Director’s News

“Doc Talk”/Class Lesson 6/9/2020

“DOC TALK”/CLASS LESSON – Tuesday, June 9, 2020





1)  As this is our final week of “remote learning,” I will be sending you a video through tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10th.  I would like students to contact me (via text or email) if you watched ALL of my Doc Talks/Lessons throughout the past 2 months!

2)  Registration for Marching Band is OPEN on our website!!!

Please sign up ASAP, and spread the word, especially to rising 9th graders!  The due date is Friday, June 19th.  Our “new” section leaders/captains will also be contacting you soon!


Today’s Lesson:  Antonin Dvorak and his “New World Symphony,” Movements III and IV

Movement 3:  Scherzo; Molto Vivace

Music cue #1:  21:28-22:52 in the attached link

Molto Vivace = very, very fast!  So fast that this ¾ movement is always played in 1 pulse per measure:  1-2-3, 1-2-3.  This is not new as many symphonic “scherzo” movements (the word “scherzo” means “joke”) are played “in 1.”  In fact, this particular scherzo movement is said to have been inspired by the scherzo movement of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.”


Theme A (E minor) is based on the interval of the descending 5th.  Even in the first statement, Dvorak answers the initial motif in imitative counterpoint (clarinet answers the flute/oboe).  In the second statement of the theme, the timpani answers the violin.  Later, the entire woodwind section answers the violins against a “cross-rhythm” played by horns and bassoons.  Dvorak then repeats this entire “A section.”


Music Cue #2:  22:52-23:32 in the attached link

In Theme B of the Scherzo, Dvorak ingeniously changes the rhythmic feel and mode (E minor to E major) and presents a new theme that begins with an ascending 3rd and is much more melodic than the first theme.


Music Cue #3:  24:00-24:30 in the attached link

The form of the Scherzo is called “minuet-trio” form—a very, very common form for this type of movement.  Essentially, the form is as follows:


A-B-A, C-D-C, A-B-A, Coda


The A-B-A sections are what is known as the “minuet;” and the C-D-C section is known as the “trio.”  Note that the entire movement is in a broad A-B-A type form.  In fact, the second A-B-A is a literal repeat of the first.


The way in which Dvorak transitions to the Trio is very creative:  He writes a bridge passage which includes the arpeggiated theme in Movement 1 stated in a very mysterious manner.  Note how restless this passage sounds…he is also changing keys from E minor to C Major.


Music Cue #4:  24:30-25:14 in the attached link

Theme C & D (the Trio themes) are very folk-like, very Czech.  Note that the C Theme is also based clearly on a C Major arpeggio.  I also find it fascinating that the accompanying bass line in the celli and basses are sounding the descending 5th of Theme A!


Music Cue #5:  28:19-28:59 in the attached link

In the coda of this movement, Dvorak brings back themes from movement 1 and 2 combining with the descending 5th “A Theme” of this movement.


Movement 4:  Allegro con fuoco

Music Cue #6:  29:07-30:17 in the attached link

First, note the tempo marking:  Allegro con fuoco—fast, with fire!


After an introduction featuring a “Jaws-like” ascending half step, Dvorak launches us into the “A Theme” of this movement, sounded by the horns and trumpets in unison.  A very power theme based solidly in E minor.  Note the emphatic “downbeat chords” sounded by the remainder of the ensemble.


Music Cue #7:  30:17-30:53 in the attached link

The bridge or transition to the “B Theme” actually has a triplet theme of its own.  Again, one has to admire Dvorak’s prodigious number of melodies!


Music Cue #8:  30:53-31:40 in the attached link

The actual “B Theme” is a shy-sounded theme in the relative key of “G Major.”  Note the “answering motif” in the celli—an ascending arpeggio figure that once again can be its own theme!  In fact, Dvorak develops this motif as this section of the movement continues.


Music Cue #9:  31:40-32:32 in the attached link

As expected, Dvorak writes a 3rd theme (C Theme) as a closing theme, once again in the key of G Major.  Like the B Theme, this theme also has another theme that is linked to it, commonly referred to as the “Three Blind Mice Theme.”


Music Cue #10:  32:32-34:42 in the attached link

Dvorak chooses NOT to repeat the exposition in this movement but rather proceed directly to the DEVELOPMENT section where he works with Theme A and the Bridge Theme, and also brings back themes and motifs from Movements I, II and III!


Music Cue #11:  34:42-35:15 in the attached link

One last trick…Where, oh where does the RECAPITULATION actually begin?

He brings back Theme A in a very strong statement—which sounds like the recapitulation, but it’s in the wrong key, G minor!  However, after just a few measures, he “rights” the ship and sounds the theme triumphantly in E minor—we are back home!


Music Cue #12:  37:32-40:20 in the attached link

For purposes of time, we’ll simply remark that the recap brings back the main themes A, B, and C that we heard in the exposition.


What do you suppose Dvorak does in the coda?


If your answer is “probably brings back all the themes heard in the symphony, you are correct!  Well, not ALL the themes…but at least 1 from each movement.  I believe the one that is most significant is the brass chorale that we heard in the introduction to movement 2!


Another very important aspect of this coda is the quiet moment in the middle of it played by the solo horn and timpani that sounds like a funeral dirge.  It recalls the melancholy mood at the very opening of the symphony.  Also note that the entire symphony ends quietly, with a long diminuendo to pianissimo. Why???


The answer is found by reading the conclusion of the “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


On the shore stood Hiawatha,

Turned and waved his hands at parting;

On the clear and luminous water

Launched his birch canoe for sailing,

From the pebbles of the margin

Shoved it forth into the water;

Whispered to it, “Westward! Westward!”

And with speed it darted forward.


And the evening sun descending

Set the clouds on fire with redness,

Burned the broad sky, like a prairie,

Left upon the level water

One long track and trail of splendor,

Down whose stream, as down a river,

Westward, westward Hiawatha


Sailed into the fiery sunset,

Sailed into the purple vapors,

Sailed into the dusk of evening.


This is the song of a Native-American leaving his homeland to explore new regions.  However, his leaving is precipitated by the arrival of the “pale-face;” a culture intent on transforming America into something quite different from his native heritage.  Again, we are reminded of the “stain” on our history caused by the expulsion of the Native American—the TRUE foundation of the “New World.”


Isn’t this amazing that Dvorak felt this and used it as the basis of this work?  Along with the African-American spiritual themes, Dvorak was very sensitive to ALL the cultures that comprise our country—he left no one out!  Interestingly, we tend to only celebrate the “energic, forward-looking themes” without recognizing the reflective melancholy ones.  To understand this work fully, one must recognize both…as well as the themes that reflect Dvorak’s Czech heritage.


Fun fact:  By the time he completed the New World Symphony, Dvorak was very homesick and returned to Prague shortly thereafter.  Some of the melancholy of this work is also said to be reflective of Dvorak’s longing for his own country.



1)  Listen to the final 2 movements of the “New World Symphony” without interruption.

2) Listen to the Symphony with a score

3) Listen to a really fun video about Dvorak and the “New World Symphony”



Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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