10th August 2020
The orchestra grew with the visit of an international star
Saturday’s concert had a history that had the best possible resolution. The internationally renowned conductor Semyon Bychkov was due to be a guest of the Musical Fortnight conducting the orchestra of which he has been Music Director since 2018, the Czech Philharmonic, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious orchestras. Covid frustrated those plans, but it turns out that Bychkov, who is married to one of the Labèque sisters, spent lockdown on the Basque Coast and it was that proximity that enabled Musical Fortnight to forge a plan B: Bychkov’s invitation to come to Donostia was honored and instead he conducted the Euskadiko Orkestra, which for logistical reasons took over this symphonic engagement.
Consequently, over the past week the Euskadiko Orkestra has been working with one of the world’s star conductors. I was curious to hear the results and to see if our orchestra could reach the level of the Czech Philharmonic, the Cologne Radio Orchestra, the Paris Orchestra and other greats that Bychkov has conducted during his career. The Russian conductor did his bit to add to the intrigue with the headline he gave in an interview: “If the musicians can read my mind, we will make a good concert.”
Well, the performance of Euskadiko Orkestra on Saturday was exceptional. It may have taken a while to adjust to Bychkov’s edgy and dramatic conducting in Coriolan Overture, but in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony they responded with clarity, accuracy and a beautiful sound to an interpretation that was full of detail, complex sonorities, powerful tutti and drama. Woodwinds showed beautiful color in both their solos and ensemble, the horns were precise and musical, and the timbre of the strings had great volume and brilliance. Ultimately, the Orchestra proved to be a versatile and flexible instrument, at a level that only ten years ago seemed unimaginable, which is confirmation of the work done.