shade of the Czech composer Foerster has had to settle
for third or fourth league status behind such contemporary
countrymen as Suk and Fibich.
have set about a Foerster revival amid the still unfurling
repertoire expansion. They made a flying start on the Foerster
odyssey with the first two of the five symphonies on MDG 6321491-2
Fourth Symphony has already had commercial recordings by
Kubelik (on 78 shortly after Foerster's death), and Smetacek
on Supraphon) and by Lance Friedel (Naxos
I have heard the fine Friedel version and I know that it
is rated highly by at least one passionate admirer of the
Third and Fourth are each substantial four movement statements
running to about forty minutes - give or take.
here receives its first commercial recording.
Dvořák is certainly a presence in the first two
symphonies and so it proves again in the Third. The Foerster
muse is Bohemian, reflective with some Brahmsian flecks.
This aspect is apparent in the warm lulling of the andante
second movement. When he bustles – as in the allegro
third, there is a rustic Dvořákian skirl
and cheeriness which is very engaging. Drama is one of
the components but the temperature is never warmer than
say Dvořák 8. This is no disservice as the warmth
of the sunset at the close of the finale is as satisfying
as say Sibelius's Second. The effect can be likened to
that of a very pleasing three bar electric fire; no emotional
pyres here. And there’s nothing as neurotically charged
as Tchaikovsky Four or Francesca
. It is interesting
to note that Foerster's friend Gustav Mahler conducted
two performances of the Third in April 1896.
carries the title Easter
does not carry this on the rear insert and the notes
tell us that the title was omitted from the first print
of the score in 1924. Foerster wrote the symphony in
Hamburg in 1904 having been deeply moved by the city's
Holy Week atmosphere. The first movement has a steadiness
and earnest feeling in which the flames are fanned slowly
but with determination. This rises on belling Brucknerian
brass at 7:02 in the first movement. Once again the atmosphere
is pastoral and cheery; this time with a delightful Slav
tinge. The andante
predominantly takes the peaceful
sway of the Brahms Second Symphony. It is however suffused
with the same sun that lit the fields of Josef Suk's Ripening
The finale epitomises the work as a whole: a sunny reflective
supplication cast in late summer warmth and light and
shade. The language surges within Dvořákian bounds.
The final five minutes are wreathed in the roseate glow
of romantic victory and beset with confident Brucknerian
pleasingly long-breathed, expansive and satisfying symphonies
built to carry the bohemian sunlight. The performances
evidently have a sincere fidelity to this vision.