The First Semester of Fine Arts for the SY 2017/2018 consists of an 18 week composer study of Antonin Dvorak. The Second Semester of Fine Arts (Art) is also an 18 week study and thus together make a year’s study of Fine Arts. (Printer Friendly Version_Music)
COMPOSER FOR THE FIRST SEMESTER – ANTONIN DVORAK
Antonin Dvorak (September 1841 – May 1904) was a Czech composer. He was the second Czech composer to achieve worldwide recognition. He frequently employed rhythms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. His style is described as having “the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them’’.
His father, who was a butcher and inn keeper by trade, played the zither for fun and eventually played it professionally. He was the oldest of eight children, and at an early age his musical gifts were noticed. He became a violin student at the age of six.
The first public performances of his works were in Prague in 1872 – 1873 when he was only 31 years of age. In order to develop recognition beyond the Prague area, he submitted a score of his First Symphony to a prize competition in Germany. Although he did not win, and the manuscript, which was not returned, remained lost until it was rediscovered several decades later. In 1874 he first made a submission for the Austrian State Prize for Composition, including scores of two new symphonies and some other works. Johannes Brahms was the leading member of the jury and was highly impressed with Dvorak. He won the award in 1874, 1876, and 1877.
Brahms recommended Dvorak to his publisher. Soon afterward, Dvorak was commissioned and wrote what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. These were highly praised and his international reputation at last was launched. Dvorak earned many honors, awards, and honorary doctorate degrees. In 1892, Dvorak moved to America to work as the artistic director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York for $15,000 (nearly 25 times what he was earning in Prague). His first performance was given at Carnegie Hall. Dvorak’s New World Symphony was written in America. However, he left the United States in 1895 due to shortfalls in payment of his salary and homesickness to return to Bohemia.
In March of 1904 he became bedridden due to illness, most likely influenza. After battling the illness for five weeks, he dead on May 1, 1904, at the age of 62. His ashes are ashes were entombed in the Vysehrad Cemetery in Prague.
How We Do A Composer Study: My children are introduced to the composer during our Fine Arts class on Friday. I will give my children a brief synopsis of their life (above). We will then discuss the composer’s life for a bit. I will then introduce the piece that we will be studying for the week and its background or additional information of the piece (below). We will listen to the piece together. Throughout the week, I will play the piece in the background while we are having lunch or doing teatime. You could also play the music in your car when you are running errands. We study one piece a week; therefore, the selection study should take a minimum of eight weeks to complete.
The selections for our study come from Ambleside Online.
(1) Symphony 9 From the New World. Dvořák wrote this piece between January and May 1893, while he was in New York. At the time of its first performance, he claimed that he used elements from American music; however, he later denied this. He stated in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, that he wrote, “[In the 9th symphony] I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music.” Also of note, Neil Armstrong took a recording of the New World Symphony to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969.
(2) Slavonic Dances – Nos. 1, 2, and 3. The Slavonic Dances are a series of 16 orchestral pieces composed by Dvorak between 1878 and 1886 and published in two sets as Opus 46 and Opus 72. These pieces were originally written for piano four hands, and were inspired by Braham’s Hungarian Dances. They were orchestrated at the request of Dvorak’s publisher soon after composition. The pieces ere well received at the time and are considered to be among the Dvorak’s most memorable works. We will only study Nos. 1 – 3. (Note: These are three separate pieces)
(3) Carnival Overture (may also be spelled Karneval). Also referred to as “Nature, Life, and Love”, the piece actually consists of three overtures: In Nature’s Realm, Carnival, and Othello. This piece was in Prague before Dvorak headed to New York to assume his post as director of the National Conservatory of Music. He also reprised it at Carnegie Hall on his first American program. He described the piece as the contrast between “the lonely, contemplative wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in their songs and dance tunes.”
(4) Humoresques for piano Opus 101 (especially no 7 in G flat ). This is a piano cycle by the Dvorak, written during the summer of 1894. It is probably the most small piano work ever written after Beethoven’s Fur Elise.
(5) String Quartet No. 12 in F maj Opus 96 (“American”). This piece is nicknamed American Quartet. It is the 12th string quartet composed by Dvorak. It was written in 1893, during his time in the United States. This quartet is one of the most popular in his chamber music repertoire.
(6) Trio in E min Opus 90 (“Dumky”) . This piece is one of Dvorak’s best-known works.
It is a prominent example for a piece of chamber music deviating strongly from the sonata form. Dvorak finished the work on February 12, 1901, and it premiered in Prague on April 11, 1891, with violinist Ferdinand Lachner, cellist Hanuš Wihan, and Dvorak on piano. At the performance, Dvorak was awarded an honorary doctorate from Prague’s Charles University. This piece was so well received that he performed it on his 40 concert farewell tour throughout Moravia and Bohemia before leaving for the United States. This piece was written while he was in America and was proofread by his friend Johannes Brahms.
Additional Resources: These resources help to bring the composer and his work to life. They are relative short videos of commentaries or analysis. I also have vocabulary that I want my children to learn and a notebooking page to complete. This portion of the study, should take a week a piece (five weeks).
- Lesson: Dvorak in America – Music as a Mirror of History.
- Lesson: Dvořák 9th Symphony: Musical Analysis by Gerard Schwarz.
- Classics for Kids on Dvorak (This site includes a basic online quiz.)
- Antonin Dvorak Notebooking Page
- Vocabulary Composer Study Session One
HYMN STUDY FOR THE FIRST SEMESTER
The selections for our Hymn Study come from Ambleside Online.
How We Do A Hymn Study: My children are introduced to the hymn during our Fine Arts class on Friday. I will tell them about the hymn, composer, and any additional information that I may have about the hymn. I will then play the hymn and listen it together. Throughout the week, I will play the hymn in the background while we are having lunch or doing teatime. You could also play the music in your car when you are running errands. We study hymn a week; therefore, the hymn selection study should take a minimum of five weeks to complete.
- O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing – Lyrics & Background, Hymn Study, Modern Version
- Grace, ‘Tis a Charming Sound – Lyrics & Background, Hymn Study, Modern Version
- Nothing But the Blood – Lyrics & Background, Hymn Study, Modern Version
- Marching to Zion – Lyrics & Background, Hymn Study, Modern Version
Additional Resources: My children complete a notebooking page for each hymn we study. Hymn Study Notebooking Page
FIRST SEMESTER MUSIC EXAMINATION & GRADING
In order to issue a grade for my children for the first semester of Fine Arts (Music), I evaluate and issue a grade for each of the notebooking pages my children will complete. I will also give my children the First Semester Music Examination. For part one of the examination, I will simply play snippets of the composer’s work and hymns in random order and have the children identify the pieces that are played. The final grade of this semester is determined by averaging the notebooking pages with the examination.