Why did it take a Czech immigrant to create the perfect American symphony in the German style?
I’m the ultimate musical mongrel,” laughs violinist and conductor Stanley Dodds. “Born in Canada to a Chinese mother and an Australian father, I grew up in Australia, studied in Austria and Switzerland and now I’m living in Germany.”
All of which makes Dodds the perfect choice to conduct the Australian World Orchestra, which draws most of its members from the pool of Australian musicians living and working abroad, in a performance of that great “mongrel” symphony, Dvořák’s Symphony No 9 in E Minor, From the New World.
But in the same way that Dodds, a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic who’s played in the AWO every year since its first concert series in 2011, considers Australia his “emotional” home and Germany his “professional” home, Dvořák’s New WorldSymphony is thoroughly in the Germanic symphonic tradition. The American folkloric aspects – whether we’re talking about programmatic elements referring to Longfellow’s poem Hiawathaor the melodies inspired by Afro-American and Indian music – perform a similar thematic and colouristic function to the traditional Slavonic-inspired elements in many of Dvořák’s other works, orchestral, chamber, choral or operatic. In...