Symphony No. 2 in E flat major/Fibich

August 12, 2014

 FIBICH SYMPHONY 2

 

NAXOS 8.573157

Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900) wrote his second symphony in 1892 after the third revision of Bruckner’s fourth symphony. I tell you this because the opening chords of the second symphony make me ask the question that perhaps Fibich listened to this and took some of the ideas and adapted them to his own style. Both symphonies were written in E flat major and with the horns calling and introducing the happy upbeat melody it is sure to put you in a festive mood. This reviewer hears a similarity between the two works.

Fibich composed during the same time as Dvorak and Smetena yet his work is rarely performed by most major symphony orchestras outside of his native country. The fact that Naxos has taken on the task of recording all of his orchestral works is welcome to this reviewer. Currently there are three volumes with plans for seven more in the upcoming months.

Some of the themes for his second symphony have been taken from his piano pieces Moods, Impressions, and Reminiscences which he wrote for a former student Anezka Schulzova declaring his undying love for her. You could call it a musical diary of his thoughts and feelings.

The “Allegro moderato” previously discussed has two themes the first being more fully developed than the second. The solo clarinet is in the spotlight as it plays the theme. The second theme is performed by the strings before heading into a coda which brings together both themes for a rousing conclusion.

The “Adagio” has to rank with some of the better written ones as it depicts the sad and lonely existence. The yearning from the violins is turned up as one can picture a love lost. The gypsy violin solo is a prelude to a return of the opening music in a brief climax.

“Scherzo” my favorite movement in this symphony offers a bright vivacious theme that will uplift your spirits. It begins like the first movement with the calling of the horns which is quickly passed to the strings and then to solo flute and woodwinds.

The final movement an allegro energico also goes back to the first movement and is a summarizing of the work with the main theme being intertwined with additional ideas. It ends with a rousing conclusion.

At Twilight Op.39, according to opus numbers came right after the second symphony in 1893. According to letters written by Schulzova’s brother the work came about during long family walks. Each theme depicts a family member or close friend. The Wagner influence is evident as the idyll is unfolded. One can feel a sense of being at piece with nature. The beginning theme is repeated in the midsection of the piece and is part of the summation at the conclusion of the work.

Idyll in B flat major for Clarinet Op. 16 was composed fourteen years earlier and this work was as close Fibich ever came to writing a concerto. The work is rather brief but is written a similar fashion to At Twilight only in a much lighter vein for the majority of the work as there is a short melancholy section. There are no difficult passages for the clarinet and I would consider it as a work featuring the clarinet nicely performed by Irvin Venys.

This is yet another work to be explored by you the listener. The recording doesn’t stand out it is more than adequate and Stilec and the Czech National Symphony seem to have a good grasp of the material they performed.

Track Listing:

SYMPHONY NO. 2 IN E FLAT MAJOR, OP. 38

  1. Allegro moderato (9:48)
  2. Adagio (8:11)
  3. Scherzo: Presto (9:53)
  4. Finale-Allegro energico (12:21)

 

  1. AT TWILIGHT-IDYLL FOR ORCHESTRA, OP. 39 (16:24)

 

  1. SELANKA-IDYLL IN B FLAT MAJOR FOR CLARINET OP. 16 (6:47)

 

Total Time is 63:35

 

 

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