Once again I'm posting a Friday birthday a day late. Perhaps this should become my signature style ;)
This disc of orchestral music by Vitezslav Novak is a true beauty, and indeed when released it received the highest praise and golden reviews, and was on every 'editor's choice' list imaginable.
Novak was born November 5th, 1870 and lived until July 18th, 1949.
The "Lady Godiva" Op. 41 overture is more so a harrowing tone poem. Captivatingly impulsive, with a fierce, robust opening introducing a superbly lyrical peroration, this is a deadly serious and at times extremely exciting essay around the conflict between evil and good. Bernard Herrmann might well have been influenced by the score. Swooning strings, skittering harp arpeggios, and a grand romance makes this a gorgeous score. Still more captivating is the symphonic poem
Still more captivating "Toman and the Wood Nymph" Op. 40, a midsummer night’s tale of a lovesick youth drawn to his doom by a forest femme fatale is extremely attractive in a clean impressionistic and often Gaelic way. There are some Baxian moments to my ears, and perhaps even a hint of Sibelius's Symphony No. 1. This is simply great listening, especially with the lights drawn low (or better still off) and one's attention given entirely to the enchanting tones that help unravel this classic story set deep within a forest near the high Tatras.
"De profundis" Op. 67, from the end of Novák’s career, is a shattering commemoration of the sufferings of the Czechs during Nazi occupation-perhaps the last great document of Czech musical Romanticism. The symphonic poem grumbles and throbs with deep bell tones-a sort of Czech equivalent of Respighi's "Church Windows". The world encompassed is similar to the awesome chasm of the Bax Second Symphony and the opening of Miaskovsky's Seventh Symphony. The raw and sober trumpets (at 7:10) are noteworthy. The work is high on gloom and short on hope. A wheezy homespun harmonium tone for the largo gives way to a brief bitter and majestic peroration.