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From the New World: Victor Herbert and His Second Cello Concerto


Among his instrumental music, Victor Herbert's Second Cello Concerto, op. 30 (1894) in particular deserves greater attention, not only because it has become standard repertoire but because of its historical importance as a stimulus to Antonín Dvořák. An analysis of the piece reveals a subtly crafted composition that brilliantly exploits the resources of the cello—Herbert's own instrument—and that builds upon the composer's earlier work for cello and orchestra. The work also exhibits that stylistic amalgam of Irish, German, and American elements that characterize Herbert's operetta scores. Scholars have long appreciated the fact that the piece helped inspire Dvořák to attempt a cello concerto of his own (1895). But Herbert, as has been suggested in the case of George W. Chadwick, might have influenced Dvořák's “American” music more generally. In turn, Dvořák's music—in particular, his “New World” Symphony—seems to have left its mark on Herbert's Second Concerto. In short, Herbert and Dvořák—colleagues at New York's National Conservatory in the early 1890s—engaged in a sort of musical dialogue, one that reflected differing ideas concerning nationalism and American music.

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Journal of the Society for American Music
  • ISSN: 1752-1963
  • EISSN: 1752-1971
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-society-for-american-music
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