Friday, January 27, 2012


January 25

Building a lush wall of sound behind the jazz combo.

It was SRO at the Rudolfinum on Wednesday night for the big-band extravaganza featuring American jazz stars John Scofield and Vince Mendoza. An enthusiastic crowd, strikingly younger and decidedly more rambunctious than the usual audience for classical music concerts, jammed Dvořák Hall. With the diplomatic set filling the main floor, even Czech jazz star Jiří Stivín was relegated to the cheap seats upstairs, where fans sat in the aisles behind columns to hear the music.

The occasion was the official opening of the Danish EU Presidency, which should happen more often if it comes with a celebration like this: Mendoza conducting the combined Danish Radio Big Band and Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in a re-creation of 54, the Grammy Award-winning album that he and Scofield recorded in 2010. As Scofield said during a break between songs, “There’s a lot of different nationalities on stage here tonight. But we’re having no trouble communicating through the language of music.”

The EU should be so lucky – or so well-organized. The stage was split, with the string sections of the orchestra on the left, and a large group of horns (15 from the DRBB, and 5 from the orchestra) on the right. A percussion section down the middle was anchored by a drum kit up front, flanked by keyboards, standup bass, rhythm guitar and Scofield on lead guitar, arranged in a semicircle around the podium. The balance was excellent, with the jazz combo at the front of the stage working off lush walls of sound from the strings and horns behind them.

The minute Mendoza struck up the opening number, Door #3 (from Scofield’s 1996 release Quiet), it was like being transported to Los Angeles – a smooth, mellow sound with the golden burnish of southern California. That was basically a warm-up for “Carlos,” the opening cut on 54, which picked up both the pace and punch, with Scofield providing some tasty licks and the DRBB cranking up the brass. A nifty bridge by Mendoza added some percussive pop.

The next three pieces, also from 54 – “Jung Parade,” “Honest I Do” and “Polo Towers” – showcased the main strengths of both the album and evening, Mendoza’s energetic arrangements and Scofield’s smart guitar playing. The two men have been working together on this material for so long that there’s a natural flow to their performance, which features something fresh in every song. Scofield opened most of them with a solo that set the tone and tempo, then Mendoza would layer in the horns and strings – sometimes with gentle brushstrokes, as in “Honest I Do,” other times with vivid colors and driving rhythms, as in “Polo Towers.”

A fragrant finish.
The second half opened with an unannounced treat: Scofield took the stage with just the bass, drums and keyboard player for a straight-ahead version of Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In.” It offered a reminder of what makes the guitarist great – an incredibly fluid and inventive style, and a remarkable ability to take a simple phrase and do something special with it. Scofield then provided some of the best laughs of the evening when Mendoza missed his cue to come out with the orchestra, and with the whole house waiting, Scofield picked up the baton and said, “I guess it’s up to me now.” That brought Mendoza to the podium fast.

The real conductor fired up a lively version of “Beauty and Sadness,” a cut from his latest release, Nights on Earth, that featured some fine duet work by the bass and keyboard players. Then three more songs from 54 rounded out the program, with Scofield getting to his feet for a bluesy exchange with the horn section in “Twang.” “Say We Did” dropped back into the mellow mode, with an all-strings bridge adding a nice glow. The finale, “Out of the City,” lacked the edge that it has on the disc, but otherwise provided a snappy finish. For the encore, Scofield reeled off a brief, rockin’ reprise of “Carlos.”

A steady succession of DRBB players stepped up for solos throughout the evening, adding individual flavors to the mix and showing impressive proficiency. Well-versed in the jazz vernacular, this band can flat-out play. The orchestra stayed mostly in a supporting role, but showed some flair and crisp playing when Mendoza called for it.

This is a very special event – it doesn’t happen very often,” Mendoza said at one point, which for once was not an exaggeration. From the free champagne and hors d’oeuvres at intermission to the brilliant collaboration onstage, it was a memorable and in some ways unprecedented evening. As Danish Ambassador Ole Emil Moesby pointed out in a speech before the performance, it was also a reminder of what can happen when two flagship radio stations cooperate on a cultural project. Here’s hoping for more.

For more on

The Danish Radio Big Band:

The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra:

Czech Radio photos by Petr Horník

Monday, January 23, 2012


National Theater
January 14

The performers are overwhelmed by the special effects.

