The Guardian - G2 - - Live Reviews - An­drew Cle­ments

Royal Fes­ti­val Hall, Lon­don

Vladimir Jurowski’s all-Czech pro­gramme with the LPO, de­vised to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of Cze­choslo­vakia, con­tained only one es­tab­lished repertory piece, Janáček’s Sin­foni­etta. Jurowski’s spa­cious, won­der­fully se­cure per­for­mance of it pro­vided a suit­ably brassy con­clu­sion to what was, af­ter all, a cel­e­bra­tion. But what had come be­fore it – scores by Gideon Klein, Er­win Schul­hoff and Bo­huslav Mart­inů – was any­thing but fa­mil­iar.

Taken to­gether in such ex­em­plary Jurowski per­for­mances, the three works of­fered a re­veal­ing cross­sec­tion of Czech mu­sic be­fore and dur­ing the sec­ond world war. All of them took neo­clas­si­cism as their start­ing point, though Klein had no chance to reach ma­tu­rity as a com­poser; he was only 25 when he was killed early in 1945 af­ter be­ing sent to Auschwitz. His Par­tita for strings, an ar­range­ment by Vo­jtěch Saudek of a string trio com­posed in the Terezin con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1944, uses Mo­ra­vian folk tunes, and the re­sult sounds like some of Bartók’s folk tran­scrip­tions.

The Schul­hoff and Mart­inů pieces were both con­cer­tos for the un­usual com­bi­na­tion of string quar­tet and orches­tra, which were pre­miered in 1932. Com­par­isons be­tween the two are in­evitable. Schul­hoff ’s “orches­tra” is a wind band, and the tangy, acer­bic tex­tures show his mu­si­cal al­le­giance to Hin­demith and Kurt Weill. With the quar­tet al­ways used as a sin­gle unit, the ef­fect is of two mu­si­cal en­gines chug­ging along in par­al­lel, oc­ca­sion­ally gen­er­at­ing some pi­quant dis­so­nances; a brief jazzy episode in the fi­nale hints at the Weimar Repub­lic in which the con­certo was com­posed.

Mart­inů’s con­certo was writ­ten in Paris, though, and seems a much more re­laxed, loosely lyri­cal af­fair. The solo quar­tet cer­tainly has much more ex­pres­sive free­dom than it’s ever al­lowed in Schul­hoff ’s mo­toric tex­tures, and since the Borodin Quar­tet were the soloists with Jurowski and the LPO that was prob­a­bly a good thing – they found real pro­fun­dity in the way the cen­tral slow move­ment builds to a huge cli­max, a sud­den de­fin­i­tive change of mood in a work that is of­ten hard to pin down.

Won­der­fully se­cure per­for­mance … Vladimir Jurowski

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