28th September 2020
Guest concerts of visiting orchestras are a difficult matter in times of Corona. Many of those from overseas orchestras do not take place; some are cancelled at short notice due to travel restrictions; some
such as the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Orchestra dell ‘Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia from Rome and the SWR Symphony Orchestra travelled in the second half of September but surprisingly
not to Vienna.
The Czech Philharmonic however made it to Vienna. The Orchestra travelled from the risk area of Prague (denoted by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the risk area of Vienna (German Ministry of Foreign Affairs) so that on Friday they were both at risk in the Konzerthaus. What were the Czechs and their Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov carrying in their luggage? Dvořák naturally -the Eighth Symphony – and Shostakovich’s Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings op. 35. The soloists in the latter work were no less than Daniil Trifonov and Selina Ott, the young trumpeter who won the 2018 ARD competition.
Shostakovich’s 1933 work is full of irony and grotesquerie, many hear in the opening a quote from Beethoven’s Appassionata and perform it as a parody of a classical concerto. Not so DaniilTrifonov. His (incredibly subtle and virtuosic) interpretation was completely serious; the musician a model of a precision machine. Lang Lang would have been more showy and clown-like – a shot at a poor version of Hella von Sinnen would have gone down well here. Selina Ott also proved herself to be obediently at the service of interpretive solidity.
Dvořák’s Eighth was pure pleasure. Bychkov showed himself to be a kind and open-hearted all-rounder, caresser of the soul and creator of dreams. The Czech Philharmonic blossomed under his expert leadership as did the hearts of the audience.
25th September 2020
What about Dvořák’s Eight? It found a big competitor in Shostakovich this time. The Orchestra have the 1889 symphony under their skin. There are great musicians among them and the groups communicate with each other with animation. Besides the well-played French horn and flute solos, the lower strings also stood out…
The Czech Philharmonic’s Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov’s reading of the score was straightforward and spontaneous, he was not afraid of big emotions. His romanticising approach was also quite fitting, as we remember experiments with historically informed performances of late Romantic music
25th September 2020
If the Orchestra was slightly overshadowed in Shostakovich, they had their opportunity to fully showcase their skills in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, played after the interval. The ensemble used this more than well: they captivated and entranced the audience with impressive changes of mood and colour, bold and strongly built gradations, well-crafted dynamics, perfect architecture as well as interesting descants, which Semyon Bychkov managed to draw out of the orchestra safely, convincingly and at precisely the right point. It is a well-known fact that the Czech Philharmonic strings are brilliant. I particularly enjoyed not only the soft sound of the violins but also the silky and smooth violas, cellos and double basses that evening. The wind sections play an especially significant role in this symphony of Dvořák’s, the flute in particular is crucial here. The flutes excelled – the conductor singled out first flutist Andrea Rysová as the very first one during the applause. Semyon Bychkov led the orchestra nicely, clearly and reliably throughout the evening, both he and the musicians truly deserved the final standing ovations. There is no doubt that the Czech Philharmonic is in good hands and we have a lot to look forward to in this season.
25th September 2020
The instrument of young trumpet soloist Selina Ott has a noble tone. Her pianissimo entrance following to the piano and the orchestra in bar 72 was admirable. The waltz-like lento in the second movement was impressive, the movement culminated into mighty forte, which highlighted the perfect coordination of the orchestra, before it returned to pianissimo. The final C major indicated the coming mood change, such links hold the composition together. Polyphony appears in the piano part. The fourth and final movement Allegro con brio with a more significant role of the trumpet really sparkled, almost circus-like, and the following rousing applause of the bemused audience naturally even intensified the moment…
Semyon Bychkov proved once again that he has great dispositions for this kind of repertoire. In his interpretation, the sound of the music is remarkably clear. He conducted Dvořák from memory with simple and comprehensible gestures, he kept an eye on well-performed phrase beginnings, dynamic arches and dimensionality of the orchestration, just like Shostakovich himself advised to the musicians interpreting his music.
All orchestral groups play with precision, the wind instruments were strong, violin solos were song-like, every return to the theme had a different mood. This was the first time Dvořák’s Eight Symphony brought tears to my eyes. The audience was sincerely delighted and awarded the musicians with standing ovations.
The overall experience from the concert will hopefully make Culture Minister Zaorálek fight for keeping culture events reasonably alive and maintaining “normal life” even more vigorously. I thank to the Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov from the bottom of our hearts for this concert, judging by the audience’s reaction, I am not alone in this