25th November 2019
During the hour that the Manfred symphony lasted, we had time to savor the rich sound of the Czech Philharmonic and the sense of musical drama that Bychkov cultivated. Nothing was left to chance, starting with the layout of the orchestra: the aligned double basses made a solid base supporting all the strings and helped the connection between strings and winds; off centre to one side the trombones and trumpets responded evenly to the horns on the other. This very theatrical organization allowed the qualities of each desk to be made the most of: led from start to finish by a dazzling solo horn, the brass was heroic, brilliant and never heavy. Well spread throughout the beautiful space, their warm vibrato never overwhelmed the powerful and rounded sound of the strings. As for the winds, from the opening bars of the three bassoons, they were singularly forthright and resonant…Conductor and musicians gave a remarkable interpretation of the most dramatic and lyrical pages of the symphony inspired by Lord Byron’s poem: under Bychkov’s high, noble and highly exacting beat, the strings rippled beautifully in the outer movements and the winds produced an epic – but never pompous – breath which allowed this long fresco to sweep along without ever being conscious of the few longeurs.