Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Kusz, Veronika. “A Wayfaring Stranger in the New World: Ernst von Dohnányi’s American Rhapsody.” American Music 32 (Summer 2014): 201-22.

Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnányi’s American Rhapsody has previously been analyzed as his tribute to America. However, interpreting the rhapsody in the context of his compositional oeuvre reveals more about his conservatism and critical reception. American Rhapsody was commissioned by Ohio University and premiered in 1954. Throughout the work, popular American tunes chosen from Margaret Bradford Boni and Norman Lloyd’s Fireside Book of Folk Songs (1947), including On Top of Old Smokey, I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger, and Turkey in the Straw, are used as melodic material. This use is similar to Liszt’s use of folk tunes in his Hungarian Rhapsodies. While a few tunes are heard only in passing, Dohnányi develops the Wayfaring Stranger material, recalling the texture of his earlier Symphonic Minutes, which quotes a Hungarian church song. The use of folksong in Rhapsody also recalls the irony in Dohnányi’s popular Nursery Variations, evoking children’s music alongside more serious orchestral music. After facing accusations of anti-Semitism and war crimes from some US newspapers soon after he arrived in the US in 1948, Dohnányi largely avoided politics in his American period; American Rhapsody was the most political work of his late career. While American Rhapsody can be understood as a musical tribute to his new home, it also represents Dohnányi taking a retrospective look at his own compositional career.

Works: Ernst von Dohnányi: American Rhapsody (203-15)

Sources: Traditional, Margaret Bradford Boni and Norman Lloyd (editors): On Top of Old Smokey (203-4, 212-15), I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger (203-4, 206-10), The Riddle (203-4, 212-15), Turkey in the Straw (203-4, 212-15); John A. Stone: Sweet Betsy from Pike (203-4, 215); Kenneth S. Clark: Alma Mater Ohio (203-4); Ernst von Dohnányi: Symphonic Minutes (208-10), Nursery Variations (212-15)

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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