Today we’re going to look at the New World Symphony sheet music, which is a super-famous tune by Antonin Dvorak. The part most of us are familiar with is the 2nd movement, “Largo”, so that’s what we’ll be looking at today.
This song is relatively simple – so if you’ve been playing for 6 months to a year, you’ll probably find it’s right around your level.
As always, the sheet music can be found linked below, which you can download for free. Enjoy!
New World Symphony Sheet Music
Dvorak: New World Symphony Sheet Music PDF: click to download!
New World Symphony: Backstory
The full title of this symphony is “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World”, op. 95. Most people simply refer to it as the “New World Symphony”.
It was composed at the end of the 1800s by a guy named Antonin Dvorak, and is one of the most well-known symphonies of all time. If you’ve never heard the thing in full, you’re in for quite the experience – the symphony clocks in around 40 minutes, or the length of a typical album.
If you want to listen to the full symphony, you can check it out below. If you’d like to hear the “Largo” section which we’ll be learning today, you can skip ahead to 10:42.
Though Dvorak was of Czech origin, he spent a few years in the United States, and the New World Symphony premiered in New York at Carnegie Hall. It was very well-received and became Dvorak’s claim to fame.
The Basics of New World Symphony
A quick note on the arrangement: it was originally written in the key of Db major, but since we haven’t yet explored key signatures with 5 flats, I transposed it to the much simpler key of C major.
So let’s break this piece down into digestible components.
What’s the key signature for this piece? That’s an easy one – no sharps or flats in the key signature, and a CEG in the left hand is a C major chord. Therefore, we’re playing in the key of C major.
At the very end of the song, we have a “rit.”. This is short for “ritardando”, which means to gradually slow down.
And of course, at the very beginning of the song is the tempo marking “largo”, which means to play very slow.
There are plenty of dynamics (louds and softs) in this piece. It’s very slow and expressive, so start learning this with the dynamics right from the get-go. Remember that music doesn’t exist on a flat plane, and should be three-dimensional. I know that sounds really abstract, but that’s what attention to dynamics, phrasing and articulation does.
At the very end of the song, we have an arpeggio in the left hand, and then this funky squiggly line which is an “arpeggiated chord”. It basically means to roll the notes instead of pressing them all at the same time.
Think about playing guitar. If you slowly sweep your thumb (or pick) from top to bottom, you get a rolled, non-simultaneous effect. That’s what we’re going for here on the piano. I demonstrate how to play this on the keyboard if you want to check it out in the video.
Breaking Down the Rhythm
Since this piece is so slow, it’s a great way to practice those dotted quarter notes/sixteenth note combos. Throughout the piece, you’ll see rhythmic patterns that look like this:
I’ve already done a video dedicated to dotted notes and how to count them, so definitely check that out if this is new to you. We’ll just be doing a quick refresher in this video today.
When a song’s smallest unit is a quarter note, we count “1-2-3-4”.
Once we throw 8th notes into the mix, we have to sub-divide our counting to “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”.
Further dividing into 16th notes means we have to further divide our counts: “1 e +a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a”.
So with a dotted 8th note, we would count it like this:
A Note on Fingering
I haven’t indicated any fingering on this sheet music. What I want you to do is figure out your own fingering, and jot them down on the sheet if you print it off.
In general, when we’re going for a smooth legato (indicated by slurs), we want to keep them connected without creating a lift in the sound. Sometimes it’s just not practical, but if we do finger substitutions, it can be done.
It’s tempting to throw in the pedal with a piece like this, because pedaling can create the effect of legato. But I want you to try to play this one without the use of pedal to see if you can really keep it smooth. Pedaling is meant to enhance a piece, not to be leaned on like a crutch.
Dissecting the Harmony in New World Symphony
In this piece, we have our very first cluster chord, and I think our very first 4-note chord. In the second measure of the song, you play a “CDFG” in your left hand at the same time. This isn’t really a “real” chord –it’s not a specific major or minor chord, and it’s not a 7 chord either. But you can see how the notes sort of cluster together, which is the short explanation on why we’re calling it a cluster chord.
There are 2 really important chords in any key signature. Well there are more than just 2, but if I had to pick the two that are the most important, beyond all the others, it would be the 1st and 5th chord of each scale.
So if we’re playing a song in the key of C major, the 1st and 5th chord would be a C chord and a G chord. (C is #1, and then count up 5 to G).
Sometimes the 5th chord is manipulated into a 7th chord, which you’ll see several times in the piece. Let’s scan through it and find all the C chords first.
So let’s look at some details with these C chords. Some of them don’t start on C – this one here starts on an E. So when we notate that chord, we don’t just label it as “C”. We label it as “C/E” to indicate that the bass note (the lowest note) is an E instead of the regular C.
Now let’s go hunting for G and G7 chords.
As you can see, they’re pretty prolific in this piece – maybe a little less so than C major, but still very prominent.
Earlier I mentioned there were 2 really important chords in each key, but an honorable mention must go out to the #3 spot – the 4th chord of a key.
If we’re in the key of C, that would be an F (four notes up from C is F).
You’ll see F major chords running rampant in this song. Their role is to add a little bit of tension and contrast, and supporting the 5th chord. You’ll see there’s a few spots in the music where the 4th chord leads into the 5th one.
The 5th chord is our point of tension, where the 1st chord is like our “home base”, our relief note. The 4th chord doesn’t really sound very tense, but it works well as a stepping stone between chords.
I would say that 95% of the music you learn on the piano, or listen to on the radio, uses the chords I – IV – V(7) very heavily. Other chords are used too, of course, but these ones are generally favored because they have such a strong impact.
Let’s take a look at the third line where the voices split. Basically this means that instead of having 2 different lines (the right hand melody and left hand chords), we split into 3 lines of music. You’ll notice that the left hand divides into two separate parts. You can tell by the fact that the stems go in opposite directions.
(pic with some explanation)
Now go and learn some Dvorak! This piece is a nice reprieve from the headier music that we tend to get into at a Grade 1 level. Enjoy the slow movements and be sure to pay attention to the details.
If you like this tutorial and enjoy familiar Classical music at a beginner level, you should also check out