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Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The rewards of his Shostakovich Eighth with the CSO Thursday night were ample. Running more than an hour, its five movements were meticulously shaped. It is easy to find high-strung nervousness in Shostakovich, but right from the opening pages Bychkov and the CSO explored something deeper. The shifts between ominous restlessness and pensive reflection in the first movement were full of the requisite tension. But the flexibility and spaciousness of the performance made it much more than a portrait of the age of anxiety. The opening movement sounded airborne rather than earthbound, suffused with a buoyancy that, surprisingly, took nothing away from the symphony’s essentially sombre mood. Shostakovich calls for large orchestral forces, but the performance had a clarity that allowed every musical detail to emerge.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 04
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8 formed the bulk of guest conductor Semyon Bychkov’s program. This is tragic, harrowing music, and it got a performance of such high-voltage concentration that the subscribers, who before intermission had been coughing like escapees from a tubercular ward, were struck dumb by it.
Bychkov unfolded the long opening movements as if revealing the most personal secrets of Shostakovich’s wartime diary. The woodwinds’ shrieks of anguish and the brass’ crunching dissonances were as remitting as an army on the march. The orchestra gave Bychkov intensity (as opposed to mere loudness) and unearthly quiet, allowing him to build atmosphere in finely controlled degrees.
Chicago Tribune, November 04