Symphony No. 6, written in 1880, was Dvorak’s first published symphony. It was published as Symphony No. 1 by Fritz Simrock, but Dvorak considered it to be his fifth. It was written for the Vienna Philharmonic under Hans Richter after a well received performance of Dvorak’s Third Slavonic Rhapsody. The premiere of the piece was postponed however, due mainly to Dvorak still being relatively unknown. The symphony was finally performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 1881. It was one of Dvorak’s first pieces to garner international recognition and helped catapult him to one of the foremost European composers of the time.
A Few Things To Listen For: The Romantic influences of Brahms and Beethoven are heard throughout this piece as well as influences from Czech folksongs. The melodies are rich. The first movement is very reminiscent of classic romantic styles. The second is gentle and peppered with woodwind solos. The third movement is a lively Czech dance, and the fourth is the perfect finale to the piece. The symphony is richer than his fifth, and foreshadows the great symphonies he will write in years to come.
The recording I have is a great free download from the Musikkollegium Winterthur conducted by Jac van Steen. You can find the download through ClassicCat.