> FIBICH Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences Vol 12 [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Zdeňek FIBICH (1850-1900)
Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences Volume 12

360 Andantino grazioso
361 Allegro scherzando
362 Poco Allegretto e grazioso
363 Andantino
364 Moderato
365 Quasi Polka
366 Moderato
367 Andante Amoroso
368 Allegro con fuoco
369 Andante con moto
370 Poco Allegretto e grazioso
371 Largo
372 Come una Marcia funebre
373 Allegro moderato
374 Andantino
375 Poco Allegretto
376 Allegretto grazioso

Marian Lapsansky, piano
Recorded Martinů Hall of the Liechtenstein Palace, Prague September 1997
SUPRAPHON SU 3255-2131 [49’08]


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Fibich’s status as one of the founders of the modern Czech school has never been entirely secure. Though Jaroslav Jiranek’s sleeve notes claim him unambiguously the greater affinities of the Leipzig educated Fibich were arguably those of the German Romantic tradition. Despite the wealth of Czech epic drama and balladry he set and the still engrossing Hippodamia trilogy, he preferred, after all, the Germanicised Zdenko to Zdeňek.

The last volume of his Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences contains numbers 360-376, played with heroic dedication by Slovak pianist Marian Lapsansky. The Moods represent broadly Fibich’s generalized love for his pupil Anezka Schulzova; Impressions, the earliest of the cycle and dating from 1892-3, is a kind of musical eroticisation of her body whilst Reminiscences relate more specifically to events and incidents in their relationship – walks in the street, declarations of love, diaristic reflections. To this extent then the Impressions are lyrical, the Reminiscences narrative and Moods a fusion or coalescence of the two. These specific details were first exposed by Zdeňek Nejedly in a 1925 book that caused something of an outcry. It’s also true that Fibich’s annotations and Schulzova’s own notes don’t always coincide. Clearly elements of imaginative recall and displacements of time and place were implicit in the creative process.

The cycle as a whole comprises much that is in ternary form and simple rondos; some structures are grouped together into suites, others relate rhythmically or melodically or are musically cross-referenced to other parts of the structure. It has a vast range and a broadly Schumannesque impress. Elsewhere John Tyrrell has argued for a bridge of development toward, and links with, Suk and Novák.

The pieces played here are as lilting, affectionate, pensive and joyful as one would expect. Most are less than three minutes in length; only towards the end of this set of seventeen is there a deeper note struck, with a five minute Largo succeeded immediately by a nearly nine minute Funeral March – the psychological implications are, I suppose, obvious, even though the huge cycle recovers to end in a mood of geniality with three crisp and affectionate movements and a concluding Allegretto. Jaroslav Jiranek hears a joke in 361, an allegro scherzando, whereas I hear a sturdy, noble tune amid the scherzando passages. The Andantino (363) is played with a hesitant and stuttering direction by Lapsansky whilst the decisively "pointing" left hand chords act resolutely to drive the music to its now confident conclusion. Fibich was adept at employing dance rhythms and there’s a delightful Quasi Polka to sweep the music onwards and to contrast with the immediately following Moderato – which is a dance with alternate bars with a hobble toed air of strong and weak accents.

Similarly the density of construction is confirmed by the intimate, languorous love song (367) followed by the piece popularly known as The Storm on Lake Atter. This is a fractious and accent straining passage with its suggestion of heavily falling rain and followed, in its turn, by an Andante con moto depicting the calm after the storm. This is further lightened by a delicious and gracious movement – seldom was the direction grazioso less needed since Fibich seemingly embedded grace in the notes themselves. The softening tone was in a sense a chimera because Fibich now darkens the cycle still deeper with an adagio. This utilises a kind of ground bass to create an atmosphere both elliptical and elusive. Its inwardness leads to the long Funeral march, itself internally contrasted to the March in (357) and full of powerful chording and nobility – not sentimentality – of utterance. And so the huge cycle lightens once again to conclude in freshness and immediacy and lyric innocence.

Lapsansky was recorded in the Martinů Hall of the Liechtenstein Palace in Prague. Supraphon’s engineers have ensured that he has a warm halo of support around the piano, allowing him to bask in Fibich’s harmonies. The result is entirely sympathetic and his playing is alive both to the elegance and the rhythmic élan of the writing. He is a most welcome guide to the compulsive autobiography of Fibich’s last decade.

Jonathan Woolf


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