MIKE WHEELER listens to
the Prague Symphony Orchestra
The Prague Symphony Orchestra may not have the high profile of the Czech Philharmonic, but on this evidence, that's our loss (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 11 May 2009). With their remarkable combination of clean, incisive playing and tonal warmth, their vibrant string sound and colourful winds, they and conductor Petr Altrichter made their programme of familiar music sound freshly-minted.
After a reading of Dvorák's Carnival Overture that was more good-hearted than frenetic, Nikolai Demidenko joined them for Chopin's E minor Piano Concerto. Sometimes with the Chopin concertos you get the feeling that the performers are trying to make them sound like the Beethoven they would rather be playing instead. Not here. The fairly low-key start was an immediate reminder that Chopin's agenda in his concertos is quite different. Demidenko's subtle playing was both forceful and breathtakingly delicate, in full command of the music's every inflection and nuance. A spell-binding account of the nocturne-like second movement was followed by a sprightly finale, with the orchestra contributing some lovely woodwind detail.
Dvorák's Seventh Symphony, in the second half, was little short of a revelation, the music allowed to make its points without being over-burdened with angst. The second movement was wistful rather than solemn, and the third movement danced. Tempi throughout were often a notch down on what we're probably used to, as they were in Carnival, but there was no sense of tension or momentum slackening as a result. It was a refreshingly different take on a favourite work that managed to convince you that this was the kind of performance Dvorák had in mind.
Copyright © 26 May 2009
DERBY ASSEMBLY ROOMS