I checked in with the Czechs this morning at the Musikverein: the Czech Philharmonic under Jiří Bělohlávek performed works by Martinů and Janáček.
The Martinů pieces proved the most rewarding. The concert opened with the somber Memorial for Lidice, a short work composed from exile in memory of a village by that name which was erased from the map and whose entire population was murdered by the Germans in 1942 as reprisal for the assassination by Czech patriots of Reinhard Heydrich, the German occupation government’s “Imperial Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.” A fitting tribute.
Martinů’s Sixth Symphony followed, much more developed in the style of this composer. His sophisticated, and extremely challenging, music rises from the chromatic chords and heads in all directions. It could come across as rather disjointed if performed by lesser forces. But Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic understood the idiom, allowing the music to flow and soar, treating the ears to thrilling new methods of experiencing sound. Martinů’s music is no secret to those who know, but the level of difficulty in making music out of modernity has perhaps limited his exposure. Well-performed Martinů is always worth hearing.
After the intermission, the orchestra returned with the original manuscript version of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. After the first performance, the composer had made changes, and it was the revised version that got published. The revised version eliminated some of the overbearing percussion (which made the work less regligious in feel) and softened or tightened the orchestration elsewhere. Now that I’ve heard the original manuscript version, I would tend to agree with the composer that the changes were necessary. Though we had excellent performers this morning, the work did perhaps suffer from a lack of fluidity. The Vienna Singverein and four soloists (Hibla Gerzmava, Veronika Hajnová, Brandon Jovanovich, and Jan Martiník) joined the orchestra enthusiastically.