Music for the Time of Souls: Dvorák’s Requiem
Archived Articles 19 Nov 2007 Hilary BirdEWR
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There have been some fine concerts this season in Tartu. This year’s hingedeaeg Requiem was Antonín Dvorák’s (1841-1904), a work new to me. Loved it. It was composed in 1890, the beginning of Dvorák’s greatest creative period and is a wonderfully romantic price with a terrific conclusion.

The Requiem was first performed in October 1891 in Birmingham, conducted by the composer. Its success heralded the start of a succesful career.

The following year Dvorák went to the USA as the Director of the National Conservatory of Music, NYC at a then-staggering $15,000 pa salary. In NYC Dvorák met Harry Burleigh (1866-1949), the African-American composer, arranger and professional singer who was instrumental in the development of American music; he introduced African American folk songs to classical music by singing the originals and by classical arrangements. He was also, from 1900 - 25, a member of the synagogue choir at the Temple Emanu-El, the only African-American to sing there.

It was Burleigh who, on Dvorák’s request, introduced the Czech composer to spirituals, echoes of which can be heard in the lovely and justifieably popular ‘New World’ Symphony no.9. Homesickness coupled with increasing Euro-fame called Dvorák home to Bohemia in 1895. During his final years, when he was director of the Conservatory in Prague, Dvorák concentrated on opera and chamber music. He visited London for the last time in 1896 for the premiere of his Cello Concerto. Here in Tartu the Requiem was performed by the Estonian opera choir and Estonian Symphony Orchestre under the baton of Peter Feranec, principal conductor of the Slovenian National Opera. Mr. Feranec, who has performed in London, St Petes, Vienna, Oslo, Pittsburg, etc was rather large, like the work he so beautifully conducted.
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