Another BPO Rediscovery – Vítězslav Novák

There are two things I admire about the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of JoAnn Faletta. First, their high performance standards. Even their basic repertoire recordings make you sit up and take notice. Second, their commitment to expanding the repertoire.

Experience has taught me that I can trust Faletta and the BSO. If they’ve taken the time to record music by an unfamiliar composer, it will be worth my while to listen to it.

In this case, the composer is Vítězslav Novák. Novák was a major influence in Czech music during the 1930s and 1940s. He studied with Dvorak and counted Josef Suk and Alexander Zemlinksy among his colleagues.

The three selections presented on this album all come from the early 1900s when Novák was in his thirties. All are strongly post-romantic in style and masterfully orchestrated.

In the Tatra Mountains is a symphonic poem very much in the vein of Richard Strauss (without the excess drama). Novák incorporates Czech folk music traditions into his music, giving the work a sense of location.

Eternal Longing is an evocative, introspective work. It borders on impressionism, with flowing harmonies that never point very strongly towards a key center.

The Lady Godiva Overture is perhaps Novák’s most successful work. Written in just two days. It has a sense of urgency about it. The overture fairly crackles with energy and drama. I’m surprised this work hasn’t entered the repertoire.

Novák is an important composer in the Czech Republic, but little known beyond its borders. In an ideal world, these sympathetic performances by Falletta and the BPO would change that.

Vítězslav Novák: In the Tatra Mountains – Symphonic Poem, Op. 26
Lady Godiva Overture, Op. 41; Eternal Longing, Op. 33
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573683

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