In the second concert of the evening, it was Maestro Semyon Bychkov who moved and more than moved when he conducted the Euskadiko Orkestra in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony… At the beginning of the beautiful Adagio, soprano Serena Sáez sat on stage waiting to sing the text of the song that announces the pleasures of heaven. We were absorbed by the soft and delicate sounds expressed by the double basses marking the slow tempo. We were involved in the faint accompaniment of the strings, with Maestro Bychkov’s hands almost motionless held high, as the young Catalan soprano showed off her fresh, still very light voice.”
Platea, 7 March review with translated excerpt:
“TITANIC AND IDYLLIC
Exactly a year ago I had the opportunity to listen to my last concert in Europe before the outbreak of the pandemic. It was Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony under the baton of Lorenzo Viotti, making his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. And like closing a circle, twelve months later, I come back to Mahler, this time his Fourth Symphony with the Euskadiko Orkestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
This country is really showing how to do things on a cultural front. What privileged spectators we are and what an impressive effort the performing arts sector is making: a double plus given the administrative and institutional helplessness in which our profession often finds itself. Be that as it may, you have to look at the positives and value the achievements. In May 2020, the Euskadiko Orkestra was the first Spanish orchestra to resume its activity after lockdown, making it one of the pioneering European orchestras to conquer and pursue this ‘new symphonic normality’ to which we have become accustomed.
With this concert, the Euskadiko Orkestra has not only made a virtue out of necessity, taking advantage of the situation to once again seduce a maestro of the stature of Semyon Bychkov, but has also demonstrated extraordinary muscle. Since the arrival of its current principal conductor, the American Robert Treviño, the Orchestra has strengthened many of its positions and now gives an impressive performance with a full-bodied sound, firm attacks and palpable flexibility. Led by Oriol Roch, the Orchestra is currently one of the most reliable symphonic bets in our country.
In order to successfully overcome capacity limitations, Mahler’s Fourth – like all the concerts that the Basque orchestra has been undertaking since it resumed its activity – was offered twice (one concert at 6pm and another at 8.15 pm) with all the doubling of effort that this implies. If in the past each programme was given five times, now the figure has risen to 12 with programmes offered in San Sebastián, Bilbao, Vitoria and Pamplona.
As I mentioned earlier, a week before he returns to the orchestral pit of the Berlin Philharmonic where he will conduct music by Dvorák, Maestro Semyon Bychkov has come back to conduct the Euskadiko Orkestra, with whom he made his debut last summer at the San Sebastián and Santander Festivals. He gave a highly detailed reading of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony – not for nothing has he just recorded it with the Czech Philharmonic, of which he is Chief Conductor and Music Director – highlighting the enormous complexity of the score, its infinite succession of contrasts and the expressive and emotional depth that is in the score.
Already in the first movement, Bychkov made his interpretive credentials clear: intensity, conciseness, firmness, solidity, relief… and above all an extraordinary clarity of textures, an imposing concentration, giving each section it’s just and due prominence, with the balance between them all perfectly weighted. Bychkov also displayed a fabulous ability to build and release the climaxes that are so imposing and theatrical in this score. Within the overall framework of the outstanding performance provided by each section, I would like to take this opportunity to mention the good work of the concertmaster, which is so important in the second movement, and the fantastic horn and clarinet soloists.
The most exquisite moments of the evening undoubtedly came in the third movement where with the subtle twisting of the strings, reeling off successive waves of sound one after another, the players of the Euskadiko Orkestra offered their best performance. Sublime music holding its breath by a thread. The titanic reduced to the idyllic. Once again, Mahler’s music is ineffable.
The fourth and final movement, which always seems to have a disturbing and bitter calmness, featured the young Barcelona soprano Serena Sáenz, who has forged the beginnings of her career in the ensemble of the Berlin Staatsoper. Singing without a score, Sánez realised her role with ease and confidence. And although a darker voice may be preferred, the truth is that the part has been sung by soloists as diverse as Federica von Stade and Lucia Popp, so there can be no major objection to her suitability for this role, which she performed with manifest steadfastness and good taste