19th November 2020
Interpretations of Má vlast have a tendency to attract a lot of attention. The opening concerts of the Prague Spring Festival, where the piece is traditionally performed, are always much anticipated and generate much discussion. More than for any other composition, exceptional performances of Má vlast are frequently remembered. Among two performances most often mentioned are Talich’s performance from 1939, which sparked such a lively reaction that Tábor and Blaník were banned for the remaining years of the protectorate, and the legendary 1990 performance conducted by Kubelík. The Czech Philharmonic is seen as a guarantee of matchless interpretation and style – if not its musicians, who else should have this music in their blood? Despite being distanced for this performance, the Orchestra managed to convey the strength and magnificence of the composition in its entirety. At the same time, Semyon Bychkov took full advantage of the monumental scale of the work, exposing both its textures and its transparency and building on the quality of the Philharmonic’s musicians.
The work opened convincingly with the poetic harp entrance at the beginning of Vyšehrad played by Barbara Pazourová and Jana Boušková. Just as its title suggests, the first symphonic poem was very noble. The carefully structured interpretation and flawless coordination drew attention to the colourful instrumental combinations. From my point of view, the second poem, the popular Vltava, probably brought the most inventive details, such as in the handling of phrasing. Bychkov conducted the poem with elegance and attention to detail, equally reflected in the way he built the melodic line. Šárka was etched very suggestively. The clearly epic character of the poem was perfectly captured by the Czech Philharmonic and the clarity of the symbols, such as Šárka’s clarinet motif played by Tomáš Kopáček, resonated. Despite the pace in the depiction of the relentless attack, the entire Orchestra showed tremendous accuracy and discipline in its articulation.