Mahler said of a passage in his first symphony that it "must sound like nature not music!" Smetana surely wanted From Bohemia's Woods and Fields to sound like that - and here it burst surging into life.
This orchestra is intimately acquainted with the terrain, both musical and natural, and with Ji?í B?lohlávek at the helm this traversal had depth and power.
It whetted my appetite for a complete performance of Smetana’s epic Má Vlast from this team. Having recently heard their 1992 recording of Dvorak’s seventh symphony it seems B?lohlávek’s interpretation hasn’t changed substantially in 20 years.
There’s no reason it should since it’s one that’s beautifully balanced between Dvorak’s desire to compose a more highly-structured Brahmsian symphony and his ineliminable Bohemian roots.
The orchestra’s tangy, reedy wind section was allowed space and time to relish Dvorak’s melodies but B?lohlávek never meandered – there was always a sense of urgency from the ominous D minor opening to its blazing finale.
How to sum up Hélène Grimaud’s performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto?
Mercurial, moody, occasionally puzzling but definitely never dull. It was mostly played with great clarity and an often cool, sometimes glacial, beauty but there was warmth enough in the first movement’s cadenza and bravura passages. The wonderful transition from second to third movement sounded disappointingly mundane yet in the passage where the music almost comes to a standstill, before the work’s final peroration, Grimaud’s hushed playing was magical.