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Zdeněk Fibich, Bedřich Smetana
String Quartets, Variations


F10072    [8595017407322]
TT- 58:46    released 10/1996

      Zdeněk Fibich (1850 - 1900)
      Thema and Variations B flat major (1877 / 1883) 
    1. Thema. (Assai moderato)    1:00 
    2. Var. I. (Poco piu mosso assai leggiero)    1:11 
    3. Var. II. (Con moto e appassionato)    0:59 
    4. Var. III. (Andante espressivo)    1:22 
    5. Var. IV. (Allegro)    0:37 
    6. Var. V. (Allegretto)    1:03 
    7. Var. VI. (Vivace)    0:22 
    8. Var. VII. (Larghetto)    1:38 
    9. Var. VIII. (Allegretto)    0:34 
    10. Var. IX. (Andante con moto)    1:05 
    11. Coda. (Lento non troppo ma espressivo)    2:13

      String quartet G major, Op.8 (1878) 
    12. Allegro moderato.    9:15 
    13. Adagio.    6:22 
    14. Scherzo. (Allegro scherzando)    4:28 
    15. Finale. (Allegro vivace)    7:51

      Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
      String quartet D minor, No. 2 (1882 - 1883)
    16. Allegro    5:12 
    17. Allegro moderato    5:23 
    18. Allegro non piu moderato, ma agitato e con fuoco    4:54 
    19. Finale. Presto    2:51

Doležal Quartet
Jiří Fišer - violin
Vladimír Kučera - violin
Karel Doležal - viola
Petr Hejný - cello

Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900) entered Czech musical life at virtually the same time as Antonín Dvořák. Despite the fact that this talented artist showed great promise in his musical career, he had to defend his existence practically all his life. He was educated not only in Prague but also in Leipzig and Paris and was reputed to be the most educated Czech musician of the second half of the last century. Fibich married in February 1873 and shortly afterwards he accepted the position of music professor at a grammar school in Vilnius, Lithuania. During the years 1875-78 he worked as second kapellmeister at the Prozatimni (Interim) Theatre in Prague, he was also a choir master and, shortly before his untimely death (1899) he became repertory adviser for Prague's National Theatre. He never became a professor at the Music Academy, thus he was destined chiefly to become a private tutor of music, as a result of which we are now able to appreciate Fibich's valuable pedagogical works. The artist began to show greater interest in chamber music during the first stage of his career as a composer.
     Theme and Variations in B Flat Major was first written as a piano work in 1877 and three years later the work came out in the commemorative publication "The Nation Unto Itself". Over the next three years Fibich returned to the work and rewrote it (1833) giving it the title Variations in B Flat Major for two violins, viola and 'cello, intended as a quartet. The work was finally published long after Fibich's death in 1911 as a posthumous opus by the F. A. Urbánek publishing house in Prague. From a formalpoint of view it is classified as a theme with nine variations plus a coda, and bears a dedication to the composer Jan Malát.
     String Quartet in G Major, op.8 was written in 1878 and is the second and last work of this genre contained in the whole of Fibich's musical legacy. Interesting to note is that the composer chose a similar model to that of his previous quartet in A Major (1874) which is remarkable for its incorporation of the first example of a stylised polka in the Scherzo movement, before Smetana and Dvořák began to use this idea. In the Quartet in G Major, op.8, the polka rhythm is set into the trio of the Scherzo. Fibich, a sovereign Romantic of Czech music, here demonstrates his sense for artistic sophistication. The work, to date performed only rarely in concert, is undoubtedly captivating for its maturity, convincingly mastered form and, last but not least, for the invigorating character of its rhythmical ideas.

Like his first quartet, Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) wrote his String Quartet in D Minor no.2 in the serene environment of his Jabkenice hunting lodge in the Czech countryside. This was the period right at the very end of his life which spanned a fairly long phase from June 1882 to March 1883, since he was also completing his opera The Devil's Wall and preparing the German edition of his opera The Two Widows. He was also participating in the preparations for the first joint performance of the symphonic cycle My Country and the rehearsals for the premiere of The Devil's Wall. The chief reason for the unhurried approach to his compositional work, however, was rooted in the rapid deterioration of his health. Smetana managed to complete the work with the support of his friends, and its premiere was held on the 3rd of January 1884 in Prague's Konvikt theatre, a mere four months before the composer's death. It was a long time, however, before the quartet found its place on the concert podium - in fact, not until the first few decades of the new century. The content of Quartet no.2 was summed up by the composer in this lapidary sentence: "Presented in this music is the whirl of music in man who has lost his sense of hearing". What the music contains is the whole tragedy of Smetana's life. Here, of course, the composer was taking an inspired look back to his Quartet no.1 entitled "From My Life" and he created an unusual but exceptionally original and modern work in which, like Beethoven, he gives an artistic form to his idea of overcoming a tragic fate. All four movements are characterised by a fundamental allegro tempo and are a testimony to the great inner strength of this artist. He superscribed the work with these words: "1st movement: Depression and confusion after the affliction of deafness. 2nd and 3rd movements: Further development in the Czech spirit and inner joy from creation. 4th movement - Finale: Victory thusfar over one's fate."

Ludvík Kašpárek

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