The Czech National Symphony Orchestra

The Czech National Philharmonic Orchestra completed a short season of three concerts yesterday evening at the Cadogan Hall, under conductor Petr Altrichter. After Smetana's cheerful Overture to The Bartered Bride Charlie Siem was the soloist in the Dvořák violin concerto. I heard him play the Karłowicz concerto at the same venue iin December, and yesterday, as then, he played with a fluent facility and passion, with only very occasional slightly off intonation on the very highest notes.

He was not, however, supported as well as he might have been by the orchestra: there was a slightly sour tone to the woodwinds - almost like being very slightly off-tune, though I don't think they actually were: it's more a remnant of the pawky quality that used to be common in Eastern European orchestras and may have been as much down to the tone of the oboe as anything else: the woodwind section never really gelled. Add to that a tendency for the horns to blare, and a slightly wooden perfomance overall, and the concerto, though enjoyable enough, never really soared as it should have done.

The second half began with Hummel's Trumpet concerto, with soloist Jan Hasenohrl: one doesn't hear so much of Hummel these days, and though he was born in Bratislava in 1778, in what was then part of the Hungarian Empire and later became Czechoslovakia, his music is firmly rooted in the German tradition. The first two movements are strongly influenced by Mozart, though fairly unmemorable: the last is more fun, a lively Galop placing very considerable demands on the soloist, and well played.

The concert ended with Dvořák's Symphony No. 8; the opening movement went well enough - the orchestra does forceful better than it does lyrical - but the second, slow, movement was rather dull and the third, more lively, movement rather plodding. The Elgarian opening to the final movement was suitably dramatic, and the final accelerated section caught fire much better than the the preceding sections. Overall it was quite enjoyable (and much appreciated by the audience) but the very high quality of the leading orchestras one normally hears does throw even slightly less skilled playing into relief.

Posted: Tue - February 9, 2010 at 10:57 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM