1st October 2019
Following a successful Tchaikovsky Project residency back home in Prague, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic this autumn embark on further Tchaikovsky residencies in Tokyo, Vienna and Paris. Forming part of a larger Far East Tour starting on 17 October in Taipei, the Tokyo Tchaikovsky residency concerts take place on...
15th September 2019
The fluffiness and smoothness of the string sections once again confirmed the famous and exclusive song-like quality of the Czech Philharmonic strings. The well-known piano cantilena and singing melody of the winds, the parts in which mainly the cellos offered warmth and a touch of Viennese waltz as well as the again capturing cadences with a reminder of the opening melody marked the interpretation very vividly. The temperament of the third movement Allegro vivo with the final majestic joined hymn of the piano and the orchestra was from the very beginning full of brisk energy, almost on the verge of feasibility, the whirl and momentum which only excellent players with champion-like determination can create. There was spontaneous exultation from the audience… The musical partnership of the orchestra and conductor produced the best results revealing their full passion for Tchaikovsky’s work.”
14th September 2019
After the unconvincing opening week of this year’s Dvořák Prague International Music Festival, audiences got the bitter taste out of their mouths with concerts from the Essen Philharmonie and Czech Philharmonic who offered the level of music playing one usually expects from this festival…
After that, the Czech Philharmonic with its Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov played their first festival concert. The programme was based on the recently finished recordings of pieces by Tchaikovsky, who actually was a friend of Dvořák’s. The Piano Concerto No. 1 belongs to the list of all-time most notorious classical pieces. Its striking opening even surpasses the borders of classical music. Soloist Kirill Gerstein promotes the original “modest” version of the First Piano Concerto, although the piece was performed here in its full glory – even though not in the way it often is. Bychkov definitely did not give the “fire” command, the orchestra did not launch a cannonade and the soloist did not begin to show off rumbling chords and physical endurance. Instead of a military parade, music was being created, obviously perfect but without opulence, with honesty and musicians listening to each other…
The Czech Philharmonic and Bychkov gave one of their best joint performances yet [in the Manfred Symphony]. It was full of acoustic beauty, smoothness and spark when all of the instrumental groups literally competed with each other in their qualities, while still forming a perfectly interconnected whole. At the same time, every phrase was intense and deep. Romantism with its pathos can sometimes be viewed as shallow and showy but in this case, it was what it is meant to be – a human emotion.
14th September 2019
The Tchaikovsky – Bychkov – Czech Philharmonic link was the centre of attention of the evening. This is because the first Czech orchestra with its Chief Conductor has already managed to become an exceptionally knowledgeable interpreter of this Russian giant’s music. The power of this trio was then multiplied by the choice of the Manfred Symphony which meant that in the second half, I gained another piece for my exceptional musical experiences collection…
The composer narrates the story of Manfred’s journey, originally by Lord Byron, in four parts, thus deviating from the traditional symphonic scheme only in some aspects. On top of that, Tchaikovsky’s style is not descriptive and even though the symphony has a clear programme, the music also has its own value independent of that. In my view, this is what the Philharmonic players and Bychkov managed to capture brilliantly. Already in the opening Lento Lugubre, they showcased astonishing full sound, drama, and a clear vision of the story as a whole. The Czech Philharmonic’s interpretation offered more lyricism, broader melodies and a simple, almost rural character in the two middle parts, for which Tchaikovsky chose Manfred’s encounter with the Alpine fairy and the images from the life in the mountains. The wind section created some remarkable moments, such as the oboe solo from the beginning of the third movement. The uncompromisingly suggestive, expressive but still tasteful Allegro con fuoco brought the concert to a thrilling end. Such a colourful and balanced sound of the orchestral tutti, during which I felt like the fortes were getting under my skin, is not very common.
I once read somewhere that you know an extraordinary concert performance by the silence that follows the final notes. For a good few seconds following the last notes of Manfred on Friday, you could cut the silence with a knife.“