BOHUMIL FIDLER (1860-1944)
Bohumil Fidler was a Czech composer, choirmaster, choral conductor, organist and friend of Antonín Dvořák. Born May 27, 1860 in Příbram, approximately 35 miles southwest of Prague. Fidler was a foremost figure in the musical life of his hometown and surrounding region. His compositions comprise primarily works written for Příbram’s “Lumir-Dobromila” choral association, for which he was choirmaster for more than 15 years, as well as for Sv. Jakub (St. Jacob) Church in Příbram, where he was choir director for several decades. Though numerous works by Fidler were published during his lifetime, others remained unpublished, including this Missa Brevis.
Fidler’s memoirs, Můj život a vzpomínky (My Life and Memories) chronicles his friendship with Antonín Dvořák as well as his country’s musical culture of the time. The book records several letters written by Dvořák to Fidler, including one that includes Dvořák’s frequently cited comment, “In spite of the fact that I often mingled amongst greats of the world of music, I nevertheless will always remain who I always have been… a simple Czech musician.” Originally published in Czech in 1935, the annotated English translation of Fidler’s memoirs, edited by Sonya Szabo Reynolds, was published in 2008 by the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music.
REDISCOVERING BOHUMIL FIDLER’S MISSA BREVIS
by Sonya Szabo Reynolds
Growing up I was extremely intrigued by the portrait of my great grandfather Bohumil Fidler in the family photo album, but at the time his world seemed mysterious and remote to me. For many years Fidler’s memoirs, published in Czech, lay neglected in a bottom cabinet of my family’s library. When I decided to study music, my uncle Karl gave me a letter written by Dvořák to Fidler—the only one that still remained in our family—and for me it provided the tangible connection to that faraway time and place. A family project with my mother years later led to the rediscovery of Fidler’s long forgotten memoirs, its translation, and eventual publication by the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music. While editing the book I was touched by Fidler’s regret and sadness that his Missa Brevis had not been published, and I set out to research and locate the hand-copied manuscript still circulating in the Czech Republic. It pleases me to think how gratified Bohumil Fidler would be, knowing that his Missa Brevis is no longer “destined to a sad fate” as he had worried, but rather enjoying new life and appreciation with the publication of this work.
SONYA SZABO REYNOLDS
Sonya Szabo Reynolds is the great granddaughter (on her mother’s side) of composer Bohumil Fidler. She received her M.M. and B.M. degrees from University of Michigan, and is Adjunct Professor of Piano at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Sonya’s special area of interest in both research and performing is music of Czech composers. She edited the first English language translation of Bohumil Fidller’s My Life and Memories, published in 2008 by The Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music, London, and subsequently writes a regular column “From the New World” for the quarterly newsletters of the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music.