On the eve of the centennial celebration of the Czech Republic’s independence, the Czech Philharmonic – which debuted under Dvořák in 1896 – and Semyon Bychkov brought two of the composer’s masterworks to Carnegie Hall, the first of thirteen concerts on a US tour of nine cities, opening with a vigorous and colorful rendition of the Cello Concerto. Alisa Weilerstein successfully conveyed the excitement and ardor of the music, her rich tone remaining steady in the most demanding passages of this technically challenging work. Bychkov and the Czech players were warmly supportive throughout, providing a wonderfully refined introduction. The clarinets were especially impressive in the opening theme, as were the flutes in the cadenza-like section of the Adagio. The Finale was full of enthusiasm, and the melancholic slow episode, just before the close, was touchingly handled.
In his Seventh Symphony, Dvořák set out to compose a complex, rigorously organized work “capable of moving the world.” This magisterial rendering confirmed that he accomplished his goal. Bychkov’s drew out all of the score’s depth, harmonic daring and structural intricacy, distinguished by a mysterious opening, an eloquent Poco adagio, a sparkling Scherzo, and a Finale with tremendous impetus. There were two Slavonic Dance encores, a flowing Opus 72/2 and a sprightly Opus 46/1.