20th August 2020
The special Czech Philharmonic concert on 20th August was truly exceptional. In full strength, the orchestra performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with its Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov. Brilliant Chen Reiss sang the soprano solo. New concertmaster Jan Fišer made his debut in the first chair a month earlier that had been planned. The audience, attending in greater numbers again, was entranced by the performers and above all their excellent performance.
The concert was obviously very popular. I dare say that the capacity, now limited to 500 people with face masks, was undoubtedly reached. The mighty applause welcoming the home orchestra and the conductor in particular illustrated the overall joy from returning to the concert hall. The musician served a tasty and juicy portion of music to the excited audience. Rather than striving to offer an absolute musical experience, this particular symphony tells a story; or it provokes the audience to use their imagination while listening. The first movement could be perceived as an imaginary key opening the composition’s gates.
The orchestra entered Mahler’s world impeccably. Their coordination, interaction between the musicians and the conductor, crystal clear intonation and the overall atmosphere were unique. The piercing motif of the flute, jingle bells and later the French horn alternated with carefully structured tutti and solo themes. Oboist Jana Brožková stood out in particular. The trombones and tuba are not used in the instrumentation but this does not take away from the mightiness of the orchestral sound. If anyone ever managed to instantly press five hundred people into their seats, Mahler certainly did through this performance. A lady in the audience amused everybody when she eased the tension with an enthusiastic applause after the opening movement.
Following the last tones of the harp at the end of the last movement, the audience rewarded the musicians with an undying applause lasting several minutes during which the conductor singled out all the soloists and the sections. They deserved it, they did an amazing job. Maybe the excitement was even greater as this was the first proper symphonic evening in the Rudolfinum after a long time (though with the extra face masks) but there is no doubt that we do not have to spare praise in the case of this concert.