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Themes of migration and crossing borders are as hot topics today as they ever were. This recording explores two works written in the so-called “New World” by composers from the “Old World”.

Ana Sokolović left war-torn Yugoslavia for a new home in Montréal, and her piece Golden slumbers kiss your eyes… looks back to European lullabies. It features Canadian-Korean counter-tenor David DQ Lee and several Ottawa choirs, and was commissioned by the NAC Orchestra in honour of its founding conductor, Mario Bernardi.

Antonín Dvořák wrote his famous symphony when he lived in North America, and there is still discussion about how much of the “New” and “Old” Worlds are to be found in it. It was taken to the moon, presumably because it contains some of the most recognizable and moving music ever written, and Neil Armstrong considered that the next “New World.”

© Alexander Shelley

Symphony No. 9, Op. 95, “From the New World” (1893) by Antonín Dvořák

Although the “New World” Symphony was written in the New World, it is not specifically about the New World. True, there are themes that could be construed as being “authentic” songs of North American Indigenous peoples or of African-Americans, but, in fact, as in Dvořák’s Slavonic works, he did not actually quote directly from folksong; instead, he composed his own based on study of the source material. One New World aspect of this symphony is the role played by Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, which Dvořák had read in Czech translation some 30 years earlier. Dvořák actually visited Hiawatha’s land (Iowa and southern Minnesota), but the symphony was essentially complete by this time, so whatever influence Hiawatha had on him was purely literary, not geographical. The main Allegro section is launched by horns in an arpeggiated fanfare motif in E minor, a motif that also reappears in the other movements. Many listeners know the main theme of the famous Largo as the song “Goin’ Home,” but Dvořák did not borrow the theme from a spiritual; it is his own. The Scherzo is one of the most energetic and exhilarating movements Dvořák ever wrote. In the Finale, the development section expands on material not only from this movement but from the three previous ones as well. The symphony’s final chord is a lovely, warm sonority that lingers gently in the ears of New World audiences.

By Robert Markow

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes… by Ana Sokolović

This piece is structured like a travel diary describing different countries and different times… imaginary countries we visit most often in our dreams and strongly influenced by the theme of childhood. The work is in seven movements played without interruption, linked by passages of gentle percussion sounds, like quiet interludes in different languages and contrasting styles. I used eight texts drawn from folk poetry in six languages (French, English, Italian, Serbian, German, and Ladino): lullabies, a counting rhyme, a love song, and pagan songs about nature.

Reflecting our nostalgia for our childhood and time forever lost, this work is a tribute to a great man who left an indelible mark on Canada’s musical landscape: Maestro Mario Bernardi. He helped build our wonderful nation by adding a dash of cultural spice – in this case, Italy. The piece includes two texts in Italian: Mie mama mata mata, a rhyme in the Venetian dialect to reflect the time he spent studying music in Treviso and Venice from 1938 – 45; and the Tarantella del Gargano, which is in the Puglian dialect, native to the southern Italian region of Puglia. The other texts are from À la claire fontaine, a French song popular with the coureurs des bois and which became the first national anthem of New France; the lullabies Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes (in English), Guter Mond (“Dear moon,” in German), Durme, durme (“Sleep, sleep,” in Ladino); and Lazarice and Dodole (in Serbian), a flower-picking song and a song accompanying a dance to make the earth fertile.

Translated from Ana Sokolović’s note in French

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About

Orchestre du Centre national des Arts du Canada
Alexander Shelley
Ana Sokolović
AN 2 8835 Ground Midnight

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