Novak: The Corsair Overture; Serenade in F; Maryffla Overture

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COMPOSERS: Novak
LABELS: MDG Scene
WORKS: The Corsair Overture; Serenade in F; Maryffla Overture
PERFORMER: Bergische SO/Romely Pfund
CATALOGUE NO: 601 1159-2
Novák’s mature symphonic poems from the early 1900s, along with those of his fellow Dvorák pupil, Suk, represent the highpoint of late Czech Romanticism. The works presented on this encouragingly imaginative CD date from the 1890s when Novák was finding his voice as a composer. While daunting, the tuition of Dvorák rarely resulted in slavish imitation and as early as the Byron-inspired overture The Corsair, written while Novák was still a student, there is clear evidence of remarkable individuality; Liszt and Tchaikovsky are obvious influences, but neither dominates.

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The slightly later Serenade has less melodic appeal than Suk’s nearly contemporary effort, but its many attractive qualities include a textural richness that is, quite fortuitously, reminiscent of Elgar. The overture to MaryŽa, a realist drama of the kind beloved by the Czechs in the 1890s, has a sharper profile, drawing on Novák’s new-found admiration for Moravian-Slovakian folklore, and clearly anticipates the yearning qualities of his maturity. Romely Pfund and the Bergische SO have a genuine feel for this music; at times the ensemble is less than perfect, notably in the contrapuntal passages of the first movement of the Serenade, but in general the performances are creditably idiomatic. Jan Smaczny