Profound, absorbing works extremely well played by pesek and the bbc philharmonic.
Vítêzslav novák (1870-1949) belong to the post-dvorak generation of composers (suk, ostrcil, fibich, and foerster) who emerged by the turning of the twentieth century. generally, suk & novák are considered the most important and influential composers of that generation. but others, especially ostrcil, have been given due credit, and rightfully so. how to describe novák's works, especially on first encountering? personal and deep, thematically fresh melodically, somewhat progressive, articulation that is a bit rugged and aggressive a la janacek, and with the orchestration that has this sort of strauss' evocation and coloring. novák was particularly attracted to the world of nature and to the female psyche (like respighi and strauss respectively). the overture to jaroslav vrchlicky's play "lady godiva" comes to mind. i'm tempting to call it a symphonic fantasy, for it has the independence about it that paints an all-round picture of lady godiva (as a sensitive woman with a strong sense of inner strength- portrayed with delicacy by the harp and strings) and of her husband, leofric (as oppressive and selfish depicted by the brass). it is an appealing, yet an expansive work, with a staunch opening not too remotely reminiscence of smetana with echoes of strauss. the symphonic poem "toman & the wood nymph" (1906-7) is likewise straussian with touches of respighi, debussy, and ravel (with the impressionistic type beginning and the colorful as well as descriptive phrasings especially by the woodwinds and lower strings). a powerful masterpiece, "de profundis" (1941), was composed in response to the nazi occupation of czechoslovakia. interestingly, it has a couple of similarities with kodaly's "psalmus hungaricus" in that, apart from the large orchestra (with organ) required: 1) it has a very grim, serious, and tragic beginning, turning to hope and optimism, and 2) "de profundis" has biblical connotations embedded (the title "de profundis" was taken from the opening line psalm 130 "out of the depths have i cried"). kodaly's masterpiece has a greater sense of anger and defiance at the first two movements while novak's "de profundis" is mournful and tragic at its first movement (evoking smetana in particular). the second movement is likewise profound and provide a wonderful transition from anguish to light (the lightness exuberantly expressed in the finale). personally, i felt that novák could have added a chorus in this deep, profound work. it would have earned a more deeper and long lasting impression. libor pesek and the bbc philharmonic provide us with vivid, authoritative, and passionate performances throughout and i especially admire the organ playing in "de profundis." it's a pity that the organist was never mentioned anywhere in this recording (his name, by the way, is darius battiwalla). nevertheless, this enterprising disc is the type that should cast shame upon those refusing to explore beyond the "over-exposed" horizon. dare i hope for pesek to embark on novák's most important work, the cantata "the storm?"