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Fibich: Symphonic Poems / Stilec, Czech NSO

Fibich
Release Date: 07/08/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 573197   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fibich’s colorful symphonic poems have not been neglected on disc, but most of the recordings made to date come from Supraphon and seem to pop in and out of print at random, making them difficult to find. So it’s good to have this ongoing series, especially as it’s very well played and recorded, and Marek Štilec offers compelling interpretations of all five pieces. The music is fun. Fibich was not the melodist that Dvorák was (consider the two Othellos), but he knew how to score for large orchestra, and although the idiom is conservative, it never sounds inhibited. He whips up a fine storm at the start of The Tempest, for example, and Štilec digs in with gusto.

The largest work here, one that will be unfamiliar even
Read more to experienced listeners, is Záboj, Slavoj and Ludek. The story comes from a medieval Czech source of some kind, and I frankly have no idea what it’s about. Neither does the booklet note writer, evidently, other than to say that Smetana was inspired by the same source to compose Ma Vlást. Never mind. The music obviously has something to do with militant nationalism, and it’s typically well sustained and confidently structured. You’ll enjoy getting to know it, as you will all five of these works.

If you’re curious, try comparing this setting of Toman and the Wood Nymph to Novák’s very different, more modern setting–or even Sibelius’ tone poem of the same title. Evidently the wood nymph really got around. This is turning out to be an excellent series, and a convenient way to fill out your collection of Czech romantic orchestral music.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


This is the third CD of a projected series of eight that will feature all of Fibich's orchestral scores. The first volume received my own enthusiastic welcome, though my colleague Nick Barnard was somewhat more critical. Gary Higginson enjoyed the performances and praised the recording quality in the second volume and Paul Corfield Godfrey's verdict was also generally favourable. This third disc has already been very positively reviewed by MusicWeb International's Editor Rob Barnett, a real enthusiast, it seems, for both the composer and this emerging Naxos series. Nick Barnard's review of Vol. 3 should be onsite by the time the present review is published.

As Rob has already written about the individual works on this release in some detail, there is no need for me to repeat that information. Taking a broader overview, however, it is worth noting that, unlike many late 19th century occasional pieces, all these approachable scores - reminiscent of Dvorak at times, Smetana or Liszt at others - make a strong and genuinely memorable impact from the first hearing. I was particularly captivated by Fibich's very individual take on Othello, full of touches - or, indeed, quite substantial passages - that strongly call to mind the First Symphony that he was to produce a decade later. Toman and the wood nymph also exhibits that same direct appeal.

Once again the players of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra offer us convincing accounts that demonstrate their easy empathy with Fibich's idiom. They have, moreover, been very well recorded by the team responsible for the two successful earlier releases. The project to record all Fibich's orchestral scores is clearly something of a labour of love for conductor Marek Stilec. His detailed research has, according to the usefully informative booklet with notes by Richard Whitehouse, corrected several long-standing errors in performance practice and thereby restored a great deal of authenticity to the music-making heard on this disc.

The youthful Mr Stilec - he is just 29 years old - has, incidentally, undergone something of a makeover for this volume of the ongoing Fibich series. Whereas his publicity photograph used to make him look all of a fresh-faced 18, he has now adopted a rather severe pair of eyeglasses and a little five o'clock shadow. If those are gimmicky attempts to suggest that he possesses more conductorly gravitas these days, they are entirely unnecessary: these assured and completely idiomatic performances are quite enough on their own to demonstrate his expert professional credentials.

I look forward with the greatest enthusiasm to listening to the remaining releases in this engrossing and enlightening series.

– Rob Maynard, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Othello, symphonic poem, Op. 6 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 17 Minutes 4 Secs. 
2.
Zaboj, Slavoj and Ludek, symphonic poem, Op 37 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 17 Minutes 57 Secs. 
3.
Toman and the Wood Nymph, Op. 49 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874-1875; Bohemia 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 12 Minutes 36 Secs. 
4.
The Tempest, Op. 46 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Bohemia 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 11 Minutes 43 Secs. 
5.
Spring, symphonic poem for orchestra, Op. 13 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1881 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 13 Minutes 3 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  5 Customer Reviews )
 THE CZECH THREE STOOGES---AND MORE! August 31, 2015 By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL) See All My Reviews "I just got a whole bunch of CDs, including the five symphonic poems by Fibich, in today's mail, and I'm going to have a feast. I've been hearing one track or another recently, and each one has a story to tell. My favorite is "Zaboj" and his companions---I think of them as the Czech Three Stooges, constantly making mischief and getting into and out of all sorts of trouble, and every time I hear this one I get a chuckle or a guffaw as I think of the scrapes those three encounter. A sheer delight. I've been hearing a lot of "Toman and the Wood Nymph", and I think of the two short tone poems by Sibelius---the Op. 15 and the later one; there must be something about those creatures that in-spires composers. A word about "The Tempest": one time somebody asked Beethoven about his sonata of the same name, the Op. 31 #2, wanting to know what it was all about. Beethoven said three words to the guy: "Read the play." I think it's a good idea, the better to get the sense of what the music is all about---read the Shakespeare plays. In any event, I'm having a ball with that fine music, and I agree---fibich deserves to be better known than he has been." Report Abuse
 Excellent Introduction January 24, 2015 By William Muthig (Milan, OH) See All My Reviews "This CD was an introduction to the music of Zdenek Fibich for this reviewer. It serves as an excellent "starter kit". The music takes hold of the listener and is a reminder of Dvorak. After hearing these symphonic poems, this reviewer was prompted to purchase three other Naxos CDs of works by Fibich (spoiler alert -- they are just as rewarding)." Report Abuse
 Little Known Czech 3 January 8, 2015 By owen  ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews "If you are not yet burned out on Fibich then let me recommend this third disc in Naxos' series of this neglected Czech composer. This disc times out at a little over 72 minutes with five tone poems. Like most of Fibich's works they are of short duration (12 to 18 min.). These are dramatic and melodic works that are bound to hold your interest. See Henry S.s excellent customer review for details. Like Naxos preceeding issues in this series the recordings are done in 24 bit, 96 khz and sound excellent. The web site www.fibich.cz lists the producer as George Stilec,PHD (father of conductor Marek Stilec?). The 3 discs of Fibich's works will provide several hours of enjoyment. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
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