Antonín Dvořák


B169, Op. 92

About this work

In many ways, the 1890s represented for Dvorák a time of creative and personal renaissance. It was during this decade that he made his first forays into the New World, the direct result of which included the production of a wealth of American-inflected chamber music as well as the composer's best-known work, the Symphony No. 9 (1893). The latter proved to be Dvorák's final essay in that form, signaling, perhaps, his increasing interest in other genres. In addition to the operatic stops and starts that occupied much of the composer's attention in the 1890s, Dvorák produced a substantial body of self-contained orchestral works in the guise of overtures and tone poems.

The Carnival Overture, Op. 92 (1891), was the second of a group of three works by the composer collectively titled "Nature, Life, and Love." An operatic spirit -- one is struck by certain Carmen-esque flashes, for example -- informs the overture throughout, as does a prevailing ebullience and stomping, folk dance-like energy. A brief central Andantino con moto episode of sedate, almost nocturnal character is distinguished by more expansive melodies and the use of the English horn, one of Dvorák's favorite instruments, in an unusual role: sounding an ostinato accompaniment rather than the melody proper. The overture ends in a spirit similar to that in which it begins, aptly embodying the festal atmosphere suggested by its title.