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Fibich: Overtures, Ballet Music / Stilec

Fibich / Stilec / Czech National Sym Orch
Release Date: 12/09/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573310   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Zden?k Fibich has long held a place on my short list of Great Neglected Composers. From my first hearing, I was entranced by his flair for orchestral colour, his sunny but not unclouded musical disposition, and his gift for melody, more spontaneous than that of the better-known and better-esteemed Josef Suk. The sometimes strong resemblances to Dvo?ák - the triumphal coda of Comenius, the livelier dances in the Hedy sequence, the frequent recourse to woodwind chorales - more likely reflect a common Czech musical "accent" rather than any direct influence.

The three symphonies have accounted for most of Fibich's limited recorded exposure: a smattering of native productions (review), and Neeme Järvi's less
Read more stylish but richer-sounding Chandos cycle (review). This volume of the Naxos series takes in a variety of the composer's works in shorter forms.

It's the pieces that look to be of least consequence - the four occasional pieces composed to accompany tableaux vivants - that represent the composer at his most appealing. Fibich infuses this ceremonial, processional music with fervent breadth, enlivening the chorale-like themes with a lively interplay of colours and textures. The March from the Hippodamia's Death incidental music (review) offers more of the same, along with some quirky harmonic turns that point the way to the marches of Walton and Bliss, and what sounds like an ending or two too many.

Of the three overtures, the first two are concert pieces, while The Jew of Prague is part of the incidental music for a play by Josef Ji?í Kolár. Quiet, peremptory horn-calls at the start of A Night at Karlštejn Castle open into questing phrases and harmonies, which, again, juxtapose varying orchestral timbres. The main Allegro is cheerful and confident, set off by lighter-textured passages. Turbulence momentarily threatens to derail the piece in the home-stretch, but it resolves happily.

Comenius may be a "festival overture", but its extended introduction is pensive; the agitated faster section is clean-limbed and purposeful. The Jew of Prague begins with a horn solo that veers into chromatic, searching chorales, punctuated here and there by quietly ominous trumpet calls. A generic transitional tutti at 1:51 is mercifully brief; the buoyant main Allegro recovers buoyancy and drive.

The grim, assertive minor-key start of the Hedy sequence is most unusual for an operatic ballet. The play of woodwinds against strings helps to lighten the sonority, while the movement's coda at 3:50 is boisterous in the Slavonic-dance style. The most effective numbers are the final two: a lyrical passage in 3/4 time, opening into a gentle waltz which gradually becomes more aggressive; and another rousing Slavic dance for the full orchestra.

Marek Štilec's performances are sympathetic, and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, noted primarily for the Prague Proms summer concerts, plays with enthusiasm and understanding - it has the right musical "accent". There are underpowered moments, however. The unison strings at the start of Comenius sound reined-in, and, later in the piece, their attacks could use more point and precision. Nor do the horns always cut through as they should: the moving chords at 2:15 of the Hippodamia's Death march barely register.

The sound is fine, registering wind solos vividly within the texture; the occasional lack of presence probably inheres in the playing. Despite my reservations, I'm glad to have this.

– Stephen Francis Vasta, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Night in Karlstein, overture for orchestra, Op. 26 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 10 Minutes 12 Secs. 
2.
Comenius Festive Overture, Op. 34 by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 12 Minutes 11 Secs. 
3.
The Jew of Prague Tragedy Overture, for orchestra by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 6 Minutes 31 Secs. 
4.
Hedy Opera, Op. 43: Ballet music by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1894-1895 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 17 Minutes 43 Secs. 
5.
Hippodamia's Death Melodrama, Op. 33: March by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
6.
Prologue to the Opening of the New Czech Theatre, tableau vivant for orchestra by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 2 Minutes 7 Secs. 
7.
The Great Musical Monograph of the Building of the National Theatre, tableau vivant for orchestra by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 5 Minutes 55 Secs. 
8.
Music for the Reopening of the National Theatre, tableau vivant for orchestra by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
9.
Music for the Celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the Birth of Jan Amos Comenius, tableau vivant by Zdenék Fibich
Conductor:  Marek Štilec
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  CNSO Studios, Hostivar, Prague, Czech Re 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Delightful overtures June 15, 2015 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Zdenek Fibich was almost an exact contemporary of Antonin Dovrak. And like his fellow Czech, Fibish's music in infused with the energy of his country's folk music. Volume Four of Naxos' ongoing traversal of Fibich's orchestral music is perhaps the most exciting installment so far. The disc collects several of Fibich's overtures, as well as the ballet music to hone of his opera, "Hedy.". The scores are from Fibich operas, and all are real curtain-raisers. If you're not familiar with Fibich, these works share the same freshness and energy of Dvorak's concert overtures. The opera "Hedy" (based on Byron's Don Juan) is filled with exciting ballet sequences, and the 17-minute concert suite Fibich created from it is a high point of the release. While perhaps not quite on par with Tchaikovsky, Fibich nevertheless manages to create charming dances that practically command the listener's body to respond in some way -- if not by dancing around the room, then at least by tapping one's foot (as I did quite frequently). Marek Stilec and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubic play these works with the deep understanding only a native ensemble can bring to Czech repertoire. The pace is quick, the fortes joyfully loud, and the ensemble is fully committed to making these works come alive -- which they do." Report Abuse
 Fabulous! January 31, 2015 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "I agree completely with Ronald S.'s short but dead-on-target comment about this disk. Gorgeous Czech music with that unmistakable stamp of national character, played brilliantly by a very fine new orchestra. Absolutely worth hearing and enjoying... and enjoy it you most certainly will. Highly recommended!" Report Abuse
 Excellent! January 16, 2015 By Ronald S. (Greendale, WI) See All My Reviews "An excellent recording of rarely-heard pieces by an unjustly neglected composer." Report Abuse
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