Reflection of the feelings the settlers would have felt when arriving in the new world

By Mary-Kate Holubowicz

Dr. Isaacson, the Director of the KU Orchestra, talked about how Dvorak was traveling through America when it was still the colonies and how “you can hear it throughout his symphony.”

This was the thought that gave a keen understanding of Dvorak’s No. 9 Symphony that was played.

On Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Auditorium, there was a magical night of classical music with a focus on the strings section.

Dr. Isaacson chose Serenade for Strings in E Minor by Elgar and Sibelius’ Andante Festivo as a way to exhibit the string players.

“I wanted this to be a string-heavy concert,” he said.

The Serenade for Strings in E Minor, 1st movement by Elgar was a playful piece of music that moved along smoothly and brought the different instruments together.

The 2nd movement was a contrast to the playful nature of the 1st. The orchestra conveyed the music as more mystical and heartbreaking along with a lot of push and pull in the tempo.

The piece ended with rhythms that were similar to the first movement. It brought the piece into a full circle as every section played the melody.    

Sibelius’ Andante Festivo was a dynamic piece. There was a sense of festivities and joyfulness that was brought to life through the music. 

Elgar’s and Sibelius’ pieces brought welcome feelings leading into the Dvorak piece.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” movements 1 and 4 was the first piece of music that included other sections that create a full orchestra. 

The woodwinds, brass and percussion sections joined the strings to begin the journey Dvorak’s symphony takes people on.

“The goal was to find a piece that played to our strengths,” said Isaacson. “This piece has a lot of challenges, being 40 minutes long normally.”

“This is a big piece that will set the tone for the year,” said Isaacson. 

The orchestra will be playing the full symphony at their next concert on Dec. 3, 2023 at 3 p.m. in Schaeffer Auditorium that’s free to the public.

The very beginning of the piece with the 1st movement was a reflection of the feelings the settlers would have felt when arriving in the new world. It was soft and unsure for a while before becoming intense and gave an almost scared or afraid feeling. 

As the the end of the movement approached, instead of scared, there was a sense of excitement piercing through. It took hold and was powerful as it ended with such intensity.

The start of the 4th movement is one most people would be familiar with since the Jaws theme sounds very similar. There’s a different intensity in this movement than the first, but it all comes back eventually. 

There are many themes that return as a way of circling back to the story behind the symphony and it made the last movement feel a little fantastical and light-hearted at times.

As the piece came to its conclusion, the dynamics of the piece played with the mix of emotions that were being conveyed that the settlers might’ve experienced. In the end, all that was left was a helpless feeling, like nothing was left. 

The concert ended with a “nostalgic piece” as Dr. Isaacson called it. The orchestra played a medley of songs from West Side Story and invited the audience to “hum along” to any of the songs they knew.


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