The new “family opera” at the National Theater, Enchantia (Čarokraj in Czech), has all the ingredients of a winner: well-established source material in Gerald Durrell’s The Talking Parcel; a brilliant production team headed by theatrical impresarios Petr and Matěj Forman; and a promising bestiary and pull-out map of Mythologia, the opera’s setting, in the program book.

But the Jan. 14 premiere was a classic case of overreaching, focused so much on form that the substance got lost in the process.

Every Forman production has a conceit. This one posits that intrepid explorers discovered a secret entrance to the enchanted realm of Mythologia under the National Theater – where, indeed, construction is currently underway – and persuaded its musically inclined inhabitants to offer a glimpse of their hidden world.

As the audience enters the theater, fantastic creatures are scattered throughout the hall. A talking parrot is holding forth in one of the loges. A huge phoenix flaps in the highest balcony. Angels with tiny wings and glowing headdresses are singing in the aisles. They slowly make their way to the stage, where other strange denizens of an underwater world are gathering beneath gargantuan, undulating plants. After the scrim rises, the magician Junketberry rolls onstage in a giant seashell to announce that the audience is privileged to witness a ritual that happens once every 50 years.

Exactly what happens after that promising start is hard to say. The ritual involves a talking book that is promptly stolen by the cockatrices, a nasty group of rooster-headed lizards who live in a spooky, Hieronymus Bosch-style house. To rescue the book, the parrot joins forces with a talking frog and Penelope, a young girl in search of her missing violin, and they sail to werewolf island to find a special plant.

After encounters with the werewolves, along with prehistoric fish, mermaids, weasels, moon calves and the occasional unicorn, the trio returns with the plant but somehow everyone winds up at the mercy of the cockatrices, whose leader declares, “Mythologia is ours!” In a nifty effect, the very curtains of the National Theater stage seem to be dissolving when the parrot flies in with a last-minute rescue, the precise nature of which still escapes this critic.

Presumably, it would help to know the source material. But even for someone familiar with it, the production is a murky affair. In many scenes, the elaborate masks make it hard to tell who is singing. The stage is kept unusually dark, adding to the effectiveness of the costumes but muddying the action. In the nonstop parade of special effects, what little narrative Enchantia has breaks down into a series of disjointed vignettes offering spectacular visuals but no coherence, making the rock ’n’ roll coda tacked onto the happy ending seem even more contrived and artificial.

What accounts for this? Clearly, the brothers Forman became so enamored of creating a phantasmagorical set and characters that they paid little attention to developing a clear storyline, perhaps assuming that everyone shares their enthusiasm and knowledge of Durrell’s book. And the libretto was created by committee – Petr Forman, Ivan Arsenjev and Radek Malý – which is almost never a good idea. The only unifying element is the original score by composer and conductor Marko Ivanović, who did a great job at the premiere leading the National Theater orchestra through some unusual musical gyrations.

The singing and acting were impossible to gauge. Most impressive were the animal imitations by the many singers and dancers, in particular the mermaids with their flapping, Monty Pythonesque fish tails, whose vocal trios brought to mind Wagner’s Rhinemaidens. The only hint of a personality came from the talking frog, who consistently got laughs, especially from the children in the audience.

In the end, they may be the only group that matters. Enchantia was created for Czech families looking for 90 minutes of harmless fun in the splendor of the National Theater, not cranky critics. If their reaction at the premiere was any indication, the production should do well.

Still, it’s a disappointment. Coming from anyone else, such amateurish lapses would be understandable. But the Forman brothers have shown themselves to be masters of the creative use of space on their theater boat, Tajemství. And their previous productions at the National Theater were models of sophistication and imagination. They won awards for their work with their father, Miloš Forman, on A Walk Worthwhile. And they wove a genuine spell of enchantment with their 2003 version of Philip Glass’ Beauty and the Beast. But the live horse they put onstage in that production made more sense than an entire herd of dancing moon calves.

For more on

The Forman brothers’ website (in Czech only):

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Czech Museum of Music
January 13
Prague Conservatory
January 17

A setting as innovative as the music.

That was not a UFO parked in the lobby of the Czech Museum of Music on Friday night. It was an inflatable installation by the artist Kateřina Vincourová, created for a modern music...well, not “concert” exactly. “Experience” might be a better word for one of the most imaginative events in Prague in a long time, part of a growing and increasingly interesting contemporary music scene.

