guest conducting engagements
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain - BBC Prom 2010
The current line-up of musicians, some as young as 13, had their own sorcerer in the conductor Semyon Bychkov. Large grins, sweeping arms: his exhortations to excel weren’t subtle, but his time-keeping certainly was — a crucial requirement in Fantasias, five interlinked caprices written to show off the streamlined professionals of America’s Cleveland Orchestra, who gave the premiere last October...
Their wonders continued through the Symphonie fantastique — music with more adolescent appeal, though with Bychkov’s help they shaped both its sweet passions and dark delusions with mature precision and lustre. A zinger of a performance, from an orchestra worth funding to the skies.
The Times, August 2010
The rest of the concert was equally vivid. Bychkov set the tone with a wonderfully alert account of Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, brimming with wit and pictorial immediacy and showcasing some superbly characterised solo playing from the NYO principals. In the Symphonie Fantastique, the conducting revelled in the tonal possibilities of such a huge orchestra, sculpting the music in expansive sweeps and making Berlioz's scoring seem even more tinglingly surreal than usual. The detail was remarkable, whether it was the evocative offstage cor anglais in the slow movement, the trio of tubas snarling magnificently in the March to the Scaffold, or the E flat clarinet that led off the final Witches' Sabbath with manic glee. A fabulous, exhilarating concert.
The Guardian, August 2010
BERLIOZ’s orchestration for the Symphonie fantastique specifies two harps, but, in this performance, he got five, along with a dozen double basses, nine horns, eight trombones and phalanxes of strings.
This was the annual visit to the Proms by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and what a magnificent sound it made under Semyon Bychkov. Berlioz would surely have delighted in this sonority, not simply on account of its richness and luminosity but also because Bychkov elicited such finesse from the playing.
From the very start in the “Dreams” movement, the instrumental timbres were judiciously balanced, a virtue that also enhanced the lustre of the “Ball” and the atmosphere of the “Scene in the Country”, with its pastoral woodwind and gusts of breeze from the strings.
When it came to the “March to the Scaffold” and the “Dream of a Sabbath Night”, the punch of this performance really hit home, again not because of sheer volume but more specifically because the players were so assured in execution and so finely attuned to the music’s romantic impulses. The Symphonie fantastique represents a challenge to even the most experienced of orchestras, and here the youngsters of the NYOGB rose to it and surmounted it with a passion and polish that put some other recent concerts firmly in the shade. From start to finish, the playing was thoroughly involved and involving.
In fact, the whole programme was one in which orchestral virtuosity and panache were to the fore. Julian Anderson’s recent Fantasias, composed for and first performed by the Cleveland Orchestra last year, exploited bravura, quick thinking and nifty articulation that the NYOGB demonstrated in abundance, underpinning the music’s propulsion and stimulating its brilliance.
Even in something as familiar as Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice the orchestra and Bychkov invested the music with freshness and lively personality. Dukas’s fine-tuned ear for instrumental colour owes much to both Berlioz and Rimsky-Korsakov, and here its sophistication was precisely captured with a touch of magic and a spirited sense of humour.
This was an exhilarating evening, with the orchestra evincing a joy of music-making that was utterly compelling.
The Daily Telegraph, August 2010
Over and over again, under the guidance of Semyon Bychkov, the orchestra demonstrated the type of warmth, abundance and homogeneity in sound it is capable of. Bychkov's gentle hand movements yielded a floating, then shimmering .. effect to the scented tapestry of Maurice Ravel's euphonic tomb 'Le Tombeau de Couperin'.
Hamburger Abendblatt, June 2010
After the break then followed a fiery Brahms' second: guest conductor Semyon Bychkov avoided presenting every type of fresh and summery mood, instead he whipped the symphony already in the exposition and developed the contrasts in the ensuing larger phrases. This ensured a creative variety, but mostly it provided wonderful flourishing sounds and a musical pull from which it was impossible to extrapolate oneself.
Hamburger Morgenpost, June 2010
Bychkov offered such a pleasurable dip into this wondrous bag of Ravel's magical sound that one simply had to revel along in its joy.
