Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" was really fantastic !

(taken from a review in  OSTRAVSKENOVINY.CZ  8/11/11)

As a part of the Great Symphony Concert series given by the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostrava, during the concerts held on November 3rd and 4th 2011, Ostrava's audience was enchanted with the spirit of French music in its global beauty and charm. The leading actor was Philippe Bernold, 51 year old French conductor and flutist who teaches the flute at the Conservatory of Lyons and chamber music at the Paris conservatory. Bernold was not in our region for the first time, having already performed here in 1996 during Janacek's May Festival, playing Ibert's flute concerto with the Hradec-Kralove Philharmonic conducted by Frantisek Vajnar at the Opava Silsian Theater.

Several favorable pre-conditions were brought together in this season's concerts. Focusing exclusively on French music was undoubtely the first element. When I once programmed François Devienne's quartets on the radio; one for flute and strings and the other for bassoon and strings, I was fascinated by this music. I heard his flute concerto N° 7 (from a total of 12) for the first time, with amazement and respect for Devienne ( we are probably too used to the 3 flue concerti by W A Mozart) as well as to Philippe Bernold's charimatic virtuosity(as an encore he added Claude Debussy's "Syrinx" a composition particularly evocative of French music.) The suite from Bizet's opera, Carmen, is always a rewarding task for any conductor.

Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique has been played in Ostrava several times and therefore not easy to win the competition with other fine conductors interpreting such a famous work. Bernold was obviosly successful thanks to his graceful but always functional gestures and overal interpretation.In the second movement of the symphony the emotions and inflections of the waltz form (thus avoiding the impression of ritardando) resulted in an interpretation of grace and charm. The very lyrical third movement," Scene in the fields", where two sheperds in the distance have a dialogue between the English horn and the oboe was impressive. The symphony was concluded by a finale with a huge crescendo aided by the excellent brass section.

I t was a splendid evening with an outstanding performance by the orchestra; an evening energized by the charisma of the conductor's artistic personality who also showed a nice approach to the audience. After an encore of one of the movements of Biset's suite, Bernold spoke to the public in today's "dominant" English-reminding me of similar post-concert talks by the Czech conductor Frantisek Stupka.                      

Ivan Merka