How new was the “New World” Symphony?

Douglas W. Shadle, in an essay for The New York Times marking the 125th anniversary of the premiere of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony (No. 9 in E minor) – in concerts by the New York Philharmonic on Dec. 15 and 16, 1893, which also featured Brahms’ Violin Concerto and excerpts of Mendelssohn’s incidental music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – notes that Dvořák was by no means the first composer to incorporate African-American and other folk idioms into a classical work.

Shadle, a musicologist at Vanderbilt University, also points out that 19th-century European concertgoers and critics often proved more receptive to musical Americanisms than listeners in this country: