Fibich and Quintilian

I lately did a Research and Bibliography project involving Czech composer Zdeňek Fibich. My research made me familiar with his Second Symphony as well as the 400+ piano miniatures grouped as Moods, Impressions, and Souvenirs. What is merely interesting is that Fibich used many of the melodies which he created in his piano pieces for his larger works (operas, melodramas, symphonies). What is extremely interesting is that those melodies and in fact most of his Moods, Impressions, and Souvenirs are musical expressions of specific events in his life. They are his diary, and his personal life is quite the blockbuster.


Short version: Originally from Prague. Married and moved to Vilnius. Had twins. Wife died. One of the twins died. Married sister-in-law. Other twin dies. Moves back to Prague. Falls in love with student, 18 years his junior. Juicy affair. Leaves wife (and son by that marriage). Dies. The end.

This is just the sort of composer that movie directors would love: tortured, conflicted, adulterous, tragic, and a direct connection between his music and his situation. And these situations are pretty steamy with some piano miniatures titled "Reunion," "Her Hair," "Her Hands," and about eight which meditate on "Her Breasts." All this is very interesting and important for understanding the motifs in his Second Symphony.

But Jessica gave me another challenge. How do I reconcile listening to this man's music with the reality and immorality of his life? An orator is a "good man speaking well" as her Communication Major so firmly taught. Get rid of the "good" and you just have an eloquent liar. Is Fibich just a liar?

I think this is a very interesting and very important question. It gets the musicologist out of his Ivory Tower of Obscure Composers, in which I'm just happy to find information on the forgotten musicians of our culture, and down to fundamental issues of aesthetics and morality. And this is what I think. Fibich is a Romantic. Not only does he fit squarely into that era (his dates are 1800 to 1850), but he exemplifies the sort of personality that oozes with Romanticism. Part of that life paradigm emphasizes longing and the feeding of deep emotions for the purpose of artistic truths, etc. he Romantics are clearly tragic in my eyes. They search, they yearn, they rant and rail and make devastating decisions. They are futile and sublime. There is a cloud over all they do. And they are human. They are my heritage. A tile of my mosaic. A bit of me.
When asked the question "Why listen to Fibich's Second Symphony when you know his life?" I answer because he is human. His music is an honest attempt to come to grips with his life. It tells a sad, tragic story. The Second Symphony is the oration of a tragic Greek character whose sad fate the audience already knows. Yet they relate to the longing for companionship, the struggle with loss, the contradictions of life. When the last chord dies you can look around and take heed and find yourself humbled and happy for your own lot in life.
What do you think? How do you reconcile amoral composers with your own morality?

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