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Dvorák’s Symphony “From the New World”

Beefsteak with Creamy Mushroom

By Tim Hazell

Antonín Dvorák composed the Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, B. 178, popularly known as the “New World Symphony,” in 1893 while he was living in New York City as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, a position he held from 1892 to 1895. It is by far his most popular symphony and one of the most admired of all symphonies. It is also an early and powerful validation of American music, later to be celebrated in the works of Gershwin, Copeland, and other luminaries. At the time, classical music was still establishing a foothold in America.

Native music and the African-American spirituals captured Dvorák’s attention during his sojourn in the United States. Harry T. Burleigh, an African-American student at the National Conservatory, sang traditional spirituals to him. Their earthy and passionate testaments of faith resonated with the Austria-Hungary-born composer.

Dvorák’s stay in America was brief but productive, yielding the piece that widely became regarded as his signature work—the “New World Symphony.” The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered on December 16, 1893, at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald, Dvorák further explained how Native-American music had been an influence on this symphony,

“I have not actually used any of the Native American melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral color.”

Vendors along Manhattan’s Lower West Side waterfront sold hamburgers as early as the 1820s to homesick German sailors—without the bun. Beefsteaks were a 19th-century New York eating craze!


Beefsteak with Mushroom Cream Sauce



4–8 oz. top sirloin, New York, or rib eye steaks

Salt and pepper



3 cups sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp. butter, separated

2 tbsp. finely minced shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. cracked black peppercorns

1 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

Fresh parsley for garnish



Carefully clean and slice the mushrooms. Fry them in a pan in 1 tbsp. butter until most of the moisture is cooked out. Set aside. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan. Sauté the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and the mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add more heavy cream for a thicker sauce, more wine for a thinner sauce. Generously rub the steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear on both sides for 3–ô5 minutes (turning once), until desired doneness is reached. Spoon the sauce over the steaks, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.


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