Fibich - Symphonies Nos 1 2

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Zdenek Fibich (1850 - 1900)

Symphony No.1 in F major, Op. 17

Symphony No.2 in E flat major, Op. 38


The province of Bohemia had long been a rich source ofmusic and musicians in the Habsburg Empire, of which, with Moravia, it hadbecome part in 1526. The nineteenth century allowed the resurgence of nationalismin many countries. In Bohemia the political changes of 1848 proved largelydisappointing, but there was at the same time a gradual movement towards the encouragementof Czech currents in the arts, with an official use of the Czech language whichstill met recurrent and at times successful opposition from the Pan-Germanparty. In music Bedrich Smetana played an important part in the development ofa sense of national identity, reflected particularly in his operas and in his tone-poemcycle Ma Vlast. A figure of still greater importance was Antonin Dvorak,with music that was imbued with the spirit of his native region.


Zdenek Fibich was born in 1850 in Vseborice near Caslav,the son of a senior forestry official and of a German-speaking mother from Vienna,the latter his early teacher. His schooling was German, in Chrudim and in Vienna,before study in 1862 and 1863 at the Czech Gymnasium in Prague. At home he hadlearned the piano with his mother and in 1862 had written his first compositionand after his studies at the Gymnasium he briefly became a student in a privatemusic school, writing composition after composition. In 1865 he entered theLeipzig Conservatory, where his uncle Felix Dreyschock, concertmaster of the GewandhausOrchestra and younger brother of the pianist and composer Alexander Dreyschock,court pianist in St Petersburg and professor of piano at the Conservatory, wasprofessor of violin. Fibich studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Moscheles,the Thomascantor Ernst Friedrich Richter and Liszt's pupil Salomon Jadassohn.

In 1868 and 1869 he spent eight months in Paris and continued his education,finally, at Mannheim in 1870 as a pupil of Vinzenz Lachner. Thereafter, after ashort time at his parents' house, he moved to Prague, where he settled, after ayear spent in Vilnius, following his marriage. In 1874 he returned to Pragueand after the death of his two children and his wife married his sister-in-law,a contralto soloist at the opera. He earned his living at first aschorus-master and deputy conductor at the Provisional Theatre and for threeyears, from 1878, as choirmaster at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. After thishe devoted himself to his work as a composer, holding no official positions inthe Prague musical establishment until the last year of his life, when heserved as dramaturg at the Prague National Theatre. By this time he had partedfrom his wife and their son, to join his pupil Aneika Schulzova, eighteen yearshis junior and the author of the libretti of his last three operas. Hisrelationship with her in the 1890s is reflected in piano pieces of the time,notably Nalady, dojmy a upominky (Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences),their romantic and anatomical significance made clear in his annotations on themanuscripts. He died in 1900 and Aneika Schulzova outlived him by a mere fiveyears.


As a composer, as in speech and background, Fibich wasvery much more part of German cultural tradition than of Czech, although he cameto occupy a position between the two. His first operas were to German librettiand the eight surviving operas include in their dramatic sources the work ofSchiller, Byron and Shakespeare, with the stage melodrama trilogy Hippodamia

drawing on Sophocles and Euripides, using Czech libretti. He contributed to therepertoire of concert melodrama, to that of German and Czech song and to thelist of tone-poems, in this last anticipating Smetana in his patriotic Zaboj,Slavoj a Ludek, as he anticipated the symphonic poems of Dvorak. Fibich wasprolific as a composer and contributed to all major forms of music. Hisposition in Czech music, however, has had a certain ambiguity. His Germantraining, which guaranteed a sound technique, and, perhaps, his parentage,language and background, makes him very much less identifiably Bohemian thaneither Smetana or Dvorak. He remains, nevertheless, one of the most importantCzech romantic composers of the later nineteenth century.


Fibich had made his first attempts at the composition ofsymphonies as a student, in 1865 and 1866. The first of the complete maturesymphonies is the Symphony in F major, Opus 17. This was written between1877 and 1883 and audiences might be forgiven for detecting a whiff of Sibeliusabout the opening, with its woodwind motif, taken up by the strings and theFrench horns, with further thematic material tinged by the atmosphere ofBohemia's woods and fields and duly developed, to return in recapitulation,resolved in the reminiscences of the final coda. The second movement is a Scherzo,marked Allegro assai, where traces of Mendelssohn's Leipzig fairies maybe detected in music that is playful and light-hearted. The Trio, markedPoco meno vivace, turns again to Bohemia, with a duple-metre polka, gentlylinked to the returning Scherzo. The third movement is marked Adagionon troppo, with the additional suggestion alla romanza. This openslike some melancholy ballad, framing a central passage marked Poco andante,a brief shaft of sunlight. The Finale offers immediate strong contrast in itsprincipal theme that returns between contrasting episodes.


Fibich's Symphony No.2 in E flat major, Opus 38, wascompleted in the years 1892 and 1893, the period that marked the start of hisaffair with Aneika Schulzova. A motto theme is heard first from the French horns,in the opening Allegro moderato. This provides the unifying principle onwhich the symphony is based, starting with a broadly monothematic firstmovement in which the material is fully explored. The slow movement recalls thestart of the composer's love affair with Aneika Schulzova in thematic materialfound in the piano pieces of the period. The lyrical principal theme gives wayto a more sinister central episode, before a solo violin makes way for thefirst theme again. The Scherzo, placed third, as in the following symphony,is marked Presto and starts with a trumpet motif, introducing music ofgreat vitality and joy, subtly related to the thematic material proposed in thefirst movement.


The Trio is marked Molto meno mosso, dyingaway as the trumpet heralds the Scherzo once more. The symphony endswith a Finale marked Allegro energico. The music is again relatedto the motto theme and as it proceeds finds a place for a reminiscence of theslow movement. Initially it unfolds with the expected vigour, providing aframework for varied episodes, leading to the emphatic conclusion of what hasbeen described as the first Czech cyclic symphony.




Item number 8553699
Barcode 730099469920
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Symphony
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Fibich, Zdenek
Fibich, Zdenek
Conductors Mogrelia, Andrew
Mogrelia, Andrew
Orchestras Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra
Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
Symphony No. 2, E flat major, Op. 38
1 Allegro moderato
2 Scherzo: Allegro assai
3 Adagio non troppo (Alla romanza)
4 Finale: Allegro con fuoco e vivace
5 Allegro moderato
6 Adagio
7 Scherzo: Presto
8 Finale: Allegro energico
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