FIBICH: Toman and the
Woodsprite, Op. 49. Othello, Op. 6. Impressions from the
Countryside, Op. 54 (Suite for Orchestra).
This CD brings to the catalog three works not listed in the latest Schwann/Opus. Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900) had the misfortune of living at the same time as his famous Czech compatriots Anton Dvorák (1841-1904) and Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) both of whom expressed more of the Czech national spirit than did Fibich. Strongly influenced by Schumann and Wagner particularly in his earlier works, Fibich wrote prolifically during his short life composing operas, chamber and orchestral music and "melodramas" plays performed to a background of musical accompaniment.
His first symphonic poem, Othello, was written in 1873. There is a motif for each of the three principal characters in this extended (18:30) and often dramatic work. Of greater interest is Fibich's symphonic poem Toman and the Woodsprite written a year after Othello. This is based on the folklore story of Toman, a man betrayed by the woman he loves who falls victim to the seductive powers of a woodsprite. Víteslav Novák's symphonic poem on the same subject, written twelve years after Fibich's, is a more passionate, dramatic treatment (there's a fine recording with Libor Pesek and the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos), but Fibich makes his points in an arresting way. Impressions from the Countryside, a Suite for Orchestra, Op. 54, fills out the CD receiving its world premiere recording. It is a rather innocuous, folksy collection of five sections (Moonlight, Peasant Dance, In the Heights, Fireside Talk and Village Dance). "Fireside Talk" is actually five short pieces, each having its own CD track, but not identification.
Douglas Bostock, born in 1955, studied with Sir Adrian Boult and was music director of the Carlsbad Symphony from 1991 to 1998 when these recordings were made. He leads idiomatic performances by the Czech orchestra, obviously a top-notch ensemble. Recorded sound is rich and natural with a fine sense of presence. If you're looking for some seldom-heard Bohemian music that doesn't sound like Dvorák or Smetana, you might give this a try. A major drawback is the premium price, brief program notes and limited playing time (58:55). Another of Fibich's orchestral works easily would have been welcome and easily could have been included.
R.E.B. (April 2001)