J Novák

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COMPOSERS: J Novák
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Testamentum; Fugae Vergilianae; Invitatio Pastorum; Exercitia Mythologica
PERFORMER: Martin∞ Voices/Luká≥ Vasilek; Clara Nováková (flute), Jan Voboπil, Petr Hernych, Kateπina Jav∞rková, Zden∑k Va≥ina (horn)
CATALOGUE NO: SU 4159-2

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Little of Jan Novák’s music is readily available on CD, and this new disc suggests more of it should be. The nine-minute Testamentum, setting a part tongue-in-cheek, part serious will written by German poet Josef Eberle, is immediately attention-catching. You hear bits of Stravinsky,Poulenc and Orff in it, but that’s to denigrate the piece’s own quirkiness and individuality. Chant, patter, shrieks and whispers mix with more traditional vocal tactics in a thoroughly diverting nine minutes, a quartet of French horns intoning a cleverly scored accompaniment.

Invitatio Pastorum replaces the horns with a solo flute, played here by the composer’s daughter Clara Nováková. A Nativity setting in 12 short, admirably incisive movements, with parts for angels, devils and shepherds, it deserves much wider currency than it has at present. The eight Exercitia Mythologica, sung a cappella, are similarly structured. They further illustrate Novák’s versatility as a choral writer, with donkey imitations and echo effects among the blandishments on offer.

Fugae Vergilianae, also unaccompanied, sets four texts by Virgil (Novák was a fervent Latinist), and though more formal in conception has plenty of variety, both technical and emotional. The 13-strong Martinu Voices give precise, characterful performances, and the sound is excellent.

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Terry Blain