V Nov‡k

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: V Novák
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Songs of a Winter Night; Pan
PERFORMER: Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9489
Vítezslav Novák was one of Dvorák’s most distinguished and characterful pupils. As with his classmate, Suk, the debt to the teacher is heard less in aspects of Novák’s musical language – Dvorák always took care not to smother his wards – but in the magnificent crafting of the music.

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These two piano suites date from the early 1900s when Novák was coming to his full maturity and about to occupy a pre-eminent position in Czech music. Both works are essentially programmatic; the first, Songs of a Winter Night, inclines more to nostalgia than the brilliant and tempestuous nearly hour-long Pan with its evocation of Novák’s beloved mountains, sea, forest and finally woman.

This highly attractive music has terrific confidence and a richly Romantic harmonic palette tempered occasionally by hints of impressionism; there is perhaps a brief tribute to Dvorák’s Rusalka in the ‘Mountain’ movement of the Pan cycle, but mostly the musical language is distinctly that of Novák.

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Margaret Fingerhut projects the virtuosity and Romantic passion at the heart of these works magnificently. She might have given more attention to the inward, mystical side of Novák’s genius, but as a whole these extremely well-recorded performances are never less than compelling. Jan Smaczny