English Chamber Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Concert in Memory of Sir Charles Mackerras

Czech Suite, Op.39
Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K467
Flute Concerto in D [London premiere]
Symphony No.38 in D, K504 (Prague)

Olivier Roberti (piano)

Ana de la Vega (flute)

English Chamber Orchestra
Alexander Briger

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 2 December, 2010
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Sir Charles Mackerras. Photograph: Clive BardaThis concert was dedicated to the memory of Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010) and had a decided and appropriate Czech bias to the chosen repertoire. Alexander Briger (nephew of Sir Charles) imbued the Dvořák with the breath of the delightful Bohemian countryside allowing the limpid themes that seem to come so naturally to this composer full exposure.

Olivier Roberti seems a self-effacing musician capable of answering the question of “why do you need the score?” with the answer “I can read music” (as did Otto Klemperer apparently!). It still came as a surprise that such an experienced performer needs to have the score for Mozart’s most-famous (“Elvira Madigan”) piano concerto. Roberti’s performance was gentle and mild-mannered, delightful in a restrained sort of way but leaving whole tracts of Mozartean feeling well alone.

A newly discovered work by a friend of Mozart’s, known to posterity as “the divine Bohemian”, was performed by flautist Ana de la Vega, who has recorded the work. Josef Mysliveček was one of many composers from Mozart’s day who are completely forgotten today. Mysliveček wrote delightful, tuneful music that deserves occasional performance and this Flute Concerto is clearly one of them. Ana de la Vega clearly believes in the work offering plenty of spirit and gusto in such charming and well-wrought music.

Only at the end did the concert really catch fire with the unalloyed masterpiece, Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony. The Austrian composer could be regarded as a Bohemian, perhaps, as so much of his time and energy went into visiting and writing for the city of Prague, particularly in his later years. It was Prague that gave the premiere of his “Requiem” and, of course, “Don Giovanni”. Briger and the ECO caught the essence (in a way missing earlier in the piano concerto) of Mozartean style and substance. Generous with repeats (but not on the scale of Britten’s recording) Briger set the tone with a grand entrance to a sublime masterpiece, thereafter scooting away through the first movement with relish and a sense of unrestrained joy. The slow movement floated on air allowing the graceful simplicity of the themes their full effect. The finale was mercurial and unflagging in its energy; a performance full of feeling and generosity.

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