Prom 8: Wednesday 20th July 2011 (Czech music)
Presented by Tom Service
A Czech evening with Dvorak's Cello Concerto and a Proms first performance for the six symphonic poems of Má vlast by Smetana.
Dvorák's Cello Concerto is full of melody and heartfelt sentiment, to which French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras will bring both youthful urgency and intimacy, if his recording with tonight's conductor is anything to go by. The work is widely regarded as the finest concerto ever written for the instrument. Nostalgia turns to nationalism in the second half, with Smetana's Má vlast - a glorious musical touchstone for 'the resurrection of the Czech nation, its future happiness and glory'.
Dvorák: Cello Concerto in B minor
Smetana: Má vlast
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Jiri Belohlávek (conductor)
I have read several arguments as to why Ma vlast has never been performed complete in the Proms. One was that the prommers would be 'restive' with the length of the work. Surely they sit or stand through much more trying [in severalways] works and they know at least that their favourite parts are never far away. I have two complete recordings and do make a coffee or tea break in the middle but the linking material is one of the surprises of listening to it complete. It could be thought of as a six movement symphony.
I am going tonight and am really looking forward to it, especially the Ma Vlast. One of my favourite recordings in my collection is the live performance of the Czech Philharmonic when Rafael Kubelik returned to the country from exile in 1990 following the Velvet Revolution. Just wonderful... Only problem is, the bar is now set a teeny bit high now...!
Dvorák's Cello Concerto - wonderful stuff. But I always think the 2nd subject of the 1st movement is similar to the great theme from the finale of Brahms' 1st symphony, whereas traditionally the latter is supposed to resemble the best known them from Beethoven's 9th - something I've never been able to swallow.
Enjoyed the cello concerto, which I hardly know. Is Queyras' recording worth a punt?
I enjoyed the Dvorak Cello Concerto, and Queyras played it very well: if anybody can conduct this work wonderfully it is Belohlavek, who is steeped in the music of his homeland. And though we are only a little way in to 'Ma Vlast', his reading in very fine. I'm amazed that this is the first time that the whole cycle has been played at the Proms.
One point though about the interval talk from the RCM, "The Cello in literature" which failed to mention one of my favourite books of all eternity, Anthony Powell's marvellous roman a clef "A Dance to the Music of Time" in which General Aylmer Conyers, having retired from duties at Buck House takes up the cello as a hobby. The General is one of my favourite characters in the book, and I think should have been mentioned in the talk...
I thought I could remember Libor Pesek and Liverpool Phil doing it some years ago.
What happened to Libor Pesek anyway ?
IIRC General Conyers announces (for no very obvious reason) that he's "an introverted thinker".
Originally Posted by Colonel Danby
Good man! We introverted thinkers must support each other. I too have always liked Conyers.
[This links to a long-dead thread about Myers-Briggs typing. Presumably Conyers had read and digested his Jung Psychological Types and had recognised himself in MBTI terms as either an ISTP or an INTP.]
Alison, they did four of the six, as noted in tonight's programme. Not sure what happened to Pesek...
IIRC Pesek recorded the work twice. I much enjoyed his RLPO version (Virgin). Have to say i thought tonight's Má vlast via iPlayer was only so-so.
Last edited by Mahlerei; 20-07-11 at 23:48.