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Seen and Heard Prom Review


Prom 16: Schubert, Hukvaldy, Janacek; Soloists, David Goode (organ), Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno;London Philharmonic Orchestra, Kurt Masur (conductor); RAH, 28th July, 2004 (AR)


Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B never really got off the ground in this LPO Prom. Soft string passages were at times barely audible, their delicacy sometimes stifled by the hall’s sheer size. Nor did routine playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra help with the projection of sound. Throughout, Masur opted for string-orientated textures with the all important timpani and trombone passages inadequately phrased. The performance’s pedestrian gait belied a contrast with the inborn radiance and pathos so inherent in the work.


Janacek’s Hukvaldy Songs – (six arrangements for mixed voices 1899) - had a refreshing rawness and simplicity akin to the traditions of Czech native folk song. The Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno - singing a cappella - were sensitively conducted by Petr Fiala. The subtle modulation and intonation of their angelic voices was absolutely exquisite. The most tender and delicate was ‘May God repay you!’ , a moving and poignant song of love and praise to his parents.


While Masur excels in Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky he seems to have no instinct for, or rapport with, Janacek. Having recently been spoilt by hearing Sir Charles Mackerras’ splendid account of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Masur’s reading was a great disappointment. Again, like the Schubert, this was largely a string-orientated performance with Masur giving scant attention to the brass. This was notable in the Introduction where the muffled and congested trumpets and horns were poorly projected. The Kyrie eleison fared better with the superb Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno blending beautifully with the darkly expressive LPO strings. Soprano Zdena Kloubová really shone here, producing a silvery bell-like tone, effortlessly produced. In the concluding passages, Simon Carrington’s crisp timpani were played with great verve in unison with the RAH’s newly refurbished organ.


The opening of the Gloria again had the chorus in glorious form producing meltingly golden tones. Pavol Breslik, at once fragile and fragrant, sung with great passion and expressiveness.


The Credo was played by the LPO strings with grainy warmth, but again the horns suffered from poor intonation, as did the sour trumpets and trombones in the Angus Dei. The closing passages by the chorus were again radiant and glorious. The Varhany organ solo – played by David Goode – was both clumsy and disjointed and a pertinent reminder that loudness is no substitute for musicality.


The closing Intrada passages were an anti-climax with the timpanist, trumpets and horns having little shine or weight. All that saved this rather undisciplined and uninspired performance was the superlative Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno who were truly inspired even if the LPO, particularly the brass section, were not.

Alex Russell


Further Listening

Leoš JANÁČEK: Glagolitic Mass, Taras Bulba; Libuse Domaninska (soprano), Vera Soukupová (contralto), Beno Blachut (tenor),
Eduard Haken (bass), Jaroslav Vodrazka (organ), Prague Philharmonic Choir, Czech Philhar
monic Orchestra; Karel Ancerl conductor. Recorded April 16-20, 1963 (Glagolitic Mass) and May 22-24, 1961 (Taras Bulba)

Karel Ancerl Gold Edition - 7 SUPRAPHON SU 3667-2 911


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