Fibich: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Fibich
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Razumovsky SO/Andrew Mogrelia
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553699
Fibich remains the least well known of the major luminaries of Czech Romantic music. His style can seem elusive and is often heard at its best concentrated in shorter works, or, on a grander scale, in later operas. Nevertheless, it is hard to resist the poetic-heroic demeanour of the First Symphony or the buoyancy of the Second.

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Mogrelia is sensitive to the rhetoric of these works and mostly brings out their abundant sterling qualities: the first movement of the Second Symphony (apart from an exaggerated pull up towards the end) and the slow movement of the First, the point where Fibich comes closest to Smetana’s nostalgic Czech manner, are particularly memorable. Just occasionally he allows the over-assertiveness built into a number of the climaxes – the main problem with Fibich’s abstract orchestral style – too much head, but in general he captures the spirit of these two works in exemplary fashion.

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There are problems with the playing: upper string lines can be fragile and at times, notably in the Schubertian scherzo of Symphony No. 1, the ensemble needs to be tighter. Even so, no one should be discouraged from investing in these enormously likeable performances of two unjustly neglected symphonies. Jan Smaczny