The Czech composer Vítězslav Novák (1870-1949) is represented here by three pieces composed between 1902 and 1907. The earliest is In the Tatra Mountains, music that is atmospheric, impressionistic and ravishing, but a tempest lies ahead and Novák gives us a cinematic, large-orchestra portrayal of outdoor elements and the monumentality of the mountain range itself, contrasted with a glowing respite conjured by the sounds of enchanted bells and solo strings, beautifully played.
As for the eleventh-century Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets of Coventry to protest against a punitive tax levied by her husband – the Count – Novák’s descriptive powers are at their keenest, from ferocious to poetic; a palpable tension is set up, the music thrilling and deep, vividly scored. Coming in-between date-wise is Eternal Longing, owing to Hans Christian Andersen and to “natural phenomena”. The piece shimmers into life, and whatever it is about, human existence one imagines, it sustains interests in its own musical right; there are some passages that remind of Sibelius, enough to suggest that Novák might have known the Finn’s Lemminkaïnen Legends.
Whether yes or no, Eternal Longing is the biggest piece here (if only by a few minutes) and the most elusive, so good to have a recording of it to return to; and the disc as a whole, splendidly engineered by Tim Handley, is a real pleasure for JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic do Novák’s music proud.