The Kennedy Center

Zdenek Fibich


Zdenek Fibich, a Czech composer was born in 1850. After Smetana and Dvorák he was the most prominent Czech composer of the second half of the 19th century, notably of operas and orchestral and piano music. His concert and stage melodramas were some of the most ambitious and effective ever written and prompted other Czech composers to write in the same genre, thus creating a sizable and unique repertory for Czech music. Among his compositional strengths were lucid portrayals of the dramatic, particularly apparent in the symphonic poems and concert overtures, a command of miniature forms reminiscent of Schumann and a gift for producing effective melodic lines that range from the straightforward and aggressive to the strikingly poignant.
His father was a forestry official who served the Auersperg estate. He attended Hermann's Öffentliche Hauptschule (1859–62) and the Academic Gymnasium (1862–3) in Vienna before transferring to the Czech Gymnasium in Prague's Malá strana (Little Quarter) (1863–5). Fibich wrote his first composition (Pange lingua), now lost, in 1862. In Prague he attended (1864–5) the private music institute (founded 1860) of Zikmund Koleovský, organist at St Ignác. By the middle of 1865, when Fibich left Prague, he had written about 50 works, mostly songs and piano pieces (including Le printemps, published that year as his op.1). He continued his training in Leipzig (1865–7). In addition to several songs and a second symphony (G minor), Fibich wrote three operas while in Leipzig: two works to his own text (Kapellmeister in Venedig, 1866, and Gutta von Guttenfels, probably in 1867). During the period of 1870-1871Fibich devoted himself to composition, producing several songs, including a series of pieces to texts from Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, as well as his first extant opera, Bukovín. He died of pneumonia on 15 October 1900, less than a month before the première of his last opera, The Fall of Arkona.
Zdenek Fibich