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This month's release of Dvořák in America includes the world première recording of Hiawatha Melodrama, created in 1994 by the American cultural historian Joseph Horowitz and Michael Beckerman, Professor of Music at New York University. Based on music by Dvořák and texts from Longfellow's poem The Song of Hiawatha, the words become an integral feature of the work, not through song, but through narration. This combination of music and speech is no stranger to the catalogue.

Naxos 8.559777
Deas, Pasternack, PostClassical Ensemble, Gil-Ordóñez

The centrepiece of this programme is the first ever recording of the Hiawatha Melodrama, a concert work for narrator and orchestra designed to show the kinship between Dvořák’s New World Symphony and Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha, which Dvořák said had inspired him in the symphony. It takes music from the symphony, as well as passages from the American Suite and Violin Sonatina, and fuses them with the poem, which is recited by a bass-baritone. Also included is music by Arthur Farwell, who was influenced by Dvořák, and was a proponent of Native American music. This recording thus celebrates the crosscurrent of influences between the Czech composer and American music and culture.

Listen to an extract from Hiawatha Melodrama

“In musical parlance, the term “melodrama” refers to a composition mating music with the spoken work. The Hiawatha Melodrama here recorded is a third and “final” version which I have expanded to include excerpts from Dvořák’s American Suite and Violin Sonatina. Our objective has been to turn a demonstration arising from scholarly inquiry into a bona fide concert work.” - Joseph Horowitz


“Despite his reputation as a composer of abstract instrumental music, Dvořák used extra-musical images to generate musical ideas throughout his career. In fact, his central ambition was to be a successful composer of opera. In the context of Dvořák’s career, From the New World is at once his last symphony and a precursor to the mature symphonic poems, all of which follow a narrative thread, and to his final trio of operas.”

- Michael Beckerman

Companion discs featuring works for spoken voice

Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf

“Using her own enthusiastically expanded version of the original commentary, Dame Edna Everage is sure to draw any young possum into the world of the orchestra.”
- Penguin Guide

Copland: A Lincoln Portrait

“Barry Scott provides an excellent rendition of the text, and Slatkin leads one of the most well-shaped performances of the work I have ever heard.”
- Fanfare

Stravinsky: A Soldier's Tale

“Nicholas Ward on Naxos offers a crisp and well-lifted account...the three actors characterize well without exaggeration.”
- Penguin Guide

Schoenberg: Gurre-Lieder

“The Philharmonia Orchestra fairly roars through the score...combining passion with an enormous dynamic range.”
- MusicWeb International

Walton: Henry V

"Andrew Penny draws warmly committed, refined playing from the Irish orchestra, with some excellent solo work."
- Penguin Guide

– Jeremy Siepmann talks to the British conductor Andrew Penny

Recent releases from Naxos Audiobooks

Oliver Goldsmith:
The Vicar of Wakefield

Read by Nicholas Farrell

Thomas Hardy:
Far From the Madding Crowd

Read by Jamie Parker

Georgette Heyer:
The Masqueraders

Read by Ruth Sillers

Georgette Heyer:

Read by Phyllida Nash

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