Dvořák: Symphony No. 5 - Bosch
Coviello Classics COV 91512
Classical - Orchestral
Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76
Symphonic Poem, Op. 110 "The Wild Dove"
Marcus Bosch (conductor)
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Review by John Miller - September 23, 2015
At last, here is the long-awaited Dvorak Symphony 5 on SACD. It comes from Coviello's complete cycle conducted by Marcus Bosch, performed in a series of live concerts by the Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg. This orchestra is the largest in the metropolitan region of Germany's Nüremberg, and the largest opera and concert band in Bavaria. Its history goes back to the city's Town Band of 1377. Christian Thielemann was a prior General Music Director, with Marcus Bosch taking over in 2011.
The orchestra is famed for its premièring of works by Blacher, Henze, Hiller, Hindemith, Ligeti, Penderecki and Zimmermann. For the Dvorak works, as with his parallel cycles of Brahms and Bruckner, Bosch trains the orchestra to play using his studies of historical performance practice in Dvorak's time. Although the players use modern instruments, this gives an 'edge' different to the well-known cycles by Kubelik, Kertesz and Belohlavek. Some of the factors include seating of players, interpreting musical notation in scores, less vibrato by strings and a flexible approach to speed, which overall is notably faster than used today.
Bosch begins his concert with the last in a quartet of tone-poems based on Czech folk-poetry. They were recognised by Janacek as being the origin of his own music, praising them in print and premièring two of them. Last of the four, The Wild Dove Op. 110 is the most impressive. Mahler, although not directing its première, introduced it to Vienna, and musicologists have pointed out that some of its sections, such as a countrified and caricature funeral march with a mocking solo trumpet, probably inspired similar movements in some of his symphonies. The source poem itself is frankly a dark horror story, not something which we would immediately attribute to Dvorak.
In The Wild Dove's five sections, a young widow, weeping crocodile tears and lamenting, follows a slow peasant march with the body of her husband (whom she secretly poisoned) to the grave. At the following jolly country wake, she meets a well-to-do peasant man who consoles her, and she quickly agrees to their union. A joyous wedding ensues. But Nature begins to respond to her ghastly deed, and a mournfully calling Dove perched in a tree above the murdered husband begins to irritate her. Finally his melancholic calls penetrate her mere sense of guilt, and she succumbs to her evil conscience, becomes mad and goes to the nearby river to drown herself.
Dvorak artfully uses music to directly describe the action, with some highly imaginative orchestration which the Nürenberg orchestra vividly employ, from hauntingly distant muted horn calls at the beginning, descending violin figures to sneer at the false tears, distant trumpets calling for colourful folk dances, a mournful Dove calling without ever stopping, a furious mad woman and a final section which really does sound like a poetic end to this horrific story. A brilliant rendition of one of Dvorak's finest works by Bosch and the Philharmonic.
In order to perceive Dvorak's creative personality as a whole, it is essential to encounter his lesser-known works, a fact well-known to István Kertész in recording his now historic Decca complete set, still a pre-eminent production. Even in his early years, Dvorak was no apprentice; indeed as a composer with the ability to create a series of masterpieces over a broad range of musical forms, he has been hailed by some as the greatest composer of the last half of the nineteenth century.
The first five symphonies were conceived during a phase of coming to terms with classical or romantic styles, melding these with the folk songs, dances, rhythms and orchestral colours of his Czech motherland, which were flowing into a society making more and more of its Nationalism. Many musicologists are convinced that the Fifth is the first of his following so-called "great" symphonies, despite its unfortunate lack of exposure in recent years. It is an essentially bucolic, out-of-doors work, favouring the woodwind to play the many pseudo-folk melodies rooted in the "green" key of F, emulating Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in F minor. Just as Mahler was probably influenced by Dvorak's Wild Dove tone-poem, Brahms was very fond of the Dvorak Fifth Symphony and showed this in his own Symphony in F.
In the "live in every sense" of their playing, Bosch and the Nürenburg Philharmonia provide an often revelatory reading of the Fifth which belies its neglect. Violins (granted, not as rich as those of the Czech Philharmonic, but lithe and silky) are arrayed very clearly with firsts on the left and seconds on the right. The brass are deeply sonorous and brilliant in turns, while the characterful woodwind play with flexible and imaginative phrasing. The movements are nearly all faster than with other Fifths emanating from Kertesz, Belohlavek and Kubelik, giving a sense of vitality, energy and inventiveness. The final movement is certainly vehement, fast and very physical, but also offers a whole host of emotions before its final triumphal chords.
Mielke Bergfeld's Musikproduktion company are well known for their expertise in producing excellent concert captures with their own specially equipped control room and recording van. The lovely bloom of the Meistersinger Hall sounds fine in stereo, but it comes to life in the 5.0 multichannel track, where the sonic location of every instrumental group in a wide and deep perspective makes for a very realistic recording, especially if one turns up the volume. The transparency of sound is quite remarkable, and it is difficult to admit it is a live performance, because I could only hear one or two soft audience coughs in a quiet violin part of the symphony's first movement.
A somewhat unique Fifth in its preparation and execution, but at least as enjoyable and thought-provoking as in the other classic Dvorak cycles. So, well-worth waiting for - but making another wait, for Bosch and his band to complete their Dvorak symphony cycle.
Copyright © 2015 John Miller and HRAudio.net