Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > Slavic Rhapsody, No. 3. Op. 45 - Dvorák
Nature (In der Natur), op. 91,
Carnival, op. 92, and
Othello, op. 93
The three overtures entitled above are grouped together for the reason that they were written as a trilogy by the composer and were intended to be played together. They were styled "Triple Overture" and were described in the program of the first performance as "Nature," "Life" ("Bohemian Carnival"), and "Love" ("Othello"). The interrelation of the three seems somewhat forced, when judged by the titles, but they are connected by the link of one theme which is specially conspicuous in the first and third overtures, with a reference to it in the second.
As to the "Nature" Overture, Dvorák has left this clue to its meaning: "The composer chose in the part entitled 'Nature&Mac226;' to present the emotions awaked in a solitary walk through meadows and woods on a quiet summer afternoon when the shadows grow longer and longer until they lose themselves in the dusk and gradually turn into the early shades of night." The overture opens with the theme already mentioned, given out in the bassoon and violas with soft responses by the flute. It is developed in a graceful crescendo, and finally is announced fortissimo in full orchestra. After subsidiary passages the strings give out, pianissimo, a light and trifling little theme. This also is gradually worked up to a climax in which the first theme returns fortissimo. After the free fantasia, the third part begins with the first theme announced by English horn and bass clarinet. Further development follows, and the Coda opens with the first theme fortissimo in the horns and trumpets, accompanied by the violins and violas, after which the overture comes to a tranquil close.
The composer has also left a clue to the meaning of the "Carnival" Overture. He says he "imagines the lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching the city at nightfall, where a carnival of pleasure reign supreme. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of the people giving vent to their feelings in their songs and dance tunes." The overture begins with a brilliant, vigorous theme, fortissimo, in full orchestra, describing the revelry of the people, which is freely developed. After subsidiary passages, the first and second violins introduce a second theme of a more quiet nature, a counter figure appearing in the oboes and clarinets. After its development, the opening theme returns in the violins, woodwinds, and harp, and a fortissimo leads to an entirely new subject. The wanderer, mentioned in the composer's statement, accidentally encounters some surreptitious lovemaking in a quiet corner, and this gives rise to episode melody alternately announced in flute and violins with an accompanying figure in the English horn. The episode is a charming one, but is of short duration, and leads to the original Allegro and passages from the first theme. After a brilliant climax, the first theme returns and is developed. The revelry is then resumed, and its musical description closes the overture.
Except for the "Nature" theme, which binds the three overtures together, the relation of "Othello" to its two companions is very vague. It is rather a love poem than an overture. The "Nature" theme appears in the introduction as typical of Desdemona. The main section opens with a theme which clearly depicts the passion of Othello. It is answered by the Desdemona theme as soon as it is stated, and in the alternate statements and responses, and the transitions from the tragic wrath of the one of the piteous appeals of the other, their combinations and contrasts, the interest of the overture consists.