Dvorak in America by Joseph Horowitz
Reading Questions
Prelude- Young Harry Burleigh, pg 1
What did Harry Burleigh’s grandfather do before he was a lamplighter?
How did Harry’s grandfather influence him musically?
What was Harry’s background in music? Where had he sung before going to New York City?
What stroke of luck did Harry encounter when he auditioned at the National Conservatory of Music?
What kind of music was a big influence on “American” music?
Chapter One- New York Greets Dvorak, pg 11
Where did Dvorak come from?
Why did he come to New York City?
Who helped him come to NYC and why?
Who did Dvorak turn to, what kind of music, for inspiration? (pg 25)
What kind of music was it suggested to Dvorak that he learn more about?
Based on Dvorak’s letter home, what was his impression of America?
Chapter Two- Dvorak Gets His Bearings, pg. 33
Who is writing the letter at the beginning of this chapter?
What is his relationship with Dvorak?
Describe some aspects of Dvorak’s personality, based on the letter in the beginning of the chapter.
What instruments did Dvorak play and how did this influence him as a composer?
What was a major thing that Dvorak struggled with as a beginning composer?
How did the National Theater in Prague influence Dvorak?
How did Harry Burleigh’s audition at the National Conservatory affect Dvorak?
Chapter Three- Buffalo Bill and Hiawatha, pg. 54
What was the purpose of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show?
What did Dvorak think about Buffalo Bill’s show?
How did the Wild West show influence Dvorak and his music?
How did Native Americans fit into the Wild West show?
Was Buffalo Bill sympathetic to the Native Americans? Why or why not?
What were some of the issues being faced by Native Americans at this time and previous to this time?
Why were people so interested in Native Americans?
How were Native Americans portrayed in art at this time?
What did Dvorak dream of doing with the epic poem Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?
Chapter Four- Dvorak and the “Yellow” Press, pg. 71
What does the phrase “yellow journalism” mean?
How did this type of journalism affect Dvorak and his musical ideas and compositions?
Who practiced this type of journalism while Dvorak was in New York City?
How did Creelman’s articles impact Dvorak’s assertion that the “true” American music is founded in “Negro melodies?”
What did Jeannette Thurber pay Creelman to do in regard to Dvorak and the newspapers?
What piece of music influenced Dvorak’s first movement of his New World symphony?
What poem influenced Dvorak’s composition of the New World symphony?
What were some other views about the “true” American music, besides the one that Dvorak held? Was this expressed in the newspapers as well?
Chapter Five- Spillville, pg. 82
What reasons do you think that Dvorak spent a summer in Spillville, Iowa?
How did spending the summer in Spillville impact Dvorak personally?
How did spending the summer in Spillville impact Dvorak professionally?
How did spending the summer in Spillville impact Dvorak’s knowledge of Native Americans?
How did Dvorak’s time in Spillville influence the music he composed while in America?
What kinds of activities did Dvorak participate in that summer in Spillville?
Chapter Six- The New World Symphony, pg. 97
What kinds of melodies did Dvorak claim his New World Symphony was based on?
What kinds of questions did Jeannette Thurber have for Dvorak about his symphony?
What was the premiere performance of the New World symphony like? Describe the scene:
What was the controversy over the inspiration for parts of the New World symphony?
What were some of the reviews like in response to his New World symphony?
What did Dvorak think a musician’s job was?
Chapter Seven- A Tale of Two Cities, pg. 114
What was the reaction to the New World symphony when it was performed in Boston?
What were the differences in performance of, and the audience for, the NWS in Boston?
What is “Social Darwinism?” (page 121)
What was happening in Wall Street during the time of Dvorak’s premier of the New World symphony? (in 1893)
What did the benefit concert do for African American singers?
Why did some people object to the Stephen Foster song “Old Folks at Home?” and what did Sisseretta Jones say about the song? What did Dvorak do with this song? (pages 126-128)
Postlude: Old Harry Burleigh, pg. 133
After Dvorak returned home, what kinds of songs, symphonies, and operas were being composed in America, and why?
What kind of music did “Negro Spirituals” influence in the years after Dvorak left the United States? (page 135)
What kind of career did Harry Burleigh attain after Dvorak left the United States?
What were some of Harry Burleigh’s major musical accomplishments as a composer?
What did Harry Burleigh have to say about his relationship with Dvorak? How did he feel about him?
How did Dvorak influence the music of Harry Burleigh?

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