Prom 56, BBCSO / Hrůša, Royal Albert Hall, London, review: Suffused with heady Czech sentiment

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The Hussite chorale “You Who Are Warriors of God”, lustily rendered by the BBC Singers, set the tone for this all-Czech Prom. Jakub Hrůša then turned to the closing two instalments (rarely heard outside the complete cycle) of Smetana’s My Fatherland, the foreboding of ‘Tábor’ melding into the heroism of ‘Blaník’ which emerged as more than usually poetic.

This imposing linage continued in the second half with Dvořák’s Hussite Overture, written for the reopening of Prague’s National Theatre and its Brahmsian rigour suffused with heady Czech sentiment. The ‘Song of the Hussites’ from Janáček’s comic opera The Excursions of Mr Brouček made a fervent though slightly jarring interpolation between this and Josef Suk’s Prague, his panoramic evocation of the city in all its triumphs and adversities; culminating with a massive organ-capped peroration that the BBC Symphony Orchestra audibly relished.

The highlight came before the interval with a revival of the Field Mass that Martinů wrote for Czech forces in France after the Nazi invasion. Less liturgical service than sacred cantata, its fusion of patriotism and prayer leaves an impression as singular as its scoring, and baritone Svatopluk Sem impressed in the monologues at the heart of this uniquely affecting concept.

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