27th May 2019
When did “Vyšehrad”, the first of six symphonic poems from Bedřich Smetana’s “Ma Vlást – my homeland” get as much rehearsal as it has with Semyon Bychkov and the Munich Philharmonic at the Gasteig? Opening with two harps, indicating that this is “an old story”, the colourful and melodious music describes the fate of the castle from its golden splendour to its destruction. Once the Castle stood high above Prague, where today there is a large church.
The subsequent “Vltava” is well-known but enchanting, and here sounded more beautiful and exciting than ever before. “Šarka” tells the gruesome story of a woman who lures her lover into a deadly trap, and Bychkov and the truly light-hearted Philharmonic lost no detail, nor melodic or harmonic subtlety of the instrumental score this Sunday morning.
The fact that the fourth poem “From Bohemia’s woods and fields”, with its colourful and diverse portrayal of nature-loving, should actually be the end of the cycle, can still be heard a little today, because both “Tábor” – the movement about the Czech freedom fighting Hussites – with its piercing stomping brass chords and “Blanik” have similar themes in terms of music and content, but they no longer have the high inspiration and density of the earlier four parts.
Whether it was the wonderfully bronze tone of the strings, the radiant brass or the subtle winds: it was all the more impressive that neither the tension nor the beauty of the tonal form waned before the moment of the triumphant finale.