Josef Bohuslav Foerster – Late Romantic Goodness

Joseph Bohuslav Foerster was of the generation after Antonin Dvorak. While Foerster used Czech elements in his music, he does so in a different way than Dvorak. Those elements are sublimated into Viennese Romanticism. But they’re prominent enough to give Foerster’s music a slightly exotic sound. 

Foerster wrote the first of his five symphonies in 1888 — the same year Gustav Mahler finished his first symphony. The two composers were close friends, but there was no cross-pollination. Rather, Foester’s work is closer to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (also completed that year). 

Foerster worked on it while dealing with the death of his mother and a debilitating illness. The emotional trajectory of the work moves from darkness — extreme darkness — into the light. Foerster uses his material well. The symphony was never published, but I imagine it would have been well-received. 

The Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra is under the sure direction of Marek Stilec. These are lively, emotional performances, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. 

Also included are two shorter orchestral works by Foerster. They round out the program nicely. And even though written much later than the symphony, there’s a consistency of style. 

Foerster was always aware of current trends — he just didn’t feel the need to follow them. If you’re into late-Romantic symphonies, give this a spin.

Joseph Bohuslav Foerster: Symphony No. 1
Festive Overture; From Shakespeare
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra; Marek Stilec, conductor
Naxos 8.574336

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