Composer Antonin Dvorak was inspired by quiet

Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images, licensed under Flickr Commons

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I like classical music. I’ve attended concerts since I was a child, and continue to do so. In the car, I listen either to the news on NPR or to Los Angeles’ classical music station, KUSC.  The other day I heard an interesting introduction to composer Antonin Dvorak’s “American String Quartet, No. 12.” He didn’t give the composition a name, unlike his “New World Symphony,” but he wrote on the score, “the second composition written in America,” hence the name given to the piece.

The KUSC announcer explained that Dvorak didn’t like the hustle and bustle of living in New York City, where he was teaching and conducting. So his secretary suggested he spend the summer in a small town in Iowa where there was a Czech immigrant community. The secretary’s father lived there, and Dvorak grew up in a small town. In Spillville, Iowa, the quiet and nature’s sounds inspired Dvorak to write the “American Quartet.” He also worked on the score for “New World Symphony,” which he premiered to much acclaim in Carnegie Hall when he returned to the city in the fall. This nice article in the Des Moines Register tells more of the story. 

Some composers have captured urban sounds — Gershwin’s “American in Paris” comes to mind — but others found inspiration in nature, like Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony.” I didn’t know about Dvorak’s sojourn in Iowa and how it inspired him. I hope you find this little bit of musical history background as interesting as I did.

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