SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad'
Semyon Bychkov performed it with the WDR Symphony Orchestra at the weekend on two evenings in the Philharmonie. In the first movement the catchily brutal invasion music, which Bychkov masterfully worked up from an initially pallid, bodiless spectre into a monstrosity, gripped the attention. Even so one could hardly fail to notice with what hidden inner intensity the music's structural framework is formed.
Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, January 03
One sensed almost physically the emotional tension with which he conduced the piece, conjuring its powerful structure into existence. The way he built up the famous ‘Invasion Music’ of the first movement with its persistent, tension-mounting, eleven fold march theme with its echoes of Ravel’s Bolero, the way he sonically integrated the massed brass declarations into the splendour of the triumphal ending – these achievements were masterly. No less impressive were the wonderful woodwind soloists in the lyrical sections.
The WDR Symphony Orchestra demonstrated once again its quality and joined in with the enthusiastic applause which the auditorium granted its chief conductor.
Aachener Zeitung, January 03
Bychkov had the whole work firmly in his grip. He wielded the baton like a needle which would sew together giant imaginary lengths of material into a banner proclaiming the harm done to human dignity especially during the noisy concentrations of sound at the climaxes. During the invasion-crescendo of the first movement he maintained the stillness after the pianissimo approach for longer than usual and allowed the defiant string, wind and batteries of percussion led by the drum to be even more threatening than otherwise. Only the arrival of the second movement granted the listeners any respite. Bychkov’s achievement found recognition in a veritable genuflection by the public.
Bonner Generalanzeiger, January 03
This was how a youth concert should be: the potential audience of the future loves a blood and guts conductor, a giant orchestra and the sort of hard orchestral blows to make the cymbal player’s hair stand up at every clash. There was applause after each movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 7 Leningrad and a standing ovation at the end. ‘In the 19th Century, we virtuosi were the pop stars,’ enthused pianist Friedrich Hoerike some years ago. ‘And we can be again.’ In fact the WDR Symphony Orchestra basked in the rays of the thunderous approval at the Philharmonie. This was certainly just reward after a symphonic drama of 75 minutes which demanded much of all the musicians.
Kölnische Rundschau, January 03
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9
…The Principal Conductor of the WDR spurs on the voyage to the godly spheres of the first movement, forcing the pace consequently, lightly evading the formal heaviness of the movement's thematic diversity. Bychkov skilfully generates fire and heat without the exposition, the broad statement of faith, becoming over-majestic. In the second movement he is the engine-driver on the heavenly journey, bringing the fortissimo slowly into play with flowing subtlety. The result, ten minutes of applause for a delirious journey to the Goetterfunken.
Rhein Zeitung, September 02