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CD Review

Zdeněk Fibich

Orchestral Works, Volume 3
Symphonic Poems

  • Othello, Op. 6
  • Záboj, Slavoj, and Luděl, Op. 37
  • Toman a lensí panna (Toman and the Wood Nymph), Op. 49
  • Bouře (The Tempest), Op. 46
  • Vesna (Spring), Op. 13
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Marek Štilec
Naxos 8.573197 72:27
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Fibich is not a Dvořák knockoff! Who knew?! Apparently, Marek Štilec and Naxos did, because this is Volume 3 of the composers' orchestral works, and I have Volume 4 waiting around for review. There's likely more forthcoming, too, as Symphony #3 hasn't been covered yet (of three). The Detroit Symphony actually recorded all three symphonies back in the 1990s on Chandos, but I doubt anybody remembers those discs. I didn't like them, in any event, but like many lesser composers, Fibich seems to be a totally different artist in shorter forms.

In fact, it's a shame that so many composers then and now feel/felt compelled to write symphonies, since "that's what classical composers do", because they are often far more inspired with less material. Take these excellent tone poems. They are colorful gems of absolute music without ever feeling simply imitative. Oh sure, there are echoes of various influences all over the place, and Dvořák is still more interesting on the whole, but anybody who cares at all about this kind of music needs to investigate this release.

Not every one of these works is of equal quality, and like most symphonic poems, a few of them are simply too long for their source material. But this is more Liszt's fault than Fibich's, and frankly it's pretty and dramatic enough music to hold up. Speaking of pretty, Naxos has found yet another idiomatic and well-stocked Czech ensemble with which to record. They aren't the Czech Philharmonic, but they are admirable and nicely captured. Marek Štilec continues to be a name to watch, as well as this whole project.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman

Trumpet