Zdeněk Fibich: Sonatina in D Minor, Op. 27

Program notes for Jiazhi Wang, violin recital, Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, March 28, 2017.
© Benjamin Pesetsky 2017. Not to be reprinted without permission.

Zdeněk Fibich was born in Bohemia to a Czech father and an Austrian mother and enjoyed a rustic upbringing in the countryside where his father worked as a forestry official. After studies in Leipzig, Paris, and Mannheim, he embarked on a successful, if not illustrious career, producing nine operas and taking theater and liturgical posts, supplemented with private teaching.

Fibich’s music often echoes the folk music of his youth, but is presented in a refined Romantic style distinct from the grand Czech nationalism of Dvořákand Smetana. The Sonatina in D Minor, written in 1869, is representative: the opening Allegro moderato is melancholy and instantly memorable, like a rough-hewn fiddle tune polished to a luster. The brief Andante could be a lullaby, its harmony and rhythm reminiscent of the Austrian side of Fibich’s heritage. The sprightly Allegro molto echoes the first movement, but with fresh humor and feistiness added to the mix.