Jan Novák (1921–1984) is one of the most distinctive phenomena of post-war Czech musical culture. After studying at the Brno Conservatory and the Janácek Academy of Performing Arts, he received a scholarship to study in the USA, where he attended composition classes led by A. Copland. He and Vítezslava Kaprálová were the only Czech pupils of Bohuslav Martinu, and he consciously followed in his teacher’s footsteps. Sonata super “Hoson zes...” is one of the works written during the final period of the composer’s life, which he spent in emigration in Ulm. It bears the typical hallmarks of Novák’s musical language – a clear formal plan, a regular structural layout, great motivic inventiveness, graceful melodics and a distinct sense of harmony based primarily on modality and bitonality. The “ideological background” – present in various metamorphoses in each of his compositions, namely Novák’s penchant for the culture of Antiquity – is also obvious here (he would frequently use the metre of the Latin text as an underlying component of his compositional technique and almost invariably gave his works Latin titles, since he regarded Latin as a living language with much promise). The basic theme here is the “Song of Seikilos”, one of the oldest relics of the music of Antiquity, a written codification of text and musical notation at the same time. Novák originally composed the sonata in 1981 for violin and piano and dedicated it to his friend in emigration, Jirí Trnka, whom he also wrote other violin pieces for. But already in the process of writing the composition he had an arrangement for flute in mind.
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