Novák: Lady Godiva Overture, Etc / Pesek, Bbc Philharmonic

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Víteslav Novák was a member of the talented "in-between" generation of Czech composers, making his name at the turn of the 20th century, after Smetana and Dvorák, but before Martinu and Janácek. By all accounts a somewhat forbidding figure as well as a highly respected teacher, his music shows not a trace of academicism or pedantry. Indeed, he's one of the very few composers of his era with a genuine sense of humor (check out his delicious ballet Nikotina, on Supraphon, if you want proof), joining contemporaries Gustav Mahler and Ernst von Dohnányi in this select company.

There's not much to laugh about in the three pieces presented here, though. Lady Godiva is a straightforward tone poem illustrating the battle between sexes as represented in two contrasting themes, one rigid and stern, the other feminine and rhapsodic. Toman and the Wood Nymph, which has seen a couple of previous recordings on Supraphon, is a lovely nature poem inspired by what is basically a universal myth: call them Sirens, Rusalkas, Ondines, the plot always depicts the erotic power of womanhood to lure a man, unknowing, to (a pretty good-feeling) death. De profundis is another matter entirely: an anguished protest (for large orchestra and organ) against the German occupation of Novák's Czech homeland during the Second World War. Both its composition and first performance were an act of musical bravery. As might be expected from conductor Libor Pešek, who knows all this music cold, the performances are first rate, the recording top drawer. Essential, late Romantic stuff.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHAN 9821

  • UPC: 095115982129

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: Vitezslav Novák

  • Conductor: Libor Pesek

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra