All admirers of lush, late-romantic tone poems should find plenty to enjoy in this release. Novák (1870-1949) is under-represented in the catalogues, and this disc marks an important step in his evaluation. There is an alternative coupling of Lady Godiva
and De Profundis
with the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra under Jaroslav Vogel
, but this dates from the early 60s, and those in search of a modern recording should not hesitate.
The sound-world is lush and saturated, an atmosphere captured well by Chandos' spacious recording. Straussian opulence with a soft Slav accent would be an apt description of these pieces. Throughout, Pesek exhibits an indigenous understanding of the Bohemian musical language, the BBC Philharmonic responding passionately. The tenderness of Lady Godiva (written in 1907 and apparently composed in two days) is touchingly portrayed and the imaginative orchestration of Toman and the Wood Nymph (1906-7), more daring than that of Godiva, is relished to the full. The later De Profundis (1941) proceeds in grand gestures on a journey from its initial subterranean rumblings to its organ-drenched, upliftingly triumphant conclusion. Warmly recommended. --Colin Clarke