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'... this whole CD does the greatest honour
to a sadly neglected genius.'

BILL NEWMAN discusses the
orchestral music of Víteslav Novák


A long trek in the parks and woodlands which lead down from the skylon that overlooks a marvellous vista of Old Prague - the River Vltava dividing the historic city from the new - pays great dividends to the sightseer. Near the bottom of the winding pathway I caught a glimpse of statues - always worth studying wherever you might suddenly find yourself on a late sunny afternoon away from the hubbub of a music festival - and there, shaded by a tall tree facing the grassy area that leads ten minutes on to a street area, stood the erect figure of Víteslav Novák, proudly defiant all on his own, a stark contrast to the man and the music so ineptly described by Ian Burnside on BBC Radio 3 as a rather unimportant figure at the start of his composing career who the Czech people thought of as belonging to Mozart's contemporaries a century and a half previous!

There may be some half-truths in this statement as Novák had to struggle hard for recognition, and early piano pieces show little sign of that massive masterpiece Pan, that was to come later. Novák, along with Josef Suk, was a favourite Dvorák pupil, but their differences as composers is a matter of stylistic approach. Where Suk's orchestral works largely reflect a personal poignancy based on the loss of loved ones, breaking away continually with fresh spurs of creativity that ultimately found resolution in inner peace to counteract life's turmoils, Novák steadily developed his skills by hard graft with pictorial works like In the Tatras, Slovak Suite, The Eternal Longing, to prove to his public that he could write enjoyable, highly crafted music which found degrees of acceptance.

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Copyright © 1 July 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, Middlesex, UK






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