Friday, November 4,2011:My Country, x2
How do you know a classical music concert is not going to be a sleeper?
The first indication might be that Łukasz Borowicz is conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) at Obecni Dům.
He is just a sliver of a young man, but he more than makes up for this with the energy and passion he brings to the performance.
The second indication might be from the audience reaction at a completely different concert, the Ludus Musicus Early Music group.
They performed traditional songs mixed with narration, at the Dobřichovice Castle. Both were special concerts marking the Czech national day, October 28.
My Country, Obecni Dům
Back with the FOK, gravity could not contain conductor Borowicz during this particular aerobic workout – My Country, the Czech national anthem by Bedřich Smetana. At times Mr Borowicz seemed about to jump over his notes in amongst the musicians; at others, his hair flopping down in unruly bangs, he was grimacing at various members of the orchestra and waving his conductor’s baton so vigorously that had it not been in a firm grip, it would surely have launched to the ceiling for a closer look at the flags. Super-sized flags of both Prague and the Czech Republic were prominently draped above the stage on this special occasion.
The Prague Symphony Orchestra played to a full house, another sign that this was an exceptional concert. Even those without a patriotic Czech bone in their body could not help but be smitten by the dramatic musical imagery, ranging from the serene and festive to the thundering sounds of war.Even small children were delighted, which is yet another indicator of entertainment value. In the balcony to our right was the Mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda … with small children.
There were small children in the first row, there were small children in the seats behind us, and indeed all around.
Moreover, these children were transfixed by the performance.
My Country, at the Castle
The audience for the Ludus Musicus performance running at the same time as FOK’s was just the opposite of young children.
It was the bifocal and comfortable sweater crowd for this performance of traditional Czech music spiced with often humorous asides in the historical narration.
Before the performance began, visitors could enjoy classic paintings of Czech historical events projected on the large room’s wall. But soon all attention snapped to the small orchestra’s sound of snare drum, lute, old-style cello, and other period instruments, almost close enough to touch, as the program began.Here, too, as in the FOK concert, the dramatic musical imagery ranged from the serene and festive to the thundering sounds of war, as tales from Libuše’s founding of Prague to Žižkov’s war victories regaled the audience. None of it was new news to this crowd; their nods and serene smiles showed they were truly enjoying the re-telling of the old stories they had first learned as school children and then had grown up with over the eventful, turbulent following decades.
The highlight for us, though, came at the very end, when the first few notes of the Czech national anthem, Where Is My Country? instantly drew the audience to its feet. Everyone sang.
There were no super-sized flags draped from ceiling to floor at the castle. But for this audience, there didn’t need to be. – oo
– Hana Škrdlová and Frank Trollman in Prague; Mary Matz in Dobřichovice
Photo Credits: Top and middle: Frank Trollman; bottom: Miroslav Setnička