The installation was the idea of Didier Montagné, the former director of the French Institute who is now running Kairos, an independent cultural altelier. He and Vincourová collaborated on an exercise in synesthesia, creating an environment where the eyes “listen” to the music and the ears “observe.”
New ideas in the Old World.

This was done by placing three musicians in the center of a fabric bowl punctured by holes in which listeners could pop up, so to speak, to watch them play. The music, an original ambient work by Czech composer Miroslav Srnka, was perfect for the setting, creating an airy, otherworldly atmosphere. And it changed depending on oneʼs location – outside the bowl, in one of the holes or on the balcony above – creating different relationships between the listener and the sound. In its best moments, the sensation really was like seeing music and hearing art.

That performance was preceded by a tribute to Martin Marek, a former cellist whose compositions have garnered performances in such disparate locations as the Netherlands, Italy and Japan. An elegant composer whose work spans several modern genres and requires precise, often difficult technique, Marek sat placidly in the audience as various combinations of the Prague Modern and MoEns ensembles played five of his pieces.

They covered an impressive range, from staccato works for solo flute and violin to ensemble pieces that tumbled out like broken shards of progressions and phrases, or collages of contrasting textures. A string trio, 37 Views of Řip Mountain, interspersed melodic, contemplative passages with bursts of multicolored mosaics. I Sette girangoli, a work for seven players commissioned by the MD7 Ensemble in Slovenia, featured vibrant overlapping structures and sounds, including some prominent and witty runs from a trombone.

For once, the notoriously bad acoustics of the museum worked in the musicʼs favor, with the sound kept clear by an audience packed tightly in a semicircle around the players, and ascending string and woodwind lines floating gracefully into the upper reaches of the atrium. Marek got a nice hand afterward, which was well-deserved. His individual works are always engaging, but hearing five in a row revealed a composer of intelligence and sensitivity.

The Prague Modern players were back onstage a few nights later at the conservatory for their regular monthly appearance in the Prague Philharmoniaʼs Le bel aujourdʼhui series. The focus was on the new generation of Czech composers, characterized by the program as “unburdened of tributary relation to any regime and the expectations of cultural pseudo-elites.” They hardly seem so political in person, but thereʼs no question that the young bloods feel free to juxtapose and juggle ideas unencumbered by any preexisting restraints.

Petr Bakla joked after the performance that his Scales, Octaves, Repetitions #7 was a dangerous flirtation with banality, but to this critic it seemed like a clever exercise in tone and pitch that managed to sound both free-form and structured at the same time. And there were some nice jazz overtones in the way the four instruments traded leads and rhythms. Luboš Mrvičkaʼs new work for the ensemble, Trio – Part A, was quite short, barely shifting out of its abstract opening into an uptempo development when it suddenly stopped. There was not even enough time to formulate a reaction, other than gratitude for the work being too brief rather than too long, the primary sin of many modern music pieces.

Ondřej Štochlʼs Idée fixe was a very interesting study in constructing and deconstructing sounds, with some compelling sonics from a quartet of flute, clarinet, violin and cello given occasional electric jolts by a harpsichord. Michal Nejtekʼs pop sensibilities came to the fore in Sunday Akathisia/Letʼs Sing an Akathist, which started off with the driving rhythm of six instruments playing in four different time signatures, then segued into an unabashedly sentimental melody led by an emotional violin and French horn. The concluding work, František Chaloupkaʼs Mount. (Never) Rests, was perhaps the least satisfying of the evening, with three ideas in as many movements developed in predictable ways that didnʼt break much new ground.

One never goes to modern music concerts expecting to like everything. The exposure to fresh ideas and new ways of thinking about music is what matters, and in that respect Prague has a great deal to offer these days. Contemporary Czech composers have had a lot to overcome – 40 years of socialist censorship, and a music establishment with innately conservative tastes. But bolstered by a new generation of audiences and supporters, it seems theyʼre finally coming into their own.

For more on Prague Modern:

To read a conversation with Martin Marek:

Photos by Ondřej Melecký.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


State Opera
Jan. 12

The amusingly uncouth Don Pinto (Zdeněk Plech).

One of the hallmarks of the legendary American film director D.W. Griffith was his ability to handle crowds. Which is to say, put large numbers of people onscreen in epic productions and make them seem perfectly realistic and natural without interrupting the flow of the story.

