A Symphony for the New World

Joshua Zona

When people tell me what piece of music turned them on to being a classical music lover (or at least classical music liker), it is more often than not Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony.   What’s not to like—it’s got memorable melodies, exciting rhythms, and a spirit that is simply contagious.  Now, you can hear it live, in concert by the Rapides Symphony on Saturday, March 12th at 7:30pm at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center in Alexandria. 

Antonin Dvorak was that first major European composer to live and work for a period of years in the United States.   When it came time to write his ninth symphony in 1893, he was living in New York City, leading the National Conservatory of Music.  In this symphony that he subtitled “From the New World,” Dvorak was pointing the way for young American composers to move beyond copying European musical models to create something that was uniquely American.  Within the traditional genre of the symphony, Dvorak incorporated Native American melodies and Negro spiritual tunes throughout the piece.  The result is something of a late 19th Century American postcard to his native Czech homeland – not as Czech-flavored as most of Dvorak’s music, and not truly American-sounding either. 

The concert will be led by guest conductor Alfredo Ibarra.  He will bring with him an overture by living Mexican composer Eduardo Angulo titled Corazónde Piedra Verde (The Heart of Jade).   The concert will also feature the winners of the RSO’s state-wide Concert Competition.    Wesley Ducote, a student at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, will perform the 1st movement of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto and MinJung Kim, a student at Northwestern State University, will play the final two movements of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 1.  I’m certain you will be very impressed by the level of these outstanding young soloists.


This exciting concert is slated for Saturday, March 12th, beginning at 7:30pm at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center (3rd and Lee) in downtown Alexandria.  You can call the Symphony office for tickets at (318) 442-9709, ext. 2 or visit us online at www.rapidessymphony.org .  Hope to see you there!