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Novak: Orchestral Works
The Classical Shop
release date: May 2000
Originally recorded in 1999
New Broadcasting House, Manchester
Orchestral & Concertos
Total Time - 66:02
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Lady Godiva, Op. 41
Overture to the play by Jaroslav Vrchlicky for large orchestra
Toman and the Wood Nymph, Op. 40
Symphonic poem after a Bohemian legend for large orchestra
Allegro fantastico - Allegro appassionato -
Tempo del principio - Allegro appassionato - Agitato -
Tempo del principio - Molto appassionato, ma non troppo allegro
De profundis, Op. 67
Symphonic poem for large orchestra and organ
Largo lugubre - Appassionato doloroso - Tempo del principio -
Meno [largo], molto tranquillo -
The outstanding talents of the BBC Philharmonic come under the baton of leading conductor Libor Pešek
The competition for this disc is scarce. There are no other recordings of Toman and the Wood Nymph currently available, and only one alternative of the other two works.
Born in Prague, Libor Pešek studied conducting at the Prague Academy of Musical Arts. He founded the Prague Chamber Harmony in 1958 and established his name in the then Czechoslovakia. Pešek is currently Principal Guest conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Pešek has a natural affinity with Czech and Eastern European repertoire and has won much praise for previous recordings of Novák’s work.
The two Czech composers Novák and Suk became lifelong friends and were referred to as ‘the promising hopes of Czech music’. They both belonged to the world of European Romanticism, aligning themselves closely with Richard Strauss and the romantic side of Debussy.
Novák became increasingly steeped in nature and, although given to bouts of severe depression, was at his happiest when he was climbing in his beloved Tatra mountains in Slovakia. The first decade of the twentieth century saw him produce his most popular works and he remained an influential figure in Czech music.
When the new Municipal Theatre was opened in Prague in 1907 the Czech writer Jaroslav Vrchlický wrote a play on the story of Lady Godiva, and Novák was asked to write an overture for it. For Novák who frequently pursued the theme of woman in all her guises, this provided him with the opportunity to write a work about conflict and resolution, with her husband Leofric in an oppressive C minor, and Godiva in E flat major. It was first performed at the opening of the theatre in November 1907.
‘De profuindis’ was begun in the spring of 1941 and completed on 10 May, during the Nazi occupation. The title uses the opening line of Psalm 130, ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord’, in its Latin form, associated with the funeral rites. It sets the tone for a work which expresses the oppression of the occupied peoples and their sense of despair.
At the time of its premiere, ‘Toman and the Wood Nymph’, Op. 40 caused a stir among Prague audiences, being far more dissonantly modern, passionate and pictorially dramatic than anything from Novák’s pen up to that time. (Janácek at this time was still virtually unknown.) It is significant that Novák was greatly impressed by the sound world of Richard Strauss’s ‘Salome’. The literary source for ‘Toman’ is a Czech folk legend in poetry, but it is not so much the tale itself as its erotic portrayal of the destructive power of woman that Novák seems to reflect.
The music on this disc is of a standard that deserves equally high standards of performance, something which Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic supply without apparent effort.’
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9650 (Chausson)
‘Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic are matchless in this music. Very highly recommended indeed.’
The Guardian on CHAN 9758 (Lalo)
‘It is good that we are finally becoming aware of him [Novak]. Certainly this outstanding release does its share. It includes good notes and has stunning sound’.
American Record Guide
‘…the players are old hands at making something memorable of unfamiliar music and there is throughout, the sense of welcome discovery…
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9552 (Shchedrin)
…music unquestionably touched by genius… more convincing performances would be hard to imagine…
BBC Music Magazine
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