7th August 2017
It was Elena Maximova’s Marfa who lifted the spirits, exhibiting the spark of humanity conspicuously lacking elsewhere. Semyon Bychkov, sensitive to such moments, coaxed some wonderful playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and sterling singing from the Slovak Philharmonic Choir and three British choruses.
7th August 2017
The BBC Singers and Slovak Philharmonic Choir gave their all to Semyon Bychkov, who also secured playing of energy and refinement from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In its seismic brass and drums, the closing immolation scene was enough to make ‘Old Believers’ of us all.
20th July 2017
The piece takes a meandering course through a series of musical vistas that never quite seem to have time to develop into anything immediately concrete. And this effect seems to be emphasised by the performance here, which […] determinedly lets the music develop at its own pace: Bychkov is not a conductor to seek out cheap thrills.
With each listen, though, I found myself worrying less about Schmidt’s elusive, elliptical way with melody, or the fact that he presents climaxes that seem never to really offer answers. With this recording, one starts to admire what he achieves with the variations on his not terribly promising theme in the second movement, for example, and the slow-burn momentum of the initially underwhelming finale.
Whether the subtle seductiveness of the Viennese orchestra serves him better than the brassier, more forthright approach of the Chicago players might be down to personal taste, but this new recording makes a persuasive case for a work of considerable beauty. It’s an important addition to the catalogue.
11th July 2017
Schmidt’s four symphonies are each immensely difficult to pull together and, as a result, rare events to catch live. Recordings are few and far between, so the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s (VPO) new account of the Symphony no. 2 with Semyon Bychkov for Sony Classical is more than welcome… In comparison, Bychkov’s performance sounds altogether more refined. The Viennese have Schimdt’s style – a cross between the rhetoric of Bruckner, the orchestral virtuosity of Strauss, and the harmonic progressions of Scriabin and Max Reger – in their collective blood (and vice versa: Schmidt was a member of the orchestra’s cello section early in his career). Accordingly, you hear everything in a different way in this reading. All the Symphony’s busy counterpoint is layered with exquisite transparency, both volume-wise and tonally