Review by: Susan Stafura, Duquesne University Tamburitzans - September 27, 2005
Progeny of musical styles retain characteristics which have endured the tests of time and change. The singular emotional moods of the Baroque were assumed in the Classical period, creating turbulent effects within the music. Renaissance ‘wordpainting’ and Romantic ‘program music’ share a common element of musical descriptiveness to allow the listener to make a picture of the presentation. Composers’ reversion to the arts of ancient times, in search of ideas upon which to base their everexploding cache of musical ideas, recaptures the immortality of great artists such as Vergil. Jan Novak has successfully merged and infused past musical maxims into a twentieth-century, selfidentifiable treatment of poetry and tonality.
As stated in Wilfried Stroh’s preface, Jan Novak has brought ‘the rhythm of the Latin language and poetry to life’ in his cantata, Dido. Musical contours adapt to the emotional intensity of the poetry. Tonality wanders and explores, then stabilizes, just like the trials that fate had assigned to Aeneas. This creates suspense, drama and a certain ‘free style’ which seldom repeats, and the listener becomes attached to the course of the presentation, anxiously tracking each successive movement. Impressive are the consistent effects of ‘word-painting’ and suitability of music to emotion. Dido’s vocal soliloquies accept reprieve through the interspersion of narrator and chorus, who, like the choruses of ancient Greek drama, provide external details necessary to the listener’s mental image and clues to the actions of Aeneas. The repetition of the initial chorus ‘Invocatio: Lamentatur Chorus Didon’ as the ‘coda’ reinforces the desperation and anguish impregnated in Dido’s soul.
Mimus Magicus reflects similar musical qualities of Dido in its delivery. Its through-composed format is modified by the remindful refrain of the determined woman seeking Daphnis’ return. As her emotions take flight, the reiteration ‘bring Daphnis home...’ redirects the listener’s attention to the business-at-hand. Utilization of the number three (3) throughoutthe piece binds the musical and poetic elements with the means of performance, i.e. voice, flute and piano.
Jan Novak’s Dido and Mimus Magicus could easily attain a position in the repertoire of the twentieth-century scope of music. His celebration of the Latin language in neo-Classical perspective merits the attention and respect of modern-day artists.
Review by: Thomas Noblitt, Indiana University - September 27, 2005
In his large-scale oratorio recounting the fateful events of the life of Dido, Jan Novák (1921-1984) responded to Vergil’s highly charged verses with music of an exceptionally dramatic nature. Rafael Kubelik leads the forces of the Bayerischer Rundfunk in a compelling and well recorded performance that captures the pathos of Novák’s score. The highlight of the performance is Marilyn Schmiege’s superb interpretation of the very demanding role of Dido. A release of special merit that deserves a place in any collection of twentieth-century music and an unusual opportunity to experience the work of this little known and powerful composer.
Review by: Gerald Kemner, UMKC Convservatory of Music - September 19, 1997
Here is a powerful poetic utterance set to convincing music, brought to life by Maestro Kubelik. This is no academic exercise — it is full of fire, stress and human emotion!