Friday, 23 September 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, September 2011)

Malaysian Philharmonic / CLAUS PETER FLOR
BIS SACD-1805 / *****

Almost every listener knows Bedrich Smetana’s Die Moldau or Vltava, the tone poem on the river that runs through the heart of Prague. But what about the other five works that make up the Czech nationalist’s orchestral cycle Ma Vlast (My Country)? Inspired by the localities, landscapes and legends of Bohemia, this is an extraordinary symphonic journey which makes for absorbing listening through its 75 minutes. Chords of bardic harps greet the opening of heroic Vysehrad (High Castle), a theme that famously recurs at the close of Die Moldau and the cycle itself.

A furious battle ensues in Sarka, the feminist-leaning legend has its heroine wreak a bloodthirsty vengeance on her male captors. The thread of nature returns for From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields, a Slavonic dance that glorifies the humble polka. The final two poems Tabor and Blanik are nationalist in character, utilising the Hussite hymn Ye Who Are Warriors Of God (after the martyrdom of Reformation cleric Jan Hus), a rallying call for all Czech heroes and patriots. This music offers little concession to non-Czech ensembles, but the superb Malaysian Philharmonic led by German conductor Claus Peter Flor rises to the occasion with unflinching aplomb. Listen for yourself, and you will see.

CLAUS PETER FLOR conducts the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
29 September: BEETHOVEN Symphonies Nos.1 & 3

7 October: RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé & BERLIOZ Te Deum
7.30 pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets available at SISTIC

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