CLASSICAL&OPERA

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Libor Pesek conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in Mozart's Prague Symphony and Dvorak's 7th Symphony as a Harrogate International Festival event on 29 July at 8pm

Over the past few years, Libor Pesek has done much to elevate the Liverpool Phil's sound and ensemble to a truly international level. The notable interpreter of Czec h repertoire stepped down from the post of principal conductor last season, but he maintains a vital relationship with his old orchestra in a much-deserved new capacity of guest conductor laureate.

The evening opens with Smetana's rousing tone poem Vitava, though the two symphonies which follow it transcend their ostensibly Czech roots. Concert promoters must be eternally grateful that Mozart wrote a handful of great symphonies with nicknames. It means, for example, that a performance of Holst's The Planets can be neatly prefaced by the Jupiter Symphony, even though Mozart's last symphonic essay has nothing whatsoever to do with the celestial orb.

In the case of the 38th Symphony (Prague), all we know is that Mozart went to Prague for the first time early in 1787 and that the symphony possibly had its first performance there on 19 January that year.

Dvorak was Czech, but by the time he came to pen his 7th Symphony in 1885, he had left Prague for a country estate. Equally, while Mozart's symphony was penned in Austria and first performed in Czechoslovakia, Dvorak's was written there but as a commission for the Philharmonic Society of London.

With it, one can also detect Dvorak consciously attempting to break free of his nationalist shackles to be a key player on the international scene, like his friend Brahms. That bid for freedom is perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in the first movement, which is said to take its inspiration from an express train. Throughout the 7th, Dvorak effortlessly blends folksy material with a devastating classical and architectural orthodoxy.

The results are consummate, with the work ending in a blaze of orchestral colour, as if the composer were announcing, after his journey: "I have arrived".

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