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Vitezslav Novák's Symphonies


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Author Topic: Vitezslav Novák's Symphonies  (Read 462 times)
guest704
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« on: July 30, 2019, 08:10:04 pm »

When Chandos released some of his tone poems I was hooked by this composer. The Storm is another majestic piece of epic proportions found on Supraphon. Naxos has recorded some orchestral pieces as well. However, there is nothing about the 2 symphonies (May Symphony and Autumn Symphony), only old recordings in regrettable conditions. I'm really eager to listen to those pieces in all their glory. Does anyone know if any record label will take the project of performing them soon? Any possibility in the near future? That would be a considerable filled gap in the Czech symphonic tradition.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2019, 11:35:45 pm »

I entirely agree that the absence of the two Novak symphonies from the cd repertoire is quite astonishing. It is extraordinary that no record company has taken them up or shows any inclination to do so. Sad!
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Greg K
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2019, 08:45:03 pm »

I entirely agree that the absence of the two Novak symphonies from the cd repertoire is quite astonishing. It is extraordinary that no record company has taken them up or shows any inclination to do so. Sad!

For completist enthusiasts the absence of anything at all from the CD repertoire is astonishing and deplorable, - but for those able to discriminate in some measure, certain absences become understandable and less offensive.  While the existing dubs of Novak's Symphonies may be less than ideal, they present the music well enough for anyone to recognize these are rather mediocre and unmemorable works not especially worthy of advocacy and revival, - a judgment Colin himself came close to affirming some years ago after me urging him to re-engage with the music in critical fashion.  Again and again I've concluded the same, - that whereas occasional sections of each piece do have a certain incidental appeal, overall the music is simply undistinctive and lacking in focus and integration.  It wears out its welcome and is just not top drawer Novak, the quality of whose output varies quite considerably.  While no one would object to some adventurous commercial recording entity espousing these works on behalf of the curious minded and those insistent on hearing everything, I'm convinced were that to happen any initial enthusiasm would dissipate quickly, and the recordings (however archivally satisfying) become largely unplayed.  Sometimes the rationality of relative indifference by both recording companies and listeners alike ought to just frankly be acknowledged.

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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2019, 01:22:30 am »

As is, unfortunately, his habit Greg K spoils his argument by his use of language chosen either deliberately to offend or accidentally having that effect.

He makes a point in relation to his perception of the musical merits of the Novak symphonies. Despite the sound quality of the off-air recordings available to us he is able to determine that the music is, in his opinion, mediocre in quality and therefore not worthy of being recorded. That is a valid position to adopt. On the evidence which exists these are not masterpieces of Czech music. There is a lot of Czech music which could not be so described which has been recorded. Virtually everything that Martinu, for example, composed has now made it to cd (including very early compositions which do not reflect the composer's later style). These were thought worth recording in order, presumably, to present a fuller picture of Martinu the composer.

What those of us who have an interest in Novak would like is to have the opportunity to hear the symphonies in modern recordings, played with as much conviction as is possible, in order to make up our own minds once and for all.

He spoils his argument by giving gratuitous offence. I have no objection to being called "a completist". It is a perfectly accurate (if not necessarily helpful) description of my attitudes to recording neglected music. To add, however, the word "fanatic" is a different matter.

The word "fanatic" is defined in terms of "excessive". Indeed Greg K, by self-evident implication, goes on to make clear his ability and my inability to "discriminate". By quoting me directly it is perfectly clear to whom the description is intended to apply.

(Apparently Greg K has now accepted his lack of judgment in using the word "fanatics" and has replaced it with "enthusiasts". Most of this post was written in response to his orginal version. He is however incapable of recognising how incredibly patronising it is to refer to his previous "advice" to "re-engage with the music in a critical fashion".)

I have never made any attempt to disguise my enthusiasms. I make no apology for them. I recognise, even if I do not share, the enthusiasms of other members for the music which particularly interests them. I might find some of the music of, let us say for example, certain obscure Ukrainian or Polish or Russian composers "rather mediocre and unmemorable" (to use Greg K's expression). But that would be a personal response I would see no reason to share.

This is not the first time that such comments have been made about such a particular perception of my lack of discrimination, judgment and taste. Indeed it has been a constant refrain which has become tedious in the extreme.

Greg K's last sentence is staggering. Record companies like CPO in Germany or Toccata in the UK issue a monthly batch of new recordings of music by composers, many of whom are completely unknown, music which by no stretch of the imagination is all earth-shatteringly good. Companies like Chandos and Dutton have issued almost every scrap of music (some of it actually discarded by the composers themselves) of music by composers like Bax or Vaughan Williams. These companies, presumably, have a rationale for their release decisions. To suggest that the "listeners" share his perceptions of what is or is not "mediocre and unmemorable" and therefore "not especially worthy of advocacy and revival" is quite astonishing.

To debate endlessly whether or not Greg K's opinions of the merits or, almost inevitably, lack of merit in the music of particular composers are to be taken as having more weight than my desire to have the opportunity to hear the music properly is not an exercise I have the time, energy or inclination to engage upon. He clearly believes that he has a capacity for discrimination which extends far beyond mine and which has to be assumed to override my enthusiasms. He is the arbiter of what is worth recording and what is not.

On that basis further discussion is pointless........
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guest704
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2019, 03:35:55 am »

The Dundonell's points are more than fair IMO. Each has their own opinions about anything and that is respectable, but I did feel certain desdain from the user Greg K towards the aforementioned music. Nowadays record labels release much stuff I consider not particularly substantial, but somehow it allows to have a more complete vision of the composer or the circumstamces it was composed, and it's eventually good for completists (like me), and it's even much better than recording 1000+ the Mozart's symphonies or the Chopin's Nocturnes, etc. Perhaps there could be some political issue that could bother to some people on mentioning these works. If I remember correctly, one of the Novák's symphonies was like a homage to Stalin or something like that. If that were true, I didn't care for it. I don't like to link music with politics. There will be listeners who won't be able to stand that. Anyway, when tastes are concerned, the possibilities are as many as people exist.

All in all, I would be one of the first buyers if these symphonies were recorded, no matter if I have bad musical tastes or not  Grin
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Greg K
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2019, 07:56:58 am »

Here's a less rhetorical statement of the simple point I was making, Colin, - though not nearly as much fun to write.  Novak's Symphonies just aren't very good music, - both in my evaluation and yours.  Thus, no matter the fact that much music of similarly questionable quality may have been recently recorded and issued on CD, it's not "astonishing" and "extraordinary" that these pieces in Novak's output haven't so far themselves found such favour, as it might be if they were masterworks.  No more than just "curious" is what I myself would say.

Of course, Cesar may think better of the music than we do, and in so doing I don't disdain his wish to hear these pieces in superior performance and sound than what we currently have.  But many listeners make often strained efforts to claim merits for some music it plainly does not have, - that is, their collector's enthusiasm induces in them an overvaluation of too much of what they possess or desire, - Novak "in all his glories" as Cesar anticipates things in this case.

I was only responding to excesses in the application of certain words (as I read them) with some debunking excess of my own.  I know this always grates at you, but my persona and style are just different than yours (even when we judge music quite similarly).  Yes, it's all for the good whatever music enterprising recording issuers allow us to hear and consider, - that wasn't what I was objecting to.  Apologies that I gave so much offense with criticism not intended as a personal attack (so often assumed here).   

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