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Zdeněk Fibich

Zdeněk Fibich (Czech pronunciation: [ˈzdɛɲɛk ˈfɪbɪx], 21 December 1850 – 15 October 1900) was a Czech composer of classical music. Among his compositions are chamber works (including two string quartets, a piano trio, piano quartet and a quintet for piano, strings and winds), symphonic poems, three symphonies, at least seven operas (the most famous probably Šárka and The Bride of Messina), melodramas including the substantial trilogy Hippodamia, liturgical music including a mass – a missa brevis; and a large cycle (almost 400 pieces, from the 1890s) of piano works called Moods, Impressions, and Reminiscences. The piano cycle served as a diary of sorts of his love for a piano pupil. He was born in Všebořice (Šebořice) near Čáslav.

That Fibich is far less known than either Antonín Dvořák or Bedřich Smetana can be explained by the fact that he lived during the rise of Czech nationalism within the Habsburg Empire. 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. This 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 nine, he was first sent to a German-speaking gymnasium in Vienna for two 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 Salomon Jadassohn and Ernst Richter. After the better part of a year in Paris, Fibich concluded his studies with Vinzenz Lachner (the younger brother of Franz and Ignaz Lachner) in Mannheim. Fibich spent the next few years living with his parents back in Prague where he composed his first opera Bukovina, based on a libretto of Karel Sabina, the librettist of Smetana's The Bartered Bride. At the age of 23, he married Růžena Hanušová and took up residence in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. where he had obtained a position of choirmaster. After spending two unhappy years there (his wife and newly born twins both died in Vilnius), he returned to Prague in 1874 and remained there until his death in 1900. In 1875 Fibich married Růžena's sister, the operatic contralto Betty Fibichová (née Hanušová), but left her in 1895 for his former student and lover Anežka Schulzová. The relationship between Schulzová and Fibich was important to him artistically, since she wrote the libretti for all his later operas including Šárka, but also served as the inspiration for his Moods, Impressions, and Reminiscences.

Fibich was given a bi-cultural education, living during his formative early years in Germany, France and Austria in addition to his native Bohemia. He was fluent in German as well as Czech. 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. His early operas and close to 200 of his early songs are in German. These works along with his symphonies and chamber music won considerable praise from German critics, though not from Czechs. The bulk of Fibich’s operas are in Czech, although many are based on non-Czech sources such as Shakespeare, Schiller and Byron. In his chamber music, more than anywhere else, Fibich makes use of Bohemian folk melodies and dance rhythms such as the dumka. Fibich was the first to write a Czech nationalist tone poem (Záboj, Slavoj a Luděk) which served as the inspiration for Smetana’s Má vlast. He was also the first to use the polka in a chamber work, his quartet in A.

After his return to Prague in 1874, Fibich's music encountered severely negative reactions in the Prague musical community, stemming from his (and Smetana's) adherence to Richard Wagner's theories on opera. While Smetana's later career was plagued with problems for presenting Wagnerian-style music dramas in Czech before a conservative audience, Fibich's pugilistic music criticism, not to mention his overtly Wagnerian later operas, Hedy, Šárka, and Pád Arkuna, exacerbated the problem in the years after Smetana's death in 1884. Together with the music aesthetician Otakar Hostinský, he was ostracized from the musical establishment at the National Theatre and Prague Conservatory and forced to rely on his private composition studio. The studio nevertheless was well respected among students, drawing such names as Emanuel Chvála, Karel Kovařovic, Otakar Ostrčil, and Zdeněk Nejedlý, the notorious critic and subsequent politician. See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#Zdeněk Fibich. Much of the reception of Fibich's music in the early twentieth century is a result of these students' efforts after their teacher's death, especially in Nejedlý's highly polemical campaigns enacted in a series of monographs and articles that sought to redress what he considered to be past inequities. Although this served to bring Fibich's music to greater attention, subsequent scholarship has had to deal with the spectre of Nejedlý's intensely personal bias.

There is a Fibich Society which has organized projects such as Vladimir Hudec's Thematic Catalog (below) and much else.

Fibich was the original composer of the tune for "My Moonlight Madonna" for which Paul Francis Webster wrote the English lyrics. In 1933 the tune was popularly harmonized by William Scotti.

Birth and Death Data: Born December 21st, 1850 (Loket), Died October 15th, 1900 (Prague)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1912 - 1940

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-11501 10-in. 1/24/1912 Má Dívenka Bohumil Pták Tenor vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor C-13881 12-in. 9/30/1913 Poem Jan Kubelík Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor BVE-18161 10-in. 10/6/1925 Souvenir poétique Michel Gusikoff Violin solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-18161 10-in. 7/27/1916 Souvenir poétique Michel Gusikoff Violin solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-28688 10-in. 10/23/1923 Souvenir poétique Mischa Elman Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor BVE-33460 10-in. 10/12/1925 Souvenir poetique Michel Gusikoff Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor BVE-49103 10-in. 11/14/1928 Poem Victor Orchestra Orchestra composer  
Victor BVE-59463 10-in. 4/15/1930 Poem Gladys Posselt Ondricek ; Ruth Posselt Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor MS-75879 16-in. 6/22/1933 Beauty that endures. Program 14 Palmer John Clark ; Jean Paul King ; Charles Sears ; The Wessel Company Radio transcription disc : Orchestra, with male vocal solo and recitation composer  
Victor BS-76483 10-in. 6/20/1933 My moonlight Madonna Connecticut Yankees ; Rudy Vallée Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor BS-76672 10-in. 7/20/1933 My moonlight Madonna Jack Fulton ; Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor BS-77649 10-in. 9/12/1933 My moonlight Madonna Ferde Grofé Orchestra ; Conrad Thibault Baritone vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor G-2071 10-in. 6/20/1917 Poem Lidia Montero Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor BS-047767 10-in. 3/6/1940 Poeme Fredric Fradkin ; Helen E. Myers Violin solo, with piano composer  
Victor BS-051830 10-in. 7/9/1940 My moonlight Madonna George Griffin ; Nathaniel Shilkret ; Ted Steele ; The Troubadours Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo and Novachord composer  
Columbia 81696 10-in. 4/17/1924 Souvenir poétique Arthur Loesser ; Toscha Seidel Violin solo, with piano composer  
Brunswick [Br cat 5279-a] 10-in. approximately late 1918 Poëm Ellen Keller Violin solo composer  
Brunswick 3539 10-in. approximately Jan. 1920 Souvenir poétique Elias Breeskin ; Rudolph Gruen Violin solo, with piano composer  
Brunswick 3595-3596 10-in. approximately Jan. 1920 Souvenir poétique Elias Breeskin Violin solo composer  
Brunswick 12443-12445 10-in. 2/1/1924 Poëm Fredric Fradkin Violin solo, with piano composer  
Brunswick 12643-12644 10-in. 3/6/1924 Poëm Fredric Fradkin ; Frederic Persson Violin solo, with piano composer  
Brunswick LAE679 10-in. 12/27/1929 Poëm Mishel Piastro ; Jascha Veissi Violin solo, with piano composer  
Edison 2977 10-in. Mar. 1914 Poem Daniel Melsa Violin solo, with piano composer  
Edison 7861 10-in. 3/23/1921 Songs my mother taught me Asta Doubravska ; Vasa Prihóda Violin solo, with piano composer  
Edison 9395 10-in. 2/27/1924 Souvenir poétique André Benoist ; Albert Spalding Violin solo, with piano composer  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Fibich, Zdeněk," accessed July 31, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104656.

Fibich, Zdeněk. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 31, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104656.

"Fibich, Zdeněk." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 31 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104656

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