remained in his mind, and he considered making an opera of it during his time in New York. That project came to nothing, but Hiawatha did have an influence on the “New World” Symphony: the second movement was inspired by the forest funeral of Minnehaha; the third, by the dance of the Indians at the feast. That the music of these movements has more in common with the old plantation songs than with the chants of native Americans is due to Dvořák’s mistaken belief that African-American and Indian music were virtually identical.

The second movement is a three-part form (A–B–A), with a haunting English horn melody (later fitted with words by William Arms Fisher to become the folksong-spiritual “Goin’ Home”) heard in the first and last sections. The recurring motto here is pronounced by the trombones just before the return of the main theme in the closing section. The third movement is a tempestuous scherzo with two gentle, intervening trios providing contrast. The motto theme, played by the horns, dominates the coda.

The finale employs a sturdy motive introduced by the horns and trumpets after a few introductory measures in the strings. In the Symphony’s closing pages, the motto theme, “Goin’ Home” and the scherzo melody are all gathered up and combined with the principal subject of the finale to produce a marvelous synthesis of the entire work—a look back across the sweeping vista of Dvořák’s musical tribute to America.
—Dr. Richard E. Rodda

What to Listen for:
The New World Symphony is unified by the use of a motto theme that occurs in all four movements; this theme is first introduced in the horns. Two other themes follow in the first movement: a sad, dance-like melody for flute and oboe that exhibits folk characteristics, and a brighter tune for solo flute that resembles Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The second movement was inspired by the forest funeral of Minnehaha depicted in Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, the third by the dance of the Indians at the feast (a scherzo). The second movement introduces the famous melody in the English horn that was later fitted with words by William Arms Fisher to become “Goin’ Home.” The finale employs a sturdy motive introduced by the horns and trumpets and gives final nods to the Goin’ Home theme and dance-scherzo.