On May 27, 1906, a colossal four-movement symphony was premiered at the German modern music festival in Essen. Although misunderstood at the time, the work was later acknowledged after the composer's death to be one of the great symphonies of the twentieth century. That symphony was Gustav Mahler's Sixth, a work that through imaginative strength, tragic power, and compositional genius transformed the standard four-movement form into a real, vital, and overwhelmingly affecting masterpiece.
Three days earlier on May 24, a nearly as colossal four-movement symphony was likewise premiered at the Essen music festival -- but although the work was performed occasionally in the next 15 years, the composer never completed another piece and gradually slipped into an obscurity that became complete after his death in 1936. That symphony was Hermann Bischoff's First, a work that through imaginative weakness, lyrical triteness, and compositional blandness failed to convince even its composer to continue composing. In this dedicated performance with Werner Andreas Albert leading the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Bischoff's Symphony in E major is pleasantly derivative, mildly diverting, and ultimately soporific. The manner is that of a shy Strauss, the means are those of a timid Mahler, and the lengths are out of all proportion to its insipid themes. While those who need to know what the contemporaries of Strauss and Mahler were up to may want to check out Bischoff's First, they may find themselves napping long before the work is over. CPO's sound is clean and cool.