Die drei Pintos (The three Pintos), the newest production at the State Opera, is far from an epic. Itʼs a light comic opera with an unusual pedigree and strong connections to Prague. But the constant bustle of people across the stage offers a reminder that the director, Jiří Nekvasil, is also quite skilled at handling crowds – just one of many attributes that make him the best opera director working in the Czech Republic today.

Nekvasil had his eye on Die drei Pintos 10 years ago, when he was artistic director at the State Opera (he now holds that position at the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava). The music was written by two composers, both of whom have Czech ties. Carl Maria von Weber, who worked as the director of Pragueʼs Estates Theater from 1813 to 1816, started composing Die drei Pintos in 1821, but died before he could finish it. Gustav Mahler, born and raised in southern Bohemia, and director of Pragueʼs New German Theater in 1885-86, completed the score in 1887 at the urging of Weberʼs grandson Carl. Mahler personally conducted the world premiere in Leipzig in January 1888, and the Prague premiere seven months later.
Jiří Nekvasil

For mainly bureaucratic reasons, it took a decade for Nekvasilʼs version of Die drei Pintos to reach the stage – and then, barely making it into the Mahler anniversary years with a “pre-premiere” performance on December 22, the 100th anniversary of Mahlerʼs death. But it was worth the wait. The formal premiere on Thursday provided a light-hearted eveningʼs entertainment and a worthy addition to the State Opera repertoire.

The story concerns an arranged marriage between Don Pinto de Fonseca, a country bumpkin, and Clarissa, a sophisticated Madrid maiden who wants to marry her boyfriend, Don Gomez de Freiros. Pinto and Clarissa have never met. So when Don Gaston Viratos and his servant, Ambrosio, meet Pinto and learn of the impending debacle, they decide to steal his letter of introduction and make for Madrid themselves. Intending to impersonate Pinto, Gaston has a change of heart after he meets Gomez, gives him the letter and helps the young lovers to a happy conclusion, making a fool of the real Pinto in the process.

One of the reasons Die drei Pintos is not produced more often is because it tells a story set in 17th-century Spain to German Romantic music of the 19th century. Nekvasil neatly resolves this conundrum by moving the action to a contemporary setting, opening the opera in a Spanish pub (bullfighting posters on the walls, a football game on TV) with distinct Czech overtones (roast pork and foam-caked beer glasses on the tables). While Gaston and Ambrosio lead a crowd of students celebrating the end of the school year, then realize they just drank away all their money, the pub hums with background activity – busy waiters, stumbling drunks, raucous sports fans and women queuing at the restroom.

The staging becomes even more complicated when Pinto enters, brandishing his letter of introduction on his way to Madrid, and Gaston and Ambrosio lead him through a slapstick lesson in courtship. By the time Pinto passes out and his tutors make off with his letter, the whole pub is in on the gag – a nifty bit of directing, with all the activity culminating in an amusing and enticing setup rather than getting in the way of the story, which is what usually happens when too many people are on the stage.

The flow is not quite as smooth in the second and third acts, which takes place on an eye-catching but cumbersome set. The palatial home of Clarissaʼs father, Don Pantaleone de Pacheco, is filled with oversized furniture and objets dʼart arrayed along multiple risers and steps, difficult terrain to negotiate under any circumstances. But Nekvasil deftly moves his characters to the front of the stage for their arias, and brings in the chorus from the side stairways that descend into the audience, keeping the focus where it belongs while maids, servants and other assorted extras crisscross in the background.

The characters also benefit from the fine work of Števo Capko, a local actor, choreographer and movement specialist who gives them fluency and identity. Pintoʼs slovenly behavior and pratfalls in the pub quickly establish him as unworthy of Clarissa. Ambrosio mugs his way through an early drinking song with some exaggerated gestures and dance steps that ultimately become the theme of the closing production number. And the constant parade of background figures move with an acrobatic elegance that lends the production a light, liquid quality.

The opening-night cast was uniformly good. In particular, Zděnek Plech portrayed a convincingly uncouth Pinto; Jakub Pustina added some sparkle to the secondary role of Ambrosio; Jana Horáková Levicová commanded the stage in her brief turns as Clarissaʼs maid Laura; and Jana Sibera, whose high coloratura soprano has graced many productions at the State Opera, was note-perfect as the anxious, air-headed Clarissa. The workhorse of the evening was Chinese expat WeiLong Tao, a polished singer and actor who was perhaps not quite right for the part of Gaston, as he looks like what he is – a middle-aged Asian – rather than a rambunctious young student.

