Zdenek Fibich orchestral series ends in fine form

This is the final volume in Naxos’ series of Zdenek Fibich orchestral works. It includes the last of his three symphonies, as well as orchestral music from three of his operas.

Fibich completed his third symphony in 1898, just two years before his death. The work is ambitious, with a “darkness-to-light” premise that keeps the music every moving forward (and upward). Fibich’s style is more cosmopolitan than his colleagues Antonin Dvorak or Bedrich Smetana.

To my ears, this symphony lands stylistically somewhere between Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss. The orchestration and melodic treatment sound Germanic to me, and yet there’s a looseness to it that seems more at home in a tone poem than a symphony.

Either way, it’s an interesting work and one that holds up with repeated listening. Marek Stilec leads the Janácek Philharmonic Ostrava in some fine performances. The ensemble is well-recorded, and Stilec’s interpretations keep the music engaging (for me, anyway).

During his lifetime, Fibich was primarily known for his operas. This release features orchestral music from three of his most popular.

“Šárka” was based on a Bohemian legend. Its overture incorporates elements of Czech music, reminding me a little of Dvorak. The Act III overture to “The Tempest” has a more cosmopolitan (or at least Germanic/Austrian) sound.

The Funeral March from “The Bride of Messina” is a wonderfully atmospheric work. According to the liner notes, the work has a Wagnerian slant to it. I don’t quite hear that. It’s dramatic but not overwrought, chromatic without obscuring the key center.

Zdenek Fibich: Symphony No. 3 in E minor, Op. 53
Šárka Overture; The Tempest, Overture to Act III; The Bride of Messina Funeral March
Janácek Philharmonic Ostrava; Marek Stilec, conductor
Naxos 8.574120

 

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