Fringe Box



Review: G Live – No posturing

Published on: 21 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 29 Nov, 2013

A review of Czech National Symphony Orchestra

by The Stage Dragon

On Wednesday 27 November, in association with IMG, G Live promoted a concert by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Libor Pešek. This was the second concert the International Orchestral Concert Series 2013/14 and the artists did not disappoint.

Noriko Ogawa

Noriko Ogawa [photo: S.Mitsuta]

Opening with the Johann Strauss Overture to Die Fledermaus, Pešek immediately made a strong impression with his calm and measured command of the performance.  The resulting music was unhurried with passagework clear in every detail – although it has to be said that the dynamic range was perhaps a tad limited.

This was followed by the Grieg Piano Concerto, stylishly performed by Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa.  At last we had a real pianist to make the piano sound fill the hall. Her pedal-work ensured that none of the loud chords were muddied, and her technical abilities ensured that the performance was spot-on. The orchestral support was exemplary. Pešek caught every join and nuance of the soloist’s rubato, and the little instrumental solos were all beautifully played, especially the woodwind links.

In the second half, the orchestra played one if the famous Czech masterpieces, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7. Predominantly in the minor, there is always a danger of a low-key feeling, but this was firm and positive in resolve. Some lovely wind playing at the opening of the second movement, and overall a well-finished performance.

Two things impressed me most about this concert. First the quiet and restrained conducting, without any false posturing or wild gesticulation, Pesek displayed complete mastery of a well-shaped event, and though the music was obviously close to his heart, he never lost sight of the overview. Secondly, the orchestral intonation was remarkable. Naturally, the players are used to working together, but this was a masterclass in how to adjust to each other, to the venue, to the piano, to the temperature. Great teamwork.

The Dvořák is not a long symphony, so we were treated to an encore: Libertango by Ástor Piazzolla. I was not sure if this was going to be suitable to follow Dvořák, but it was a very good arrangement featuring the orchestra’s founder and Solo Trumpet Jan Hasenöhrl, and it proved to be an uplifting number, nicely played, sending us home with a happy heart.

G Live has the facilities, seating and acoustics required of any decent concert hall (and I’m glad that improvements have been made to the signing), but it is a shame about the interior walls being dark and uninviting. Thanks to the lighting team, there was at least a gobo to break the monotony of the black backdrop, but one wonders why the orchestra was on the flat. The front seating was practically deserted, presumably people know about the poor sight lines, but even from the rising stalls, the wind and brass were barely visible. Risers are readily available on site, and there was plenty of space, so why, when tickets are so expensive, should the audience be inconvenienced by this shortcoming?

Whilst I applaud the initiative of the International Orchestral Concert Series, I question the fiscal logic, especially when British Orchestras are struggling in the aftermath of the Olympics financial crisis. So it’s good to see that the BBC Concert Orchestra is soon to appear with Barry Wordsworth in a mixed bag of “musical delights.”  That’s coming up on 11 December, see the booking details below. Perhaps some of you may know that this is the regular orchestra for Stephen Bell and Alasdair Malloy, who frequently appeared as conductor and presenter for the Guildford Philharmonic.


BBC Concert Orchestra, conductor Barry Wordsworth

Wednesday 11 December, 7.30pm.
Tickets: £17 to £25. (+£2 per ticket booking fee – various offers, ask at the box office) 08447 701797 (10am-6pm, Mon-Sat)
For bookings in person, the Ticket Desk in the Main Foyer will be open from 10am Monday to Saturday; on Sundays and Bank Holidays it will open 90 minutes prior to any performance.

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