14th September 2019
The Tchaikovsky – Bychkov – Czech Philharmonic link was the centre of attention of the evening. This is because the first Czech orchestra with its Chief Conductor has already managed to become an exceptionally knowledgeable interpreter of this Russian giant’s music. The power of this trio was then multiplied by the choice of the Manfred Symphony which meant that in the second half, I gained another piece for my exceptional musical experiences collection…
The composer narrates the story of Manfred’s journey, originally by Lord Byron, in four parts, thus deviating from the traditional symphonic scheme only in some aspects. On top of that, Tchaikovsky’s style is not descriptive and even though the symphony has a clear programme, the music also has its own value independent of that. In my view, this is what the Philharmonic players and Bychkov managed to capture brilliantly. Already in the opening Lento Lugubre, they showcased astonishing full sound, drama, and a clear vision of the story as a whole. The Czech Philharmonic’s interpretation offered more lyricism, broader melodies and a simple, almost rural character in the two middle parts, for which Tchaikovsky chose Manfred’s encounter with the Alpine fairy and the images from the life in the mountains. The wind section created some remarkable moments, such as the oboe solo from the beginning of the third movement. The uncompromisingly suggestive, expressive but still tasteful Allegro con fuoco brought the concert to a thrilling end. Such a colourful and balanced sound of the orchestral tutti, during which I felt like the fortes were getting under my skin, is not very common.
I once read somewhere that you know an extraordinary concert performance by the silence that follows the final notes. For a good few seconds following the last notes of Manfred on Friday, you could cut the silence with a knife.“