New World Prophecy: Dvorak, Dawson, and the Whiteness of Classical Music in America.

17 Sep

Though best known for his choral arrangements, William Levi Dawson composed a large-scale work, the <em></dt><dd class=

In 1934, Leopold Stokowski and his incomparable Philadelphia Orchestra premiered a new work by a black composer : the Negro Folk Symphony of William Levi Dawson. Four days later, Stokowski conducted the symphony at Carnegie Hall, a performance that was nationally broadcast and widely reviewed. “Hope in the Night,” the second movement, ignited an ovation—the orchestra had to stand. At the close, Dawson was repeatedly called to the stage. Pitts Sanborn of The New York World-Telegram wrote that “the immediate success of the symphony [did not] give rise to doubts as to its enduring qualities. One is eager to hear it again and yet again.” Leonard Liebling of the New York American (like Sanborn, a critic of consequence) went the full distance; he called Dawson’s symphony “the most distinctive and promising American symphonic proclamation which has so far been achieved.” Yet the Negro Folk Symphony would soon be forgotten.

So begins Joseph Horowitz’s intriguing American Scholar article on Dawson, Dvorak, and the whiteness of classical music in the United States. You may read the entire article here.

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