Neglected Bohemian Treasures

While he is best known for works featuring orchestra or small chamber ensembles, Antonín Dvořák also left us a number of significant choral compositions based on biblical and traditional liturgical texts. Prominent among the instrumental works is his Symphony No.   9 in E  minor, nicknamed the “New World Symphony,” composed in 1893 while Dvořák was living in the United States. This work may be the most popular of all orchestral works in the classical repertoire, and when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled to the moon in 1969, they took with them a cassette tape containing Dvořák’s exuberant, sometimes wistful, and finally triumphant symphony. One giant leap for all mankind indeed!

While Dvořák was living in New York in the mid-1890s, he also composed a song cycle of Biblical Songs for voice and piano. Later orchestrated by the composer, theseten brief works set texts from the sixteenth-century Kralice Bible, the first complete translation into Czech of the Scriptures. Since this cycle requires only two performers, recordings are plentiful and performances not uncommon.

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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.

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