IT doesn’t get much more authentic than this: Czech music, exquisitely performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Republic’s finest conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek.

They brought to The Anvil dances and tone-poems by Antonin Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, two great composers adept at capturing the spirit of their homeland in music.

Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances show all his skill in writing for the orchestra, reaching out to folk tradition while remaining models of classical form. In them, he discovers radiant musical colours with his combinations of instruments and the Czech players brought them to life with astonishing commitment and delicacy.

Bělohlávek chose the lively ninth and fifteenth Dances to top-and-tail the selection, sandwiching between them the gorgeous tenth Dance, sculpted with expressive finesse that suggested regret and resignation.

Dvořák’s uncomplicated miniatures might have seemed inconsequential next to the mighty, high-minded canvas of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto (the Emperor), but pianist Freddy Kempf (winner of the 1992 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition) was in the mood to extend the fun. His performance was exuberant and emphatic - a young man’s view of a piece that contains some of Beethoven’s most joyful and excitable music.

If you didn’t know before-hand, you wouldn’t guess that the Concerto was composed in a war zone, but Beethoven risked death by staying at his desk to compose it while Napoleon’s troops fought around his Viennese home.

If Kempf’s performance missed some of the tenderness and solemnity that can be found in the Concerto’s long first movement, he made up for it with his inexhaustible spontaneity, heard to best effect in the touching slow movement and beautifully supported by the orchestra. He rewarded the audience’s enthusiastic applause with more Beethoven (“if you insist”, he quipped): the slow movement of the Pathétique Piano Sonata, played with admirable simplicity.

The night really belonged to the Czechs, though, who concluded with three pieces from Smetana’s masterpiece, Ma Vlast (My Country). With Vltava, which celebrates the mighty Czech river, the orchestra’s string players plumbed the water’s depths and shimmering shallows. Quivering clarinet playing added tenderness to the dramatic tale of Šárka and the orchestra painted vivid pictures of the landscape in From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields.

These players really hang on Bělohlávek’s every gesture, producing subtle nuances of phrasing that can only happen when every musician plays and breathes as one. A little more Smetana – The Dance of the Comedians from the opera The Bartered Bride – capped a brilliant concert. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

Andrew Morris