Zdeněk Fibich

Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900)

Nationality: Czech
Born: December 21, 1850, Všebořice, Bohemia Died: October 15, 1900, Prague (age 49)

String Quartet No. 1 in A major

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
6:10 I. Allegro grazioso
5:23 II. Andante semplice
4:27 III. Allegretto
5:11 IV. Allegro (Presto)
Duration: 22 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1874 (age 23-24)
Published: 1951
3 recordings, 9 videos
autoopen autoplay
7:06
Panocha Quartet
I. Allegro grazioso
5:17
Panocha Quartet
II. Andante semplice
4:18
Panocha Quartet
III. Allegretto
5:07
Panocha Quartet
IV. Allegro (Presto)
5:14
Kocian Quartet
I. Allegro grazioso
5:28
Kocian Quartet
II. Andante semplice
4:36
Kocian Quartet
III. Allegretto
5:14
Kocian Quartet
IV. Allegro (Presto)
21:45
Panochovo Quartet (complete)
From Edition Silvertrust

Zdenek Fibich “Despite the fact that String Quartet No.1, composed in 1874, was not published during Fibich's lifetime, there is no evidence that he never wanted it to see the light of day. It is more probable that the quartet held private memories for him of a happy time before the terrible tragedy of his daughter's death which occurred a short time later. Judging from the generally sunny and carefree mood which pervades most of this work, the quartet was composed before his daughter’s death. The main theme to the first movement, Allegro grazioso, opens in a questioning manner, however, it is immediately restated in the major and remains bright, upbeat and graceful. The lovely second theme is more lyrical but also graceful. Geniality is the word which best sums up the mood of this movement. The second movement, Andante semplice, is slow and very romantic. There is much here which is highly original and unusual. For example, Fibich, in mid-phrase, abruptly interrupts what is an idyllic mood with a brusque and questioning unisonic passage which sounds very similar to the technique Sibelius employed decades later. The lyrical second theme is clearly of Czech origin and of the sort Dvořák would later use. The third movement, Allegretto, uses a Slavic dance form, specifically a polka. Unfortunately, by failing to publish this quartet, no one could know that it was Fibich, and not Dvořák or Smetana, who had been the first Czech to use a Slavic folk dance in a work. The finale, Allegro, is also most original and unusual. The opening theme is a frenzied and tonally advanced fugue begun by the viola. After the others join in, the fugue accelerates, but becomes tonally tamer, now a bit reminiscent of Mendelssohn. Then, suddenly and without warning, a powerful Maestoso is thrust forward. It is in the form of a late 17th century chorale. The exciting coda combines the fugue with the maestoso to create a very effective closing. This is quite a good work which deserves to be better known. While amateurs will no doubt enjoy playing this quartet, professional groups will find that it is quite suitable for the concert hall."

— Professor Renz Opolis writing in The Chamber Music Journal.

That Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900) is not as well-known as either Dvořák or Smetana can explained by the fact that Fibich lived during rise of Czech nationalism within the Habsburg empire. And while Smetana and Dvořák. gave themselves over entirely to the national cause consciously writing Czech music with which the emerging nation strongly identified, Fibich’s position was more ambivalent. That this was so was due to the background of his parents and to his education. Fibich’s father was a Czech forestry official and the composer’s early life was spent on various wooded estates of the nobleman for whom his father worked. His mother, however, was an ethnic German Viennese. Home schooled by his mother until the age of 9, he was first sent to a German speaking gymnasium in Vienna for 2 years before attending a Czech speaking gymnasium in Prague where he stayed until he was 15. After this he was sent to Leipzig where he remained for three years studying piano with Ignaz Moscheles and composition with Salamon Jadassohn and Ernst Richter.

Hence Fibich, in contrast to either Dvořák or Smetana, was the product of two cultures, German and Czech. He had been given a true bi-cultural education. And during his formative early years, he had lived in Germany, France and Austria in addition to his native Bohemia. He was perfectly fluent in German as well as Czech. All of these factors were important in shaping his outlook and approach to composition. And this outlook was far broader than that of Smetana and Dvořák, who in their maturity, exclusively took up the Czech cause and never let it fall. Such an approach was too narrow and constricting for a man like Fibich, trained at the great Leipzig Conservatory by colleagues and students of Mendelssohn and Schumann; too narrow for a man who had sojourned in Paris and Vienna; a man who understood that German, along with French, was clearly one of the leading languages of Europe. And Fibich could plainly see that writing opera and vocal works (his main areas of interest) in Czech would limit their appeal. What he did not appreciate was that writing such works in German would profoundly affect the way in which he and his music were regarded by Czechs. In his instrumental works, Fibich generally wrote in the vein of the German romantics, first falling under the influence of Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann and later Wagner. It seems, that like Tchaikovsky, Fibich did not wish to write music that merely sounded nationalistic. And therein lies the reason that Fibich has never been held in the same regard by his countrymen as either Dvořák and Smetana or even Janáček.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Related Composers

1800 1900 WWI Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) Ernst Friedrich Richter (1808-1879) Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893) Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902) Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900) Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) Josef Suk (1874-1935)
Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893)
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Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)
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Born: May 23, 1794, Prague Died: March 10, 1870, Leipzig (age 75)
Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902)
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Ernst Friedrich Richter (1808-1879)
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