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Concert Review: Glasgow Herald (UK)

Glasgow Herald (UK), 15 April 2013
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh | Herald ScotlandThis will be seen as a political review: the fantastic international classical season at Edinburgh's hall is being used as a stick with which to poke Glasgow, whose province such starry concerts used to be. I'm not interested in polemics: Glasgow is as Glasgow does, and now the Usher Hall does what Glasgow used to do. Fact. End of story. This is now Edinburgh's game. The Czech Phil is a fabulous orchestra: a warm, richly-intoned, seamlessly-blended ensemble, with all the colours, accents and shades that gave Dvorak's Slavonic Dances and Smetana's Ma Vlast, one movement of which was played, that genuine, full-blooded, Czech feel. Admittedly, Dvorak's rarely-played Fifth Symphony, while free of the Wagner pull, is still not fully-formed Dvorak; but it was good to hear the composer in transition. And in the middle we heard the astonishing, conservation-mad pianist Helene Grimaud who (a) turned up, (b) left her animals at home, and (c) did something extraordinary with Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Not for nothing is Mlle Grimaud known as "she who lives with wolves". She does. But while she's idiosyncratic, I've never heard the Emperor Concerto like this. Everything was there in shape and structure, but Grimaud liberated the music from the page. It soared free. It was one of the most wondrous things I have heard.