Nobody plays Antonin Dvorak’s music quite like the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. On Wednesday night, the orchestra performed an all-Dvorak program at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and wowed the crowd from start to finish.
The orchestra has something of a kinship with Dvorak as he was its first conductor at its first concert in 1896. It’s come a long way from then. In 2004, it was nominated for a Grammy Award.
The orchestra, which is on a two-week U.S. tour, didn’t sound like it was another night on the road. From the opening notes of the “Carnival Overture” (1892), the orchestra poured plenty of splash and pizzazz into the music. Conductor Leos Svarovsky set a bright tempo and used a strong dynamic palette.
The sound was robust and very polished. The orchestra was alert and showed the unusual ability to move from a full volume sound to a hard-edge brilliance in less than a bar of music. That takes a level of excellence, an ease in playing together and big ears from the musicians. Obviously, the orchestra, which is very well trained, has all those qualities.
It makes things easier for the conductor. And Svarovsky was quite an interesting one. His stick technique is unusual in that he holds his arms very wide and his beat is way out in front of him and very high. Now and then he’d go into a mini-crouch for emphasis. His cuing, tempos, balances and phrasing were immaculate.
In the “Czech Suite in D Major” (1879), which is based on several Bohemian folk tunes and is for a smaller orchestra, the five movements were quite sweet with gentle, pleasant music. Svarovsky gave everything a graceful lilt with lots of lift and space. The fourth was particularly lyrical with excellent solos from the principal flutist (one of the few women in the orchestra) and the French hornist.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor (1885) showed Dvorak’s exceptional skills as an orchestrator with its clear, complex tapestry. And like a good bottle of wine, the orchestra sounded smooth, rich and silken – quite marvelous.
Svarovsky pulled out all the colors and the lights and shadows of the swirling dances. The mood was dramatically romantic, the energy was vigorous and exultant.
The encore was the festive Slovakian Dance #15.