Kulturradio, June 2010
Semyon Bychkov.. is the right conductor for charming this type of noble, atmospheric sound. Every phrase has its own colour, with the dynamic movement growing out of the detail.
WAZ (Kultur) / NRZ (Essen), June 2010
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Powerful American premiere and magnificent Mahler served up by Bychkov, Chicago Symphony
...Bychkov is clearly a thoughtful and discerning musician and a man who is able to put an individual stamp on familiar music and inspire the CSO to follow him.
Bychkov and the CSO delivered a refined, magnificent performance that managed to provide an interesting new slant. With all the varied interpretive takes on this mighty tripartite journey from darkness to light, Thursday's reading still found something new to say.
Bychkov eschewed the bombastic Russian-style Mahler road taken by many of his compatriots for a decidedly Viennese take, spacious yet with elegance and precision. Without any self-conscious mannerisms, Bychkov's Mahler was full of wonderful things: the pensive, unsettled string playing in the main theme of the opening funeral, the idiomatic lilt to the waltz-like theme of the second movement and the radiant opening up of the brass chorale near its coda.
Chicago Tribune, May 2010
Bychkov takes CSO audience on absorbing journey from darkness to light
...As black comedies go, "Theatrum Bestiarum" packs considerable punch with its deft scoring and wild splashes of instrumental color. Bychkov (who was to have conducted the American premiere here last year before illness forced him to cancel his appearance) made a most passionate champion. The brawny writing for virtuoso orchestra was made to order for the CSO musicians, who dug into it as if their very lives were at stake...
Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony makes a much more epic journey from darkness to light, one that takes all the world as its stage. The blazing, insightful and firmly controlled performance led by Bychkov proved you can teach a warhorse new tricks, even one that has been a CSO signature work for the last 40 years.
You knew the journey would be eventful from Chris Martin's impeccable sounding of the trumpet fanfare that ushered in the opening funeral cortege. Bychkov used degrees of weight as a telling expressive device throughout this movement and proved himself just as adroit when it came to turning corners in the controlled frenzy of the second movement.
The overlapping laendlers and waltzes of the Scherzo were nicely characterized, although Dale Clevenger's unpredictable horn solos, some firm, others faltering, continue to be a problem. Bychkov laid down his baton to mold the Adagietto tenderly and flexibly, its strings and harp singing the simplest of love songs. He kept the Rondo-Finale moving steadily, with no heaving or hauling to upset the flow of this joyous, rollicking dance of life. The audience seemed beside itself with pleasure.
Chicago Tribune, May 2010
Guest conductor Semyon Bychkov leads Cleveland Orchestra on vibrant journey
A common point of praise in classical music is to label a conductor and his program well-matched.
Less often does one encounter the tantalizing case where a program and its leader actually resemble each other, in which the music and the performer share a certain quality or spirit.
That, though, is exactly what listeners can expect with the Cleveland Orchestra this weekend at Severance Hall. In his debut with the orchestra, conductor Semyon Bychkov applies his globetrotting mentality and vibrant hand to three scores whose shape, mood, or purpose are, like him, in flux.
Russian-born but a citizen of the U.S., with a schedule spanning the western hemisphere, Bychkov, currently chief conductor of the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, is truly a citizen of the world. Likewise, his deeply cohesive program of Ravel, Dutilleux, and Schumann not only flies over vastly different musical territory but also grapples seriously with notions of change and impermanence. [...]
As for impermanence, none of the three entries on the program explores the topic more directly or, in Bychkov's performance, more penetratingly, than Henri Dutilleux's 'Metaboles,' a 1957 commission from the orchestra, whose very goal is to depict continual transformation.
With Bychkov, its five brief movements are entirely seamless. Despite its use of patterns, the music ebbs and flows between gnawing calm, smooth lyricism, and bustling energy with no discernible gaps, resulting in an absorbing stream of effects: biting woodwinds, nuanced percussion, slithering strings.
