THE MUCH missed Jiri Belohlavek was on the podium for the legendary Czech Philharmonic's most recent Leeds appearance three years ago. Tomas Netopil, one of the Orchestra's two principal guest conductors soon demonstrated in this programme of music by Dvorak that Belohlavek's legacy is in secure hands.

The visual spectacle of eight double basses lined up above the woodwind and the main body of strings heightened one's sense of anticipation. Tomas Netopil opened with two of the more reflective Slavonic Dances - No 6 in B flat and No 8 in A flat from Opus 72. The brilliant dynamic of this orchestra was immediately evident - luxuriant velvety strings, honeyed woodwind and mellow brass positively glowed in these lovely dances, and especially the wistful slow waltz form of No 8.

The density of string textures was reduced for Dvorak's Violin Concerto in A minor. Czech violinist Josef Spacek is an associate artist and the youngest-ever concert master of the Czech Philharmonic. Spacek's sublime phrasing and golden tone suffused this intensely lyrical concerto. His gorgeous pianissimo in the Adagio was matched by the Czech Philharmonic's silken accompaniment. Spacek perfectly captured the lilting dance-like energy of the Finale. A storm of applause from the capacity audience produced an encore - a dazzling performance of the Allegro Furioso from Eugene Ysaye's Violin Sonata No 2 in A minor.

The full ensemble of sixty strings was restored for Dvorak's 'New World' Symphony, No 9 in E minor. Netopil brought out the unbridled lyricism of this much loved piece. Leeds Town Hall's spacious acoustic has occasionally caught first-time visiting conductors off guard - but not this one. Netopil's careful layering of textures and his judging of dynamics revealed the innermost detail - even in the fastest passages.

The rhythmic drive of the Finale with those burnished fortissimo horns, trumpets and trombones has rarely sounded so thrilling. There was, of course, abundant nostalgia in the haunting Largo movement; its yearning theme exquisitely sculpted by the Czech Philharmonic's solo cor anglais. Brahms' rousing Hungarian Dance No 5 in G minor topped the festive atmophere of this wonderful concert.

Geoffrey Mogridge