Irvin Venys / Marek Stilec / Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Zdenek Fibich: Symphony No. 2; At Twilight; Clarinet Idyll

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Czech composer Zdenek Fibich is best known for a lengthy series of short piano works called Moods, Impressions, and Reminiscences that chronicled his obsession, often in very physical terms, with his student Anezka Schulzov√°. His larger works have had their champions in Czech lands, as well, and they fit well with the Naxos label's emphasis on neglected Eastern European music. The results on the label's second album of Fibich's orchestral music are mixed but intriguing. Fibich was torn between Czech nationalism and the German-Austrian tradition, and he probably engaged more deeply with Wagner's music than any other Eastern European of his time. Yet he was also steeped in Classical forms. As might be expected, this makes the Symphony No. 2 in E flat major into something of a mishmash, but for the most part it lies somewhere between Schumann and Dvor√°k. The two pieces given the designation Idyll for orchestra are all but unknown and do a more thorough and more inventive job of integrating Wagner with Czech pastoral styles. They're lovely pieces that would enliven any orchestral concert. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra approaches the music probably more confidently than any ensemble outside the Czech Republic would, and Naxos' sound from the orchestra's own studio is better than average. Recommended for Czech music buffs, especially for the two Idylls.

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