PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia -- The Philadelphia Orchestra's concert here last night produced an explosive emotional outburst at the end that caught the musicians by surprise. Playing its first concert ever in Prague, the ensemble had programmed Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica," and followed with a Russian work.
The concert, part of the orchestra's current European tour, had been programmed when Czechoslovakia was still a Communist country. No one could have predicted what Beethoven's music would mean in a nation that has since turned its government upside down, whose people have chosen freedom and now grope toward some solid footing as a republic.
When music director Riccardo Muti drew the final notes from the symphony, hoarse voices in the balcony of Smetana Hall shouted their approval. The fervor of the applause was like prairie fire, and Muti and the orchestra stood while it whirled around them.