The music was prepared by German conductor Heiko Mathias Förster, under whose baton it seemed not like a patchwork, but a seamless blend of frothy melodies and arias with occasional clearly identifiable Weber or Mahler elements. Förster gave the music a bright effervescence, creating the ambience of a Viennese ballroom.

Still, Nekvasil is the star of the show. He never appears onstage, but his handiwork is unmistakable in the balance and sweep of the production, which grabs the audience in its opening moments and takes them on a two-hour joyride. Particularly for an obscure German comedy, thatʼs an impressive accomplishment.

For more on Jiří Nekvasil:

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Obecní dům
January 6

Conductor Kukal is also a noted composer and violinist.

Good to see the Hradec Králové Philharmonic in town for a Twelfth Night concert, the penultimate performance of the České Doteky Hudby (Czech Touches of Music) festival. The orchestra, one of many regional ensembles in the Czech Republic, may be best-known for its forays into modern music. In November, it staged a three-day tribute to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who promised to attend but did not. That would be bold programming in any city.

For the festival, the orchestra showed a decidedly different profile, opening the festivities at Prague Castle on Dec. 16 with the greatest hits of Pink Floyd – yes, the psychedelic rock band. “We know that when we want to earn money, we have to do these kind of concerts,” orchestra manager Marcela Jakubská sighed at the time. But itʼs worth noting that every time the orchestra performs the Pink Floyd program, it sells out.

Art trumped commerce at the Twelfth Night concert, more or less. The program was designed to attract the tourist crowd that made up the bulk of the audience: Bach and Mozart concertos, Tchaikovskyʼs familiar Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. But it also featured two smart Czech selections, Josef Foersterʼs Three Kings melodrama (1920) and Josef Sukʼs Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra (1902). And the soloists included two internationally famous names, Spanish flute player Claudi Arimany and Czech harp player Kateřina Englichová.

The program opened with Bachʼs Brandenberg Concerto No. 4, a piece perhaps best reserved for a smaller ensemble in a more intimate setting. Conductor Ondřej Kukal kept the orchestra muted for the three soloists -- Arimany and two Czech players, flutist Miroslav Matějka and violinist Martina Bačová. The flutes were competent through largely indistinguishable, while Bačová seemed out of her element, like a student turned loose among adults. She is a such a statuesque beauty, though, no one appeared to notice.

Foersterʼs Three Kings, with recitation by Alfred Strejček, was a delight, and all too brief. In just a few minutes, Kukal managed to invoke a festive mood with regal horns and bright colors. Unabashedly Romantic, Three Kings is just one section of a four-part melodrama, and its joyful spirit and engaging melodies left this critic wishing the other three sections had been on the program instead of the usual tourist fare.

However, the Mozart Concerto in C major for flute, harp and orchestra (K. 297c) afforded an opportunity to see Arimany and Englichová play together, which was a treat. Both are precise musicians who manage to combine technical expertise with vibrant expression, and they obviously enjoyed working together. The orchestra never quite achieved the electric level that characterizes good Mozart, but the soloists were excellent.

A full version of the ensemble sounded better after intermission with Sukʼs Fantasy for violin and orchestra in G minor. The composer, the grandfather of the recently deceased Czech violinist of the same name, did some interesting work that is not often heard outside the Czech lands. This piece, a skillful swirl of shifting melodies, moods and tempos, would stand on its own in any context. Kukal had a great feel for it, coaxing some fine textures from the strings and just the right pop from the percussionists. And Bačová, in another dazzling gown, sounded much better. Her playing is not the caliber of a concert soloist, but itʼs good to see young talent being given a chance to develop.

Kukal also did a fine job with the concluding Tchaikovsky, keeping the sentimentality in check and producing a nicely balanced sound with notable transparency and range. It lacked a crisp edge, even becoming ragged at times. But Kukal brought out the contrasting undercurrents of the music, which disappear in some interpretations. And he demurred during the applause, graciously pointing to the popular, timeless score.

The half-full hall suggested that Jakubská knows her business – in purely monetary terms, pop music outperforms the classics. But as a holiday celebration and elegant way to start the new year, this concert was a gem.

