Novak: Lady Godiva Overture; De profundis; Toman and the Wood Nymph

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Lady Godiva Overture; De profundis; Toman and the Wood Nymph
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Libor Pešek
The international reputation of Dvorák’s pupil Novák never really lived up to the promise of his early career. Perhaps his fortunes will follow the rising profile of his classmate, Josef Suk – they certainly deserve to, since his music is unquestionably touched by genius. Richly Romantic and magnificently colourful, Novák’s voice is always distinctive. His Lady Godiva Overture is captivatingly impulsive, with a fierce, robust opening introducing a superbly lyrical peroration. Still more captivating is the symphonic poem Toman and the Wood Nymph – a midsummer night’s tale of a lovesick swain drawn to his doom by a forest femme fatale. Strauss is always said to hover in the background of the work, but to my ears it seems entirely typical of the mature Novák – spiralling melody linked to a sure feeling for orchestral colour. De profundis, from the end of Novák’s career, is a shattering commemoration of the sufferings of the Czechs during Nazi occupation – the last great document of Czech musical Romanticism. Pešek is at his best in this repertoire. He gives Novák’s Romantic enthusiasm ample space while controlling a repetitive tendency by careful shading and a strong sense of impetus. Indeed, more convincing performances would be hard to imagine.