2nd October 2017
October sees Semyon Bychkov return to London for performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Academy of Music. In both cases, Bychkov’s focus is Mahler, conducting Symphony No. 5 on 5 October at the Barbican and Symphony No. 9 on 13 October at Duke’s Hall. At the end...
30th September 2017
The orchestra announced the finale with an ostinato where each sound was bent to form the symphony’s denouement – persistent, heroic and triumphal – and superbly conducted by Bychkov.
21st September 2017
Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky performed by Italy’s radio orchestra in the concert hall? Radio symphony orchestras have to play a wide range of music but there was no arguing with the Russian-born soloist Kirill Gerstein, who kept Rachmaninov’s much-troubled C minor concerto free from film music pathos.
The 37-year-old has a technical mastery that allowed him to cope with even the most complex machinations – he picked up bunches of chords and sprinkled them like confetti over the long string chords of the RAI orchestra. True too that Maestro Bychkov’s conducting was also very clear, phrasing so that nothing was blurred and enabled Rachmaninov’s striking compositional style to evaporate in a nirvana of sound. But Gerstein’s transparency was paramount, occasionally at the cost of larger connections – but creating a dialogue that had the delicacy of chamber music.
Above all, these musicians succeeded in making the finale a ‘scherzando’ just as the composer prescribed it. This is a true rarity, just as Gerstein’s Tchaikovsky encore, the “meditation” from Op. 72, in which he balanced the voices with perfection.
Thus one shed a clarifying light on the much derided Russian romanticism, which is far less superficial than its reputation implies. This was also evident in Bychkov’s reading of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony in F Minor. Although the performance was a little too neat, it was full of energy and vigor, passionate though never overbearing. Great feelings are undoubtedly loud (and also at times inscrutably quiet), but Tchaikovsky’s extremely intense thematic piece does not disappoint – it is not a free for all but a symphony with a classical structure. Bychkov’s overview as kapellmeister guaranteed cohesion. The beautiful evening was completed with a gently rounded performance of “Nimrod” from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”.
21st September 2017
Full of power and silence
What else is there left to say after an encore of Edward Elgar’s theme from the “Enigma” variations with languid strings, and deep and sincerely meant sonorities. What then? Silence. A serious, long silence, which felt like minutes, filled the great hall of the Vienna Konzerthaus. No one dared to applaud. But then frenetic applause broke out, which was as profound and as loud as the striking program.
Semyon Bychkov and the RAI Orchestra brought us two highlights of the Russian music canon: starting with the incredible piano concerto No. 2 from Rachmaninov, the last of the pianist-romantics. Kirill Gerstein made the powerful opening moderato into an experience, as the melancholy of the main theme moved in favor of the Orchestra’s over-arching tonal paintings. The Adagio sostenuto was so heartfelt and gentle, as the theme returned for the finale. Gerstein and Bychkov were a meticulous and unshakeable team.
Then followed Tchaikovsky’s personal, autobiographical Symphony No. 4, the F minor: “Our Symphony” – an ode to his enduring correspondence with Nadeschda von Meck which is full of love and inspiration from beginning to end. The fateful cymbals were still pounding through the head as the poetic Canzona of the oboe and reflective pizzicato followed. The popular finale left no doubt about the composer’s love for his Russian home and distant friend. What an experience.