Review: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra – Smetana’s MÃ¡ Vlast @ SDH
A welcome return from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra who grace us with their presence every few years. With JiÅ™Ã BÄ›lohlÃ¡vek at the helm, I knew what we were in store for; a Czech marathon of compositional delights.
In the first half, we had extracts from DvoÅ™Ã¡k’s Slavonic Dances and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The dances were numbers 9, 10 and 15. You feel the composer’s mischievous nature and a fine handling in Czech folk music. The ones picked were in the classical style of fast, slow and fast. Each had its own worth and whetted our appetites.
The concerto could have clashed with the great Czech nature of the whole programme, as has happened in the past. But here it worked and always proves itself of a great concerto for the instrument. With Josef Å paÄek as the soloist, he is the ripe old age of 25. It felt like he had been playing for years that exceed his age. He hurled himself into the work and made sure he was as sharp as the conductor in the execution. His fresh face and charm is bound to make him a star violinist.
In the second half the fine choices of extracts from Smetana’s MÃ¡ Vlast. Translated as ‘My Homeland’, each of the six movements evokes different factors of Bohemia. Our highlights were Vltava, From Bohemian Meadows And Woods and Å Ã¡rka. Vltava is perhaps Smetana’s most cherished work. It paints a musical landscape of the river Vltava as we pass several events and much scenery. Its eloquence and easy flow can have you swept away by the grand gestures and pleasant scenes. The other two extracts have their moments, yet Vltava is the crowd pleaser, even if it is just a mere twelve minutes.
As we Czeched out (get it?), we even had an encore, which I believe was another from the suit. All the music is very appealing for the Czech ideal. They have a rich heritage in music and perhaps next time round something as ambitious as JanÃ¡Äek’s Glagolitic Mass. Now there would be something.