City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review

By John A Hamilton - Posted on 14 April 2013

Show Details
The Usher Hall
Dvořák - Three Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 1 in B Major (Dance No. 9), No. 2 in E minor (Dance No. 10), and No. 7 in C Major (Dance No. 15); Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat Major, Op. 73 'Emperor'; Smetana – Z českých luhů a hájů (From Bohemia's Meadows and Forests) from Má Vlast (My Country); Dvořák – Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek (chief conductor), Hélène Grimaud (piano)
Running time: 

From the outset the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra captured the attention of a near capacity Usher Hall audience with a lively opening performance of Dvořák's Slavonic Dance No. 9, from his second set of dances, Op. 72, composed in 1886 - the first set, Op. 46, was composed in 1878. Dvořák composed these sets of dances (Opus 46 and Opus 72) based on dance forms and rhythms, and themes stylistic of folk melodies.

The rousing melodic/rhythmic first dance (No.1, dance No. 9) was subsequently contrasted with a delightfully legato/ melodic second dance (No. 2, dance No. 10) countered by accompanying pizzicato cellos and basses. A most energetic performance of dance No. 7, Allegro Vivace, completed the three performed this evening.

Following a reorganisation of orchestral size to accommodate period requirements, and the positioning of The Usher Hall's Steinway piano, Hélène Grimaud (piano) and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra commenced and captivated the audience with an exciting and stylistic interpretation of Beethoven's piano concerto No. 5, Op. 73 - nicknamed the 'Emperor' as a tribute to the work's lasting stature as an emperor among concertos.

Written in the key of E flat major, one of Beethoven's favourite keys because of its ability to express the idea of greatness and give the impression of power, Grimaud demonstrated to great effect that both Beethoven's reason for choice of key and the concerto's nickname bore true testament to a performance of depth, greatly refined power and sensitivity. Words cannot express the sublime balance between lyricism and tension in the beautiful second movement as interpreted by Grimaud, Jiří Bělohlávek (chief conductor), and the exceptional, combined talent and musicianship of members of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

The second half of the evening's programme commenced with a musical description of the Czech countryside as heard in Smetana's symphonic poem, From Bohemia's Meadows and Forests; fourth in the cycle of six, composed October 1875. Dvořák's Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76 concluded the evening's concert, both work's were enthusiastically received by an audience who appreciated performances of romantic and Nationalist music of unquestionable musicality, played by member of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Moreover, after hearty applause, a delighted audience were treated to an encore of an excerpt from Smetana's comic opera, The Bartered Bride.

Time: Saturday 13th April, 2013 at 7.30pm