For more on the Hradec Králové Philharmonic:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Richard Zeller & Lily Zhang
January 2
Friedrich Kleinhapl & Andreas Woyke
January 3

Kleinhapl and Woyke: Beethoven served fine and dry.

Legend holds that both Mozart and Haydn played the organ at the Church of Sts. Simon and Jude in Old Town. That’s probably more fanciful than factual. But two concerts that opened the new year there offered reminders that in its current incarnation as a chamber music hall, the church attracts a steady stream of first-rate performers.

On Tuesday night, an expanded version of the Talich Chamber Orchestra crammed the sanctuary to provide backing for two visiting vocalists: American baritone Richard Zeller and Chinese soprano Lily Zhang. The program was opera lite – familiar arias by Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi and Bizet – but the venue gave the packed house a close-up look at the considerable talents of Zeller and Zhang, who was making her Prague debut.

Baritone Zeller.
Zeller, a polished performer who appears regularly on opera stages around the world, first sang in Prague in 1996, and opened the Dvořák Festival in Přibram last year with the Talich ensemble. He is one of those rare singers who instantly commands attention, even with well-worn perennials like “Come Paride vezzoso” from L’Elisir d’amore and the “Votre toast” from Carmen. Zeller’s deep, resonant voice, dramatic tones and powerful delivery are like a force of nature, pulling you into a piece before you realize what’s happened. To this critic, he was far more interesting and compelling than comparable singers like Thomas Hampson, who have arrived in Prague with much greater fanfare.

Soprano Zhang.
Zhang has a lovely but not very strong voice, which was occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra. Her repertoire, at least for this appearance, was limited to Mozart, which she handled with technical proficiency though not much dexterity. Zhang’s vocals grew warmer over the course of the program, and were lustrous in two duets with Zeller, “Madamigella Valery” from La Traviata “Udiste Come albeggi” from Il Trovatore. An encore duet from Don Giovanni put an elegant finishing touch on the evening.

Conductor Jan Talich showed a fine hand with a larger ensemble, building a big sound with a lot of energy and some nice colors, particularly from the horns. If the balance wasn’t always right with the singers, the orchestra nonetheless showed impressive range in the intermezzos, from the sensitive strains of Cavalleria Rusticana to the rousing blasts of Rossini’s William Tell overture. And hats off to the orchestra managers for getting the auspices of both the American and Chinese embassies – a first in Prague, and another demonstration that culture offers a common meeting ground where politics often does not.

The following night offered a different dynamic: virtuoso instrumental work from two impressive Austrian players, cellist Friedrich Kleinhapl and pianist Andreas Woyke. Both men carved out significant solo careers before beginning their collaboration as a duo in 2003, which has produced several CDs and continues with regular concert appearances around the world.

Woyke has a soft touch on the keyboard, a refreshing change from the banging that often characterizes strong piano performances. His workmanlike approach belies the lyrical quality of his playing, which flows from the stage like ripples on water. It was a good fit for the all-Beethoven program – four sonatas, three for cello and piano, and one (Violin sonata in G major, Op. 96) adapted for the cello. Woyke took a pronounced role in each, setting a clear tone and pace without becoming overbearing.

Kleinhapfl is an inspiration to see in action. His small stature – he is barely taller than his instrument – makes special demands on everything from his chair to his playing style. He makes no compromise in his performances, however, attacking pieces with a fierce intensity and blazing through complicated runs that bigger hands would be hard-pressed to match. His style can be choppy and not as well-defined as many accomplished cello players, and he seldom assumed a commanding voice in the duets. But his technical mastery of his instrument is remarkable.

The duo’s take on Beethoven was straightforward and perhaps a bit dry, lacking color in many passages. No complaints, though. It was a treat to hear playing of that caliber and intelligence without the many liberties that performers often take with chamber works. They seemed to loosen up a bit by the final piece, the Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, which had a satisfying vibrancy and flair. And their encore, a lively rendition of Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata Op. 40, left this critic wishing the program had been more varied, giving Kleinhapfl and Woyke a chance to show what they can do with a broader repertoire.

By any measure, that’s a lot of talent in two nights. The ghosts of Mozart and Haydn may or may not have been enjoying the music from the choir loft. But classical music fans in Prague are still enjoying the fruits of their labors.

For more on Friedrich Kleinhapl: