Length: c. 10 minutes
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (cymbals, tambourine, triangle), harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: December 16, 1921, Walter Henry Rothwell conducting
About this Piece
Dvorák’s 1892 triptych “Nature, Life, and Love” consists of three overtures: In Nature’s Realm, Carnival, and Othello. The work served as both a musical farewell and greeting for the conductor / composer, who premiered it in Prague just before heading to New York to assume his post as director of the National Conservatory of Music, and reprised it at Carnegie Hall on his first American program.
His description of Carnival juxtaposes an observer and the scene he observes: “The lonely, contemplative wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in their songs and dance tunes.”
The opening syncopated rhythmic motive drops us right into the atmosphere of dancing and shouting. There is a contrasting middle section that brings us back to the perspective of the “contemplative wanderer” in a lovely interlude on English horn and flute, backed by shimmering strings.
— Susan Key