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Strašil and Dvořák: Czechs in Bangkok

The flourishing Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra recently performed a standout concert in Prince Mahidol Hall. Last Saturday’s program featured Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor and Dvořák’s New World Symphony, all under the direction of the Icelandic conductor Gudni A. Emilsson.

The centerpiece of the concert was Tomáš Strašil’s delicate reading of Schumann’s late Cello Concerto. Poised between fervent emotion, fitting for an early Romantic-era piece, and technical control from a master of his craft, Mr. Strašil displayed not only consummate musicianship, but also human warmth and affection. When I asked him during the intermission about the Schumann piece, he said that, while it doesn’t call for the customary concerto virtuoso pyrotechnics, pushing the limits of the instrument, it does make demands on the performer’s memory. Mr. Strašil also said it’s one of his favorite pieces.

Saturday’s concert marked Tomáš Strašil’s sixth dialogue with the TPO. His enjoyment from the collaboration with the orchestra became palpable under the baton of Gudni A. Emilsson. Emilsson is the most accomplished conductor returning to Mahidol, and the orchestra should make greater use of him in the future. He combines steadfast professionalism, uncompromising attention to detail, commitment to perfection, and indefatigable passion for music with a gentle regard for every single musician entrusted to his care. It’s a pleasure to listen to them making magic.

The TPO would do well to attempt to fill in the silent space created by the recent departure of the great oboist Cooper Wright, which has weakened the wind section. Music before politics. While the brass family excelled in fleshing out the fanfares in the New World Symphony, the winds struggled in the more intimate passages, with the English horn player fumbling the phrasing and articulation of the famous solo.

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