No one denies that Dvorak’s symphonies are brim-full of memorable melodies, such as the one in the third movement of his Symphony No 8.
It’s an irresistible charmer, sidling seductively, wafting in a summer breeze from Bohemia on a dank wet afternoon in Brum: the CBSO strings and wind were immensely persuasive here under conductor Vassily Sinaisky.
It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.
The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.
The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.
It was a performance of grace and good taste – a little too much of the latter perhaps. In Smetana’s tone poem Vltava from his orchestral cycle Ma Vlast (My Homeland) the mighty river didn’t always surge under Sinaisky, flowing rigidly between the bar lines, and with individual pictorial episodes rather generalized.
But the warrior maiden in Sarka , also from Ma Vlast, leapt straight off the page, the work’s gory ending and romantic interlude (gorgeous clarinet and cellos) vividly portrayed.