An Exhilarating and Satisfying Concert From One of Munich’s Lesser Known Orchestras

GermanyGermany Smetana, Prokofiev, Dvořák: Münchner Symphoniker / Francesco Angelico (conductor), Stefan Jackiw (violin) Prinzregententheater, Munich, 20.3.2017. (MC)

Smetana – Overture and three dances from The Bartered Bride

Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No. 2, Op.63

Dvořák – Romance for violin and orchestra, Op.11; The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op.109

As a prelude to this evening concert at the Prinzregententheater early arrivers were treated to a real bonus. Four players from the orchestra gave a sterling performance of Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio, Op.2. A product of his time as a nineteen-year-old student at the Royal College of Music, London with the score Britten won a prize in the Walter Willson Cobbett competition.

One of Munich’s lesser known orchestras Münchner Symphoniker is overshadowed by the big three the renowned Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Münchner Philharmoniker and Bayerisches Staatsorchester, and there is also the Münchner Rundfunkorchester too. In addition to classical music repertoire the Münchner Symphoniker also plays opera productions, film and show music and is an orchestra that deserves a higher profile.

This evening’s concert conducted by Francesco Angelico was an attractive programme by three Slavic composers Smetana, Prokofiev and Dvořák. The opening work Smetana’s Overture and three Dances from his comic opera The Bartered Bride a work that soon became a symbol of Czech Nationalist pride. This was such a welcoming and enjoyable way to commence a programme with really brisk and invigorating playing that just oozed ebullience.

Although a highly accessible work a more serious mood imbued the performance of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.2 in the accomplished hands of American soloist Stefan Jackiw. Noticeable from the first note to the last was Jackiw’s deep concentration and sweet tone from his Vincenzo Ruggieri violin with writing that habitually inhabits the highest register. Admirable were the mood swings of the opening Allegro and remarkable was the breathtaking beauty and intensity of the slow movement. High voltage playing marked the Allegro finale which was both resolute and passionate.

After the interval Jackiw returned to the stage for Dvořák’s Romance a glorious work that doesn’t get played as often as its quality merits. The violin was the composer’s own instrument and the writing lies beautifully for the soloist. Jackiw made a convincing case for the work extracting all the passion that he could from the music which was given a lovely tender ending. Jackiw further endeared himself to the large audience with a stunning performance of the Largo from J.S. Bach’s C major violin sonata (No.3). This was the first time I had seen Jackiw perform and I hope is not the last.

The final work of the evening was Dvořák’s symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel a work from the final decade of the composer’s life. Sadly Dvořák’s group of symphonic poems seems rather unfashionable these days but it is always a pleasure to hear them. Francesco Angelico had full measure of the score in a performance bursting with tonal warmth and vitality. Impressive was the playing of the score’s major string theme and I prized the violin solos from the leader and lovely woodwind playing, especially the cor anglais, all sounding splendid in this wooden cladded stage. Angelico and his players provided a stunning conclusion that certainly made the pulse race; making an exhilarating end to a satisfying concert.

Michael Cookson

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