SMETANA: Ma Vlast (My Country) (2012)

by | Sep 2, 2012 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

SMETANA: Ma Vlast (My Country) (2012)
Performers: Prague Conservatory Sym. Orch./ Jiri Belohlavek
Live recording from 2011 Prague Spring International Music Festival; Complete cycle of symphonic poems
Studio: Czech TV & Radio/Supraphon SU71209 (Distr. by Qualiton)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: Czech PCM stereo, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
All regions
Extras: Documentary on the project, Still photos of preparation
Length: 102:28
Rating: *****
For the 66th Prague Spring International Music Festival opener at Smetana Hall in Prague on May 11, 2011, the staff of the Prague Conservatory of Music decided on an audacious project: celebrating the bicentenary of the founding of the Prague Conservatory by having a huge orchestra of conservatory students perform the complete cycle of six symphonic poems which are so vital to everyone involved in music in the Czech Republic. The audacious project was begun almost two years before the performance date by Conservatory teachers rehearsing individual sections. Then at a five-day rehearsal gathering, conductor Belohlavek helped to shape the final joint performance of the 130-member student orchestra.
The young people had tremendous enthusiasm and energy (more than a lot of professional orchestras) and worked really hard at learning their parts. There were worries that things might go wrong at the final performance in front of the country’s leaders. No worry, this is one of the most exciting versions I’ve heard of this unique orchestral work. Both the two-channel audio and the video coverage are just right. The cameramen did concentrate on the cutest female string players in closeups—especially one cellist with a headband which they keep going back to. Several of the female string players adopted the strapless gowns of Anne-Sophie Mutter. So what?—makes the video side of the concert more interesting, at least to most male viewers. Interesting that none of the female French horn players had strapless gowns.
Except for one tiny clam in the French horns in one section, I didn’t hear anything that would indicate this wasn’t a video of one of the top professional orchestras in the world. The long applause section at the end demonstrates how well the audience responded to the performance. If you’re looking for notes about the work itself, try Wikipedia, because there is little in the note booklet.
From Bohemian Fields and Groves
—John Sunier

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