Zdenek Fibich
(geb. Seborice, 21. Dezember 1850 - gest. Prag, 15. Oktober 1900)

Vesna (Spring), Symphonic Picture for Full Orchestra op. 13 (1881)

An extraordinarily prolific and wide-ranging composer, Fibich was celebrated during his relatively brief lifetime and shortly thereafter alongside Smetana and Dvo?ák as one of the three supreme creators of Czech national music. If he later sacrificed this role to his younger contemporary Janá?ek, this is not to deny the invariably superb craftsmanship and occasionally the emotional force of his music. Fibich grew up in a highly cultivated bilingual household and divided his school years between Vienna and Prague. He had already composed fifty works by the age of fifteen when he left for Leipzig to perfect his musical training (1865-7). After further studies in Paris and Mannheim he returned in 1870 to Prague, where he was soon able to earn a living entirely from his compositions and private teaching. Although he wrote voluminously in practically every genre, he is perhaps best known today as the master of the concert melodrama, in which a speaker recites a literary text to an orchestral accompaniment, and for his Nálady, dojmy a upomínky ("Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences," 1892-8), a set of 376 piano pieces of extraordinary range and variety that functioned as a sort of erotic diary for the great love-affair of his later years and which included, as piece no. 139, the perennial and much-loved miniature, Poème.

Fibich produced orchestral music from the time of his adolescence, and symphonies, tone poems, concert overtures, and scenic melodramas bulk large in his output. One important strand in his early work lay in depictions of spring, in which he drew on the resources of the romantic orchestra to depict natural phenomena and the feelings they evoke in the human spirit. This series culminated in his tone-poem Toman and the Wood Nymph (1874-5), the First Symphony (1877-83), and above all the "symphonic picture" Spring, op. 13 (1881), in which his control of thematic transformation and orchestral effects reached a high-water mark. Spring is a single-movement monothematic work in modified sonata form in which the material grows organically out of an opening five-note motif. The motif is manipulated to represent spring in its various aspects: the al fresco feeling of the opening bars, the placid 6/8 meter of the pastoral first subject, the hints of bird song in the orchestral writing, the polka theme of the development section, a madcap 3/8 dance as a conclusion, and the final pianissimo restatement of the opening motif, the melodic germ-cell from which the entire piece has evolved.

Spring was premièred in 25 March 1881 under the baton of the leading Czech conductor of the day, Adolf ?ech. Although favorably received, it suffered the fate of many Czech works by outstanding composers who lacked a German-language publisher. It appeared in a piano-duet arrangement published by F. A. Urbánek, Prague, in 1882, but otherwise had to wait until 1961 before it was edited from the composer's manuscripts by Jaroslav Jiránek and issued in full score and parts by the State Music Publishing House in Prague.


Bradford Robinson, 2005
For performance material please contact the publisher Edition Bärenreiter Praha, Prague. Reprint of a copy from the Musikbibliothek der Münchener Stadtbibliothek, Munich.