A euphoric Ninth in Prague commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall
In Prague, it was Bohuslav Martinů’s Piano Concerto no. 4 with soloist Ivo Kahánek, arguably the finest Czech pianist of his generation (Kahánek is 35). Though he is known primarily for his luminous interpretations of Janáček, Kahánek made the Martinů concerto a signature piece with a memorable performance at the BBC Proms in 2007 with Jiří Bĕlohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Kahánek’s graceful, nuanced approach provided a satisfying counterbalance to Rattle’s boisterous treatment of the concerto, which opened with a burst of color and raced along on surging melodic swells and rifle shots of percussion. The large dimensions made for dramatic contrasts and brilliant fireworks, though were perhaps a bit much for a witty, compact work of just two movements. Immersed in the orchestra, the piano gets few solo lines, but Kahánek made the most of those with a soft touch and smart phrasing. The harp also gets some prominent moments, and positioning it at the front of the stage added a fine filigree to the piece.