Dvoráks Violin Concerto (1879) is among the least played but most appealing works in the standard repertoire. The segueing of preludial first and rhapsodic second movements, followed by a bracing rondo-finale, owes something to the precedent of Bruchs G minor concerto, which it surpasses in personality and freshness of invention. An experienced concert performer at 19, Sarah Chang has certainly outgrown her prodigy beginnings. Indeed, at times in the outer movements, she seemed to be striving too hard to inject emotion into her interpretation, her tone coarsening under pressure. Yet better this than the auto-pilot approach taken by some of her peers, and the strength of feeling invested in the Adagio was as evident as the spontaneous rush of adrenalin when the Finales central interlude spills over into a reprise of the rondo theme. Belohláveks accompaniment was attentive and alive to the opportunities for musical display offered the soloist. The next five years should be ones to watch in Changs development of a personal interpretative style.
Its only in a series such as this that Janaceks orchestral ballad The Fiddlers Child (1914) is likely to be revived, a pity. This resourceful and evocative piece contains his mature idiom in essence; not least the prominent violin solos - played with feeling by Alexander Barantschik - and searchingly imaginative string writing as a whole. The inspiration is a naturalistic folk-tale recalling the typically grim scenarios of Dvoráks late symphonic poems, and the plangent expression that results finds a corollary in Janáceks output with the opera Fate and the piano suite In the Mist: all products of the wilderness years, before the Prague premiere of Jenufa in 1916 transformed his musical standing.
And nothing so enshrines that eventual standing as the Sinfonietta (1926), Janáceks testimony to Czech nationhood. A work Belohlávek must have given many times, surprise that he has not incorporated many of the textual changes in the critical edition - no stratospheric flutes and piccolos at the climax of the third movement, for instance - was offset by the sheer conviction with which he gauged the traversal from the opening fanfares, through the quirky sequence of movements, to the visceral excitement of the closing peroration. With the additional brass aligned across the rear of the platform, there was no mistaking the air of anticipation, which this fervent performance admirably fulfilled.
- Bohemian Spring continues on Sunday 18 March with the LSO String Ensemble playing Dvorak and Suk, including both composers Serenades
- On Wednesday the 21st, Sir Colin Davis conducts Martinu and Dvorak, the Seventh Symphony. Read Richard Whitehouses review of this concert
- Jiri Belohlavek conducts Suks Asrael Symphony on 10 April
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