WORKS: Toman and the Wood Nymph; Othello; Impressions from the Countryside
PERFORMER: Karlovy Vary SO/Douglas Bostock
CATALOGUE NO: CLASSCD 255
Fibich was the great original of Czech Romantic music. If he lacked Smetana’s intensity, Dvorák’s range and overwhelming melodic capacity, he wrote much which deserves to be in the repertoire: imaginative symphonic poems, melodrama, opera and delightful piano and chamber music. No one could fail to be drawn into the richly shaded sound-world of the two early symphonic poems – Toman, a notable anticipation of Smetana’s Mà vlast, and Othello – on this fascinating disc of rarities. If there is rather too much military swagger at the start of Othello, Fibich’s portrait of Desdemona is exquisite and should not be missed.
Impressions from the Countryside has, with the exception of the final Polka, little of the Czech-dance manner of Smetana or Dvorák and at times seems almost evocative of the gentler side of Elgar. Fibich’s country-folk are subtly drawn with occasional flashes of irony, perhaps Prague sophisticates masquerading as rural types. Douglas Bostock’s keen feeling for this music externalises its communicative qualities and shines light through Fibich’s occasionally rather dark textures. The string sound could have more body, but in general the playing of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra is a remarkable testament to the sheer excellence of non-metropolitan Czech orchestras. Jan Smaczny