Antonín Dvořák: Hussite Overture
Composed for the 1883 gala opening of the Prague National Theatre, Antonín Dvořák’s Hussite Overture is one of his more relaxed ‘Slavonic period’ works.
Opening with a rich woodwind chorale theme, the Hussite Overture sets a solemn scene. Sonorous bassoon basslines sing out amongst the warm clarinet timbres and lyrical oboe lines. After nearly 2 minutes of music, the strings enter with a lyrical theme that is influenced by traditional Czech folk music. Big orchestral swells paired with quiet interludes creates a wonderful soundscape.
Dvořák’s lyrical string writing is a welcome alternative to the woodwind opening, with the music flowing in a number of different directions. A bouncing theme bursts into action, and we finally hear the brass and percussion in their element. As with many works by Dvořák, there is always a folk inspiration to the music, be it through harmony, rhythm or even orchestration. A huge climax during the central section shows off the full range of the orchestra, with all voices being heard.
The last minute of the piece is celebratory, driven and full of fizz. The brass lead the slowed down version of the theme, which adds to the intensity of the final section. The overture ends with full orchestral chords that round off into a rousing finish.
Ⓒ Alex Burns