Czech National Symphony Orchestra

FRANK CLIFF Bury St Edmunds Festival event at St Edmundsbury Cathedral


A rousing if unremarkable account of Smetana's Bartered Bride overture began the concert which was given by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra making its first visit to Bury St Edmunds.

Founded as recently as 1993, this was the only Czech music in a programme whose central work was English; Holst's The Planets.

Before this came Rodrigo's guitar concerto Concierto de Aranjuez; a magical synthesis of 18th century ideas in a 20th century setting which produced perhaps the most popular of large-scale pieces for classical guitar.

It is necessary, certainly, in an acoustic such as Bury Cathedral to amplify the guitar but the balance of de Aranjuez' subtle orchestration and soloist Carlos Bonell was near perfect and Bonell's subtle virtuosity was a delight to listen to.

It was also good to hear a complete version of Holst's Planets: that is with the female chorus at the end of Neptune, sensitively sung by the ladies of the Bury St Edmunds Festival Chorus.

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Left to its own devices, Holst's brilliant orchestration will, to a degree, look after itself, and conductor Paul Freeman seemed content to let this happen.

The result was a performance that couldn't fail to be exciting given the brilliance of the score but which ultimately sounded somewhat routine. This was a pity given the potential of this excellent orchestra.