DVOŘÁK Symphony No 1 (Bosch)
Antonin Dvořák never heard his First Symphony. Submitted in 1865 for a competition in Leipzig, it disappeared shortly afterwards. A certain Rudolph Dvořák (no relation) bought the score in a Leipzig bookshop in 1882 and sat on it for years; it was only after his death that the score emerged in 1923, eventually given its premiere in Brno in 1936. There is plenty of Mendelssohn in the work (unsurprisingly given the Leipzig connection) as well as Beethoven – the C minor sequence of keys mirroring Beethoven’s Fifth almost exactly. The symphony is frequently subtitled The Bells of Zlonice, although it doesn’t appear anywhere on the score. However, Dvořák had been sent to Zlonice as a child to learn German and to receive piano lessons, so it’s not so unlikely an appellation.
Marcus Bosch nears the end of his Dvořák cycle with this live recording. In common with others in this series, the Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg offers a brusque, burly reading. Bosch powers through the lengthy first movement, in which he takes the exposition repeat, as did Istvén Kertész with the LSO in 1966, the first uncut recording of the work. Rafael Kubelík, with the Berlin Philharmonic, doesn’t bother. I’m with Kubelík – it’s a rousing symphony, but at over 50 minutes it rambles.
The ebullient Nuremberg horns are not quite as refulgent as the LSO or Berlin Philharmonic but they offer spirited playing. Woodwinds coil around each other persuasively in the slow movement, even if Kubelík takes a much more flowing tempo to give it a truly pastoral lilt. The perky Allegretto is the closest we get to Dvořák’s Bohemian character, while Bosch speeds through the finale. The exuberance is let down by a foggy recording here: the first violins’ pizzicato (at 1'00") can barely be heard. Bosch’s approach is all a bit fierce and misses some of the Dvořákian charm. At just 51 minutes, the disc is short measure, especially considering all the Dvořák symphonic poems or Slavonic Dances that could have been recorded.