Autumn sunshine: cellos and horns sing a quiet hymn, a bird sings cheerfully, and in a flurry of drums and trumpets, Dvorák’s Eighth Symphony is on its way. Symphonies simply don’t get much happier than this – and violin concertos don’t get much more popular than Bruch’s First, performed by the CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson. Smetana’s tuneful trip down the River Vltava starts our journey today.
… “It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.
The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.
The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.
Dvořák’s powerfully dramatic Seventh Symphony is preceded by Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto (completing this season’s cycle of piano concertos), played by celebrity guest Hélène Grimaud. Beethoven composed the piece as Napoleon’s guns thundered across Vienna; its nobility and grandeur never fail to carry audiences away.
Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert:
The Czech Philharmonic orchestra gave some of their earliest concerts under Dvořák himself. His symphonies and music like Smetana’s From Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests are part of the orchestra’s great tradition, capturing the spirit of the Czech people and their folk music.
6.15pm Free pre-concert conversation with Lyndon Jenkins and Jiří Bělohlávek.
… ” “It is our goal to bring the fame of Czech music to the broadest audiences worldwide,” says Jiri, as he tell me about the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s ambassadorial activities. “Every year the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra spends quite a number of days on tours. As our orchestra plays an important role in the music life in Prague, we have to divide our activities among our subscription series, special projects, educative concerts, recording, and so on. Our policy is to reserve up to approximately 40 concerts per season for international touring,” he says.” …
… “Often eclipsed by the ever popular Ninth ‘New World’ Symphony, No 7 still remains a heart-warming and enjoyable piece of music.
It also demonstrates Dvorak’s talent for blending harmonies, for building on themes and forrevelling in a good tune. No 7 is full of life and vigour as it dances along, bouncing themes back and forth between strings, woodwind and brass, all working together towards its rousing finale.
It is clearly loved by the Czech Philharmonic and conductor Jiri Belohlavek who seemed to greet it like an old friend, quickly embracing its colour and tone and capturing its energy beautifully.” …
… “Matters improved in the lovely central Adagio with orchestra and soloist coming together as one. Grimaud displayed a real depth of feeling here and the seamless transition into the rollicking final Rondo was utterly convincing. This was taken at quite a lick and, despite the last degree of unanimity between soloist and orchestra being again absent, the concerto came to an agreeable conclusion.
The orchestra was back on home territory for Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony. The placement of the violas on the outside right of the orchestra meant that these highly vocal and sweet-sounding players were heard in all their glory throughout the symphony, not least in the opening of the piece. Bělohlávek’s interpretation was for the most part straightforward and quite hard driven. The climaxes in all the movements were tremendously exciting with horns and trumpets tastefully given their heads.”
… “This orchestra is intimately acquainted with the terrain, both musical and natural, and with Jiří Bělohlávek at the helm this traversal had depth and power.
It whetted my appetite for a complete performance of Smetana’s epic Má Vlast from this team. Having recently heard their 1992 recording of Dvorak’s seventh symphony it seems Bělohlávek’s interpretation hasn’t changed substantially in 20 years.
There’s no reason it should since it’s one that’s beautifully balanced between Dvorak’s desire to compose a more highly-structured Brahmsian symphony and his ineliminable Bohemian roots.
Bohemian rhapsodies: when Smetana’s overture to The Bartered Bride burst into fizzing dancing life, so did Czech music. CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner directs a concert of warm sunshine and dark shadows, finishing with the symphony that may not be Dvorák’s best-known – but might just be his greatest. In between comes Bartók’s powerful Second Violin Concerto: Hungarian passion, deep feeling and ear-tingling musical fireworks, played tonight by a young soloist who’s been described as “breathtaking”. www.cbso.co.uk
… “Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.2 impressed even more, although for entirely different reasons. Gardner drew such sensitivity and character from the orchestra, and so many subtleties from the kaleidoscopically transparent score (the delicacies of the Andante involving woodwind, harp and celesta were quite magical), there were times when you almost stopped listening to the soloist.
But the quietly imposing presence and dazzling technique of Valeriy Sokolov made that quite impossible. The young Ukrainian’s vibrant warmth was, as it should be in Bartok’s most melodious outpourings, tinged with elegiac poignancy, while the more virtuosic elements of the piece sparkled with agility.” …