Novák music is intensely spiritual, and is truly modern in that it adds something completely new to what has existed before. At the same time it is not overtly radical; it does not seek to destroy the existing order and replace it with something new. Novák retains strong links with tonality, but his tonality, with its frequent use of triads, sounds uniquely his.
The 24 Preludes and Fugues were written for the pianist William Howard over a 17-year period, and consequently reflect the evolution of Novák’s musical language during this time. many of them were premiered at the Dartington International Summer School.
This 75-minute work is divided into four ’books’, the first two based on the Old Testament and the second two on the New Testament. Whereas the pieced in the first two books are distinct and indiviual, the cycle strives increasingly towards a unity of form as it develops, while at the same time revealing Novák’s growing interest in unison and a consonance in his compostional language.
Pavel Zemek Novák was born in Brno in 1957, and is one of the most individual and distinctive Czech composers of his generation. His large body of symphonic, choral, chamber and instrumental works reflects both his devout religious faith and his interest in Morovian folk traditions.
William Howard, performing in this world premiere recording, is established as one of Britain’s leading pianists, enjoying a career that has taken him over 40 different countries, and has seen him perform on over 30 CDs. He has a very strong interest in Czech piano music, recognised by a medal awarded by the Czech Minister of Culture in 1986.
"...The Preludes and Fugues were written for the underrated but excellent British pianist William Howard, also known as one quarter and founder of the Schubert Ensemble, and who gave the premier performance in 2007. Despite its unassuming superstructure, the technical base of Novak’s music is extrememly demanding, both in terms of sheer stamina and the degree of technical prowess required. Howard is absolutely equal to it, completing his quasi-pilgrimage adroitly and poetically. Sound quality is very good ... This may or may not be one of the finest contemporary works for piano - its probably to early to sy. But for sheer scale of invention at least it must go on the shortlist."
MusicWeb-International.com - November 2011
Performance ***** Recording *****
"...Superb performance ans stunning sound: a real discovery"
Calum MacDonald - BBC Music Magazine - October 2011