Antonín Dvořák: In Nature’s Realm
In Nature’s Realm was composed between March 31st and July 8th 1891, and the first performance was given the following April in Prague. The trio is connected by themes that represent nature, and to begin with they were going to be published together, until Dvořák changed his mind at the last minute. In Nature’s Realm has been described as a landscape painting, due to its richness in tone, colour and timbre throughout. It is also seen as a somewhat self-portrait of Dvořák’s home town, Vysoká, where he composed in a forest with peace and quiet, and the only noises that disturbed him were the natural sounds outside his window.
In terms of structure, In Nature’s Realm, is broadly in sonata form and begins with an evocative, soft introduction from the basses. The nature motif, in its simplest form, is then sounded by the strings, with woodwinds, such as the flute and oboe, reflecting some sort of bird-song above. These ‘voices of nature’, as they can be described, are representative of the whole work, and then within the other two concert overtures.
The main theme, heard slightly later on, is resonant of Moravian yodelling, and this is exhibited with the theme being passed through different instruments and registers. The work uses the call and response technique many times, which emphasises just how important and central the theme of nature really is.
The development section has different atmosphere from the previous light and carefree sections. Again, the nature motif takes centre stage, however it is now layered over complex harmonies and very clever contrapuntal lines, which reflects Dvořák’s homage to J. S. Bach. The recapitulation is similar to the opening, however there is a growth in intensity, which resolves into a much more tranquil coda section. The work can thus be seen as a circle, with it starting and ending the same way.
In Nature’s Realm is not often in concert programmes today, however, this does not detract from its beauty, sonority and rich musical writing. The work resembles a microcosm of nature, and its wonders are unlocked upon listening to this wonderfully serene work.
Ⓒ Alex Burns