Dennis Russell-Davies conducts a tremendous Brno Philharmonic Orchestra live performance in Basingstoke – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Janáček, Martinů, Dvořák: Laura van der Heijden (cello), Brno Philharmonic Orchestra / Dennis Russell-Davies (conductor). The Anvil, Basingstoke, 14.10.2022. (NB)

Dennis Russell-Davies conducts the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra

Janáček – Taras Bulba – Rhapsody for Orchestra; Jealousy
Martinů – Cello Concerto No.1, H.19
Dvořák – Symphony No.8 in G main, Op.88

One other useful and attention-grabbing live performance as a part of Anvil Arts ‘Worldwide Live performance Collection’. Particularly so because it was a chance to listen to among the best Czech orchestras taking part in music by their ‘hometown’ composer Leoš Janáček. Unhappy to narrate then that the attendance within the corridor was modest – barely half full however all of the performances have been warmly applauded by the attentive viewers. From the orchestral listing it’s obvious that that is nonetheless an orchestra that attracts its membership from gamers born and I think about educated within the nation. Whereas some components of a ‘bohemian’ sound stay, it was notable that the collective sound of the orchestra was much less recognisably Czech than I had been anticipating.

Partially this can be all the way down to their principal conductor, the vastly skilled and well-travelled Dennis Russell-Davies. The music started with Janáček’s three-movement rhapsody for orchestra Taras Bulba. Each Russell-Davies’s conducting and the taking part in of this work have been good examples of the method to your complete programme. His conducting model is a mannequin of unfussy readability. Woodwind solos particularly have been superbly performed however are individually pointed with the group not looking for a homogenous mix in the way in which that many British orchestras do. Likewise, the brass have an edge to their taking part in that helps the devices lower by means of the often-thick textures of the orchestral writing. String taking part in is comparatively lean with clear articulation and alert ensemble taking part in however with out the sheer saturation of tone that some orchestras promote.

Russell-Davies’s interpretations of those dramatic/romantic scores is unsentimental and goal. On this Janáček rhapsody the profit is a exceptional readability of texture and an consciousness of the complexity of the composer’s writing, however this does come on the expense of the sheer theatre of the work in order that the ‘blazing optimism’ of the work’s closing pages (a fast point out for the excellence of Timothy Dowling’s programme notes) didn’t register with fairly as nice a way of exultant launch as I’ve heard elsewhere.

Nevertheless, these very same qualities contributed to creating the Martinů Cello Concerto No.1 the spotlight of the live performance. Right here the orchestra was joined by Laura van der Hiejden for a efficiency of effervescent brilliance. The programme factors to Martinů’s prolific output however often he didn’t revise present works. This concerto was revised twice, and Van der Heijden performed the (most typical) second revision. Her taking part in was a real pleasure from first to final. Technically the appreciable calls for of the work brought on her no issues however most notable was her simple identification with the spirit of the work – bustling power interposed with passages of profound contemplation. Likewise, the objectivity of the rating appeared to swimsuit Russell-Davies’s model particularly nicely and the orchestra responded with top-rank taking part in that was alert, energetic and delicate. There’s one extraordinary passage the place the solo cello dialogues with the principal viola that was a delight. However your complete efficiency was a real triumph and really warmly applauded by the Basingstoke viewers.

After the interval there was extra Janáček, this time his symphonic poem/overture Jealousy. This can be a concentrated, nearly obsessive work written in parallel together with his opera Jenůfa which occupies the identical literal panorama and emotional terrain. Though not written because the overture to the opera it’s typically thought-about as a prelude – literal or in any other case to the work. Within the live performance corridor it’s a real rarity so a specific pleasure to listen to this orchestra taking part in the work. Once more Russell-Davies traded the sheer neo-Romantic drama of the work for clear textures and articulate rhythms. I’ve heard extra blazingly thrilling variations which I most likely desire however the precise high quality of the execution of the work was spectacular.

The live performance concluded with Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 in G main, Op.88. I believe as a Czech orchestral participant, this work – alongside a handful of different works by nationwide composers – have to be each a burden and a delight. As music in its personal proper, it’s a minor miracle of gorgeous melodic movement and orchestral invention, however it’s one thing that such orchestras are obliged to carry out endlessly on such worldwide excursions as presumably one of many works assured to supply an viewers. The taking part in right here was every part one may hope for – technically achieved and characterful – the principal flute received a well-deserved particular person bow on the finish. However I did have a way that that is music that Russell-Davies doesn’t notably love. Definitely together with his background as a up to date music specialist, it ought to come as no shock that he eschews any form of sentimentality or indulgence. Dvořák as a composer has grow to be a sufferer of a efficiency model that ‘milks’ alternatives for extreme expressive rubato and unmarked tempo variations inside actions.  By that measure Russell-Davies was a mannequin of tremendous musical objectivity. The consequence was lovely for positive however in a reasonably unsmiling means. String portamenti have been practically completely eradicated, phrase endings hardly ever expanded and overt emotion held in examine. The advantages of this expressively lean method was once more readability of texture and kind with the genius of Dvořák’s dealing with of the musical materials and his use of the orchestra laid naked in a literal sense. The closing pages of raptly poised string taking part in earlier than the boisterous final bars of the work have been very superbly achieved – for some motive right here Russell-Davies did permit a level of expressive rubato – which to my ear benefitted the music and efficiency tremendously. Once more, this was very warmly acquired by the enthusiastic viewers with conductor and orchestra receiving sustained applause.

A tremendous live performance with Laura Van der Heijden’s cello taking part in the jewel at its centre.

Nick Barnard