The concert given by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Cambridge Corn Exchange on Tuesday was splendid.
The conductors Heiko Mathias Förster and Libor Pešek and the soloist Natalie Clein worked with this highly competent orchestra to present a most entertaining programme.
Musicologist Jonathan James began the evening with an enthusiastic and informative talk in Cambridge University Bookshop, explaining the highlights of the composers and their works in preparation for the event.
Schubert’s delightful ‘Unfinished Symphony’ conducted by the orchestra’s principal guest conductor Heiko Mathias Förster opened the concert in the Corn Exchange. The performers brought out Schubert’s lyrical mastery beautifully, shaping the phrasing colourfully with moods transforming clearly from sweetness and light to sudden dramatic darkness.
Natalie Clein. Photo copyright Sussie Alhberg
In Shostakovich’s ‘Cello Concerto No 1’ the solo cellist Natalie Clein performed with passion, infusing her performance with the essence of the pain and urgency of Shostakovich’s style. There were some stirring moments in the orchestra which played with immaculate precision even in the trickiest places.
The demonic woodwind were amazing. The cellist’s encore was an enchanting extra.
Afte the interval under the baton of Libor Pešek we were treated to a lovely performance of Dvořák’s ‘Symphony no. 8 in G major’. It was melodious from the start, the sonority of the cellos and the bird-like flurries from the flute fully explored. This work provided a much lighter contrast to the previous composition and moved easily with momentum from moments of fluffy joy or calm to flashes of anxiety. The conductor’s management of the pauses was exquisite.
Their encore provided yet another delightful contrast. Latin rhythms and sensuous turns in ‘Tango Siempre’ by Piazzolla allowed the trumpet soloist to demonstrate his capacity for genuinely intoxicating showmanship. This was real entertainment.