Fibich: Symphony No 1 / Impressions From the Countryside
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Fibich: Symphony No. 1 - Impressions from the Countryside
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Zdenek Fibich's career overlapped those of his countrymen Smetana and Dvorak,
but his music remained poised between the twin poles of Czech Nationalism and the
New German School. His earliest surviving symphony is No. 1 in F major, Op. 17,
completed in Prague in 1883. Whilst it is the most conventional of his three
symphonies it is excellently proportioned and reveals the influence of Schumann on
his developing art. Impressions from the Countryside, Op. 54 is, in effect, a symphonic suite and was highly influential on the younger generation of Czech composers.
The sleeve promises that this will be the first volume of a Zdenek Fibich series, one of the almost forgotten Czech composers from the era of Smetana and Dvorak. He was certainly one of the most prolific, his output including seven operas, three symphonies and a vast number of piano pieces. While still in his teens he had attempted four operas, and was composing symphonic works in his early twenties. I came to love his music thirty-odd years ago with a recording of his dramatic opera, Sarka, and some years later with a fine recording of his two symphonies on Naxos (8.553699). Much of his musical education took place in Germany, and though we have a feeling of Czech nationalism in the First Symphony, that Germanic background is for ever present. It is such a tuneful and readily likeable score, I would place it on equal merit with Dvorak's early symphonies, though Fibich does tend to fall in love with his major first movement theme. The scherzo is less volatile than we hear in Dvorak, though after a tender slow movement, Fibich ends the score with a most jovial finale. The five Impressions from the Countryside, are pastoral in style and content, the music having considerable charm, while the bassoon solo in Fireside Talk is an enchanting moment. Often with the impression of coming from a folk-music background, it is a strongly lyrical score, with some unexpected rhythmical twists. The young conductor, Marek Stilec draws very good playing from the Czech National Symphony, an orchestra that has given me much pleasure in the concert hall over many years. I much look forward to future editions. --David's Review Corner, David Denton
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this music repeatedly.
The Symphony No. 1, composed between 1877 and 1883, is traditional in structure and shows little Czech influence in the music, being more reminiscent of Mendelssohn than of Smetana and Dvořák. It hasn’t fared too badly when it comes to recordings, with this new CD being the fourth in the current catalogue, true the earlier Naxos recording with Andrew Mogrelia and the Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra is easily forgettable, but the two other recordings, Neeme Järvi with the Detroit Symphony on Chandos and Karel Šejna and the Czech Philharmonic on Supraphon really are the recordings to judge any new recording by. Järvi’s recording is strong and beautifully poised and benefits from the mid 1990’s Chandos digital sound, however, for pure Czech passion the recording by Šejna is hard to beat, yes I know that the mono recording from 1950 will not be to many people’s taste, but what power, what drive. This new recording compares well with both Järvi and Šejna, it is the slowest overall, 36:45 compared with 34:13 of Järvi and a positively lightning quick 30:05 of Šejna, but it does not seem that slow! It offers the listener the poise of Järvi and some of the passion of Šejna, and in my opinion just edges out Järvi as a first choice for a modern digital recording, if not the superlative performance of Šejna, which even taking in to account the limitations of the mono sound, still remains my first choice for this work!
As to the suite of five movements entitled Impressions from the Countryside, this is new to me, as I imagine it is to most people, I can’t find another version in the current CD catalogue. It offers the listener some beautiful music, somewhat similar to that contained in his collection of piano pieces collectively known as Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences, a set of tone pictures with more of a leaning to Czech traditions than the Symphony. This is music that makes a good companion to the 1st Symphony and which deserves to be heard, 25 ½ minutes of listening joy!
The playing of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra is excellent, it may lack a little of the drive of the other performances of the Symphony, but Marek Štilec demonstrates a good understanding of the music as well as a maturity far greater than his 26 years (at the time of recording. This is a very auspicious beginning to what promises to be an impressive series, highly recommended.
Recording quality is sub par as well, the orchestra sounding thin and projecting a cavernous acoustic. I hate to be so negative on discs of music I really love, but this is not worthy your (or my) Money. Shame on you Naxos, for doing Fibich such a disservice.
For a modern recording of the symphonies, get Järvi (Chandos) or Sena (Supraphon, not that great mono) ..for the rest just pray someone else will record them, or Supraphon to re-relase and remaster their older recodings (i.e, Valek, thickly recorded, but give the music some thrills).
Don't waste your money on this....