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Fine Playing

The Czech National Symphony Orchestra on tour,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Once again [see Munich Symphony Orchestra, November 2006], a touring foreign orchestra appears at Derby's Assembly Rooms giving a disappointingly mundane performance of the advertised programme, then coming inexplicably alive in the encore.

Under conductor Paul Freeman, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra [Assembly Rooms, Derby UK, 16 May 2007] began with what was, by some distance, the limpest performance of John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine I've heard. It wasn't particularly slow, but the playing had simply no energy to speak of.

Chloë Hanslip was the soloist in Bruch's Scottish Fantasy. Her combination of fine tone, technical polish, and the quiet authority evident in her first entry, served the music well. The inwardness she found in the quieter passages made the deepest impression, especially the close of the third movement and the recollection of the tune 'Auld Rob Morris' near the end of the finale.

There was some fine playing in Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony -- the clear, resiny sound of the lower strings at the start was particularly notable. But the performance never really caught fire, although there were moments, especially in the third movement, when it looked as if it might. The sudden crash that launches the first movement's development section followed the whispered end of the previous passage too hastily to make its proper impact, while the unscripted reduction, then resumption, of speed towards the end of the scherzo served no useful purpose and merely sapped the music of its vitality.

For whatever reason, the performance of Dvorák's Slavonic Dance Op 46 No 8 at the end was in a different league altogether.

Copyright © 21 May 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK





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