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8.223649 - NOVAK: Serenade in F Major / Serenade in D Major, Op. 36

Vitezslav Nov&ik (1870 -1949) Serenade in F Major, Op

Vitezslav Novak (1870 -1949)

Serenade in F Major, Op. 9

Serenade in D Major, Op. 36


Vitezslav Novak was born in Kamenice nad Lipou in South Bohernia in 1870. The death of his father, a doctor, led to financial difficulties in the family but removal to Jindrichuv Hradec (Neuhaus) brought him a sound enough education and the start of musical training, in spite of his earlier objections to the subject. A scholarship allowed him, in 1889, to enter the Charles University in Prague as a student of law and philosophy, while making use of much of his time for parallel study at the Conservatory, where he studied the piano under Jiranek and harmony under Knittl, a teacher who took early objection to Novak's innovative tendencies. A scholarship supported him as a member of Dvorak's composition master-class, an important influence on his music. Dvorak was of practical help when it came to the publication of Novak's early compositions by Simrock. In these early years he developed an interest in regional folk-music, particularly during a visit to Walachia and in visits to Janacek's Moravia and to Slovakia. The landscape and the music found there had a strong effect on his own creative inspiration and he began to win a reputation for himself as a composer with his symphonic poem In the Tatra Mountains and Slovak Suite, written in 1902 and 1903 respectively.


In the years after the death of Dvorak, Novak found himself occupying a position of particular distinction in the musical life of the country, reaching a height of public recognition in his appointment as professor of the composition master-class at Prague Conservatory in 1909 and a year later in his election to the Czech Academy. As a teacher he was responsible for an important generation of Czech and Slovak composers, including Alois Haba, Suchon and Cikker. His popularity as a composer, however, diminished, as younger composers turned more to the innovative influences of Vienna, and only revived with the patriotic mood that dominated Czechoslovakia under the threat and actuality of German occupation. He died in 1949.


The style of Novak's music was essentially influenced by Dvorak and by folk-music, the spirit of which he absorbed. Other early influences might be found in Liszt, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, as well as in the work of Richard Strauss and Brahms. Nevertheless from these varied early influences he forged his own style, demonstrably Czech and equally individual, romantic, colourful and lyrical, at times looking back to earlier forms.


Novak's Serenade in F major, Opus 9, was completed in 1895. Like the later Serenade in D major it is scored for a small orchestra. In the opening the music reflects the beauty and tranquillity of a summer landscape, over which hardly a cloud passes, an extended idyll. A lilting dance opens the second movement, contrasted with a trio section in which the dance is for the moment forgotten, only to return in conclusion. The third movement, marked initially Andante tranquillo, starts more ominously, before moving into a mood of happier. tranquillity, with mounting lyrical intensity that gently subsides before a central section, marked Allegretto grazioso, before the return of the music of the opening of the movement. There is a slow and evocative introduction to the fourth movement, before a livelier spirit is briefly released in music that makes fruitful use of the resources of the small orchestra, as it proceeds from mood to mood, recalling with contentment what has passed.


The Serenade in D major, Opus 36, was written in 1905. The titles of the four movements indicate the musical content, the opening Praeludium a gentle introduction to music of tender lyricism. It is followed by a Serenata, with suggestions of melancholy in its principal melody, belied by its affirmative ending. The woodwind introduce the third movement Notturno, music that grows in power, dying away into the night. A necessary contrast is provided in the final Allegro capriccioso, with its immediate fugal suggestions in the swirling rhythm of a tarantella, relaxing into a less active and more pensive mood before the dance recaptures a measure of its original vigour, although all ends in peace and serenity .


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