Magazine article Gramophone

Novak's Bohemian Pictures from Bostock in Carlsbad

Magazine article Gramophone

Novak's Bohemian Pictures from Bostock in Carlsbad

Article excerpt

V Novak

In the Tatras, Op 26. South Bohemian Suite, Op 64.

Eight Nocturnes, Op 39 (a)

(a) Daniela Strakova sop

Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra/Douglas Bostock

Alto (S) ALC1199 (77' * DDD)

From MAT originals, recorded 1998

Vitezslav Novak (1870-1949) is a Czech composer little known to me but one with a richly lyrical melodic vein and control of atmosphere. He might be placed together with Josef Suk and next to Dvofak, if not quite their equal. In the Tatras is an atmospherically gloomy tone-poem, its flowing lines and glowing evocation combined with a folklore-derived melodic influence. It pictures the misty Ostry mountains during a storm, at first ferocious but finally returning to peace with the setting sun. The South Bohemian Suite has much of Dvofak's lively romantic patriotism, moving from its 'Pastoral' (a set of variations) and delightful 'Reverie' to its centrepiece, an evocation of the marching of the Hussite armies in the defence of the Czech people in the 15th century, a reminder of the Nazi expansion into German-speaking Sudetenland regions in modern times. As an epilogue Novak quotes a hymn-like sequence touchingly mirroring the Czech national anthem.

The Nocturnes for voice and orchestra (1908) show Novak above all as a poet. Here he has the advantage of Daniela Strakova as his sweet-voiced soloist; the simple beauty of her singing is matched by a delightful upper range. Opening with the twinkling 'Stars in the Water', the effect is ravishing, not least in the final 'Christ Child's Lullaby' which has much in common with Mahler's setting of the 'Wiegenlied' from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. …

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