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The Plain Dealer / Cleveland.com, April 10
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Semyon Bychkov Conducts a Breathtaking Mahler
Running at between 70 and 75 minutes without intermission, Mahler's Fifth Symphony was once thought to be too long to play in its entirety, and this might well be true with anything less than a great performance. However, it was certainly not true on Saturday night when Bychkov and the LA Phil treated the audience to a tour de force.
Together they served up a great performance of the Fifth that was truly transforming such that at the conclusion, the entire audience spontaneously rose to their feet and loudly cheered in a rare display of unanimous approval.
Culture Spot LA, April 10
...close to a 100% standing ovation...The orchestra, from top to bottom, played fabulously for Bychkov.
LA Times, April 10
London Symphony Orchestra
He is a conductor who imbues everything he does with a deep musicality...he brought a rare limpidity and clarity of texture to the opening of Brahms's Fourth Symphony. This was a reading of rare sensual beauty, with the LSO strings, in particular, singing out their lines with sweet tone...
...Bychkov's probing musical intelligence is coupled to a rare desire to interpret music like this anew
Musical Criticism, March 10
This was Bychkov's debut with the LSO and he launched it in fine style...there is always excitement and insight with this conductor
Independent, March 10
Rousing applause from a capacity crowd greeted both the first movement of Shostakovich's rambunctious Piano Concerto No 2, and the first movement of Brahms's Fourth Symphony. And no one even got a snooty shushing as reward for their enthusiasm...
...the Shostakovich had an infectious, swaggering panache...
...[Bychkov] had drawn plenty from the LSO players: grand vistas picked out in rich colours, vital evidence that even big-boned Brahms can yield intimacy
The Times, March 10
San Francisco Symphony
...the real excitement began as soon as Bychkov raised his baton. In Henri Dutilleux's "Métaboles", which served as a potent curtain-raiser, and in a glorious rendition of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony after intermission, Bychkov reaffirmed both his own technical and interpretive prowess and the strength of his connection with the Symphony players.
It's rare to witness such an instantaneous rapport between an orchestra and a conductor who visits all too infrequently. Bychkov gives a little hand gesture here, a little nod there, and the orchestra responds with an exquisite blend of rich sonority and rhythmic nuance.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 09
From the first downbeat of the Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 5, conductor Semyon Bychkov and the San Francisco Symphony exuded the confidence and anticipatory pleasure of travelers setting out on a familiar journey. The audience at Davies Symphony Hall was warmly invited along for the ride. We knew where we were going, which somehow heightened rather than diminished the possibility of new sensations - a discovery of things unseen, overlooked, or forgotten over the years.
San Francisco Classical Voice, November 09
After intermission, the big guns came out: the breathtaking [Rachmaninov] Symphony No. 2. There is always the danger that what is arguably the composer's best essay in the genre will turn out hackneyed, or go over the top with goopy sentimentality. It does have one of the most memorable melodies ever written, in the glorious Adagio that could veer right into schmaltz in the wrong hands.
No fears with Bychkov. From the very start, we knew he was building a symphonic structure that would certainly peak with that heartbreaking tune, but would also save its hottest energy until the hair-raising excitement of the finale. The clarinet solo was meltingly beautiful, but our eyes remained dry. It was more like admiring a shiny Faberge egg, then delighting even more when it opens to show another glittering surprise.
The orchestra played with flawless ensemble for the Rachmaninov Prize conductor, and the audience (exceptionally attentive throughout) responded with an ovation that was thoroughly deserved.
...It is nice to have Semyon Bychkov back on our radar again.
The Bay Area Reporter, November 09
Rachmaninoff's 'Bells' rock Davies Hall
Rachmaninoff didn't always think big, but when he did, the results can be electrifying in the right hands - such as those of guest conductor Semyon Bychkov, who led the San Francisco Symphony over the weekend in superb performances of not one but two of the composer's large orchestral works...
All evening, the musicians mustered a robust and keenly Romantic sonority - the strings dense and full-throated, the woodwinds brightly gleaming. And Bychkov shaped those sounds with fervor and cunning.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 09