The Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra performed Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 the week before Thanksgiving break for their final fall semester concert at the Slosberg Recital Hall. The entire program consisted of a pre-concert lecture by Katie Ball ’22 contextualizing the symphony and the four-movement piece itself.
Ball’s pre-concert lecture integrated an informational presentation with demonstrations from the orchestra. After describing prominent American musicians in the 1800s, Ball described the structure of the overall symphony. The orchestra demonstrated musical motifs present in different movements of the symphony in order to allow the viewers to understand the symphony in more depth. Furthermore, Ball provided a historical background of Dvořák as a composer and concluded the presentation by asking the audience what artistic influences contribute to the “American sound” as it is understood today.
Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 is colloquially referred to as the “New World” symphony because he composed it during the time he spent in America. While Dvořák is of Czech origin, he traveled to America in order to better understand what the American sound was and gain inspiration from it. His discovery of melodies from African-American composers and Native-American composers influenced the melodies he wrote in his ninth symphony.
Each movement contributes to the musical expression of the symphony through the use of musical phrasing and tempo. The symphony begins with the Movement I: the Adagio-Allegro Molto movement. Translated, this means that the first movement begins at a slow, leisurely pace and then transitions to a very quick tempo. It is then followed by the Largo movement, which aims to produce a broad, grand and dignified sound. Afterwards comes the Molto Vivace movement where the piece is played in a lively style. Lastly, the symphony is concluded with the fourth movement: Allegro con Fuoco or with passion and energy.
Director of the program and current conductor Neal Hampton is a music faculty of both the Brandeis Music Department and the Wellesley Music Department. Additionally, he is the Assistant Conductor of the Plymouth Philharmonic. Hampton has served as a guest composer in a number of different ensembles including, The Rhode Island Philharmonic, London’s Westminster Philharmonic and The Savannah Symphony. Hampton also composes: he has written music for ballet, film and theater and the concert stage.
The Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra (BWO) consists of Brandeis University and Wellesley College students, faculty, and staff. The orchestra was formally established in 2002 by the direction of conductor Neal Hampton. According to the BWO website, the success of the group is founded upon access to the talent and resources of both institutions. The BWO orchestra is “dedicated to bringing inspiring performances of the great orchestral literature, both past and present, to a new generation of musicians and audiences,” the website reads.