I zipped back to the sale on my lunch break on Half-Price Monday to load up on my own declining medium of choice: music CDs. At a buck fifty, the price was right for obscure classical music and other esoterica. Then, having loaded up on a good 18 essentially random titles, I says to myself, I says, "I oughta review these on the blog!" Because, you know, why the hell not? So here goes another new fiasco:
The Library Sale CD Trove I
Symphony #2 in E flat major, Op. 38
Symphony #3 in E minor, Op. 53
Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiri Waldhans & Jiri Belohlavek, conductors
I have a modest little collection of guides to classical music, with a couple dozen titles going back as far as 1890. Of these, exactly two mention Zdenek Fibich. David Dubal's Essential Canon of Classical Music mentions him offhandedly -- on a list of "Bohemian nationalist" followers of Dvorak -- in its article on Janacek. The Naxos label's A to Z of Classical Music, a slightly self-servingly encyclopedic index of those C-list composers of whose music Naxos tends to have the most available recordings, describes him as "a late contemporary of Dvorak" who trained in Germany and thus "often seems less Czech than German." It notes that all of his music demonstrates "his masterly technical competence," which is not really how most composers would want to be summed up, I'm guessing.
This particular CD was produced in a vanished land called "Czechoslovakia" in 1991 from recordings made about 10 years earlier. It is pleasant music in the Czech tradition, kind of a Dvorak lite. It sounds quite a bit like Smetana, although not Smetana's very best. The resemblance is a little too much at the end of the Symphony #2, where the dramatic ending is a close echo of Smetana's Die Moldau, written about twenty years earlier.
The noticably defensive article covering Mr. Fibich on the Wiki claims that: That Fibich is far less known than either Antonín Dvořák or Bedřich Smetana can be explained by the fact that Fibich lived during the rise of Czech nationalism within the Habsburg empire. OK, maybe. But to judge from this CD there is a much simpler explanation, which is just that Fibich's music doesn't rise above the pleasant and well-crafted to the truly memorable, moving, and interesting.
Prognosis: Will keep CD, but more for background music than active listening.