Dvorak's Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music

Nov 19, 2021

November’s “PostClassical” webcast explores Joseph Horowitz’s new book Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music, released this month by W. W. Norton in tandem with six documentary films Horowitz has produced for Naxos in collaboration with PostClassical Ensemble.

Horowitz’s new narrative for American classical music, replacing the modernist “standard narrative,” begins with the sorrow songs extolled by W. E. B. Du Bois and Antonin Dvorak. It privileges Charles Ives and George Gershwin as composers steeped in American vernacular speech and song.

This three-part “PostClassical” broadcast – with Horowitz, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, and host Bill McGlaughlin -- explores music by eight composers left out of the standard narrative: Harry Burleigh, Antonin Dvorak, Charles Ives, William Levi Dawson, George Gershwin, Silvestre Revueltas, Lou Harrison, and Bernard Herrmann. It asks: How is it possible their music is so little played by American orchestras, and so little esteemed?
For information on the book and the films: www.josephhorowitz.com

PART ONE:

00:00 – Harry Burleigh: Steal Away (Kevin Deas and Joe Horowitz at the National Cathedral)
7:00 – Burleigh as a forgotten hero of American music. His place in the new narrative proposed by Horowitz in Dvorak’s Prophecy, replacing the modernist “standard narrative” of American classical music
15:00 – Antonin Dvorak’s little-known “American” style after the New World Symphony. His American Suite, movement 3, performed by PostClassical Ensemble and Angel Gil-Ordóñez, for whom it proclaims “This is America!”
23:00 – Dvorak’s three American tropes: African-American, Native American, the American West. How to account for our continued ignorance of his later American output? Horowitz: “We’re just not interested in ourselves, we lack curiosity.” The Metropolitan Museum traces a lineage of American painting; the NY Philharmonic does not trace a lineage of American music.
29:00 – The “most striking omission”: Charles Ives. Gil-Ordóñez: the failure to play Ives is “the biggest mystery” in American music, “really a tragedy.”
36:00 – Ives: The Housatonic at Stockbridge (as presented in the new “Dvorak’s Prophecy” film “Charles Ives’ America”)

PART TWO:
00:00 – George Gershwin and “the Gershwin threat.” An under-rated Gershwin piece: the Cuban Overture, with its surprising Andalusian episode
2:08 – Gershwin Cuban Overture, performed by Angel Gil-Ordóñez and PCE
14:08 – Why don’t we know the Cuban Overture? It fails the criteria of modernism
18:55 – William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony: “buried treasure”
20:26 – Dawson’s symphony, movement 2: “Hope in the Night,” performed by Leopold Stokowski
41:00 – Could the Black musical motherlode that fostered popular genres have equally served American classical music?

PART THREE:
2:00 – Silvestre Revueltas: another major composer who falls outside the modernist narrative. Gil-Ordóñez: “another tragedy.”
8:15 – Revueltas: Redes (ending), with PCE conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez
11:52 – Why Revueltas is “the composer we should be studying right now” re: political art and social justice.
22:00 – Lou Harrison and his Violin Concerto
25:00 – Harrison Violin Concerto, movement 3, with Tim Fain and PCE led by Gil-Ordóñez
35:25 – Bernard Herrmann as “the most under-rated 20th century American composer”
38:00 – Herrmann’s Psycho Narrative performed by PCE and Gil-Ordóñez