guest conducting engagements
BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms - Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony
On Tuesday morning the BBC announced that, after five years of occasional collaborations, Semyon Bychkov had been appointed to the Gunter Wand conducting chair, a newly created position with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. On Wednesday night we received tumultuous proof of the reasons why in a performance of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony so engrossing that I almost forgot to breath. [...] Phrasing of the oboe and clarinet's dolorous solo lines proved equally memorable. And so this symphonic torso proceeded, its dramatic waves and relaxing pools woven into a momentous whole, the music's strands, colours and dynamics exquisitely balanced. The BBCSO's musicians haven't treated all their conductors with respect; a few indeed haven't much deserved it. But love flowed through this Unfinished. If only Schubert had completed the score; then this wonderful performance would have gone on longer.
The Times, 10 August 2012
Bychkov's trademark qualities are a long and supple sense of line - especially evident in his work in the opera house - and a controlled dynamic approach. Both were immediately displayed in his extremely spacious, poignant reading of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, whose fragile themes emerged from a grippingly sombre pianissimo in the strings. Some of the playing Bychkov drew from his new orchestra was truly exceptional, notably in the woodwinds... the playing again made clear that the new relationship between the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Bychkov will offer some unmissable evenings.
The Guardian, 9 August 2012
Bychkov's account [of Symphony No. 8], wonderfully drawing out its yearning, subjective qualities, expressively heightened its enigmatic aura.
Evening Standard, 9 August 2012
London Symphony Orchestra
Semyon Bychkov, a maestro of unmistakable and even fetching authority. From the opening fortissimo declamation by horns - one of music's great beginnings - one knew this would be a memorable realisation of a work that is not just a symphony (more than 90 minutes long), but a kind of abstract festival drama, and not so abstract as all that.
Sunday Times, 8 April 2012
The appearances in London of Semyon Bychkov have become red-letter events, and his, and his latest concert with the London Symphony Orchestra was no exception [...] Bychkov is one of a select few conductors who make coherent sense of the massive first movement, which in some performances emerges as a sagging sequence of events. His powerful grasp here extended from the big architectural shapes to the smallest textual detail, all of which he shaped with a fluid baton. And Bychkov got the LSO to do exactly what Mahler called for, right from the very opening [...] In a symphony of stepwise spiritual ascent, the finale took on a profound glow in Bychkov's hands.
Sunday Telegraph, 8 April 2012
Bychkov emphasises patience, spaciousness, control [...] With his deeper understanding of Mahler tradition, Bychkov is a more clear-sighted guide to what the music is about.
Financial Times, 3 April 2012
Then the focus was back on Bychkov and the orchestra for the finale, with perhaps the greatest melody Mahler ever composed turned into an exercise in extreme refinement and pianissimo string playing.
Guardian, 3 April 2012
Semyon Bychkov, clearly felt the piece's aspirations to the sublime had to be signalled from the word go [...] Bychkov encouraged the horns to play their huge swinging melody with ponderous weight, and gave the punctuating percussion thuds a crushing force.
Telegraph, 2 April 2012
Bychkov's natural unfolding of the symphony was particularly satisfying, all down, it would seem, to his elegant, precise baton and eloquent left hand, a completely non-mysterious looking technique releasing any amount of marvel and mystery [...] Even from the LSO, this was great playing, idiomatic, generous and right inside the notes. The sense of certainty and resolution that gathered strength and identity through the three cataclysmic outbursts to the radiant closing bars must have been as lovely and all-embracing as Mahler hoped for in a movement originally titled 'What love tells me'.
Classical Source, 2 April 2012
The great slow movement with which Mahler concludes or consummates his symphony turned out to be a triumph unalloyed. Its strains emerged beautifully, almost imperceptibly, from the final bar of its predecessor. The LSO’s string tone was warm, never too bright. Bychkov's reading was posed of a quiet dignity from which the music could bloom as 'naturally' as one might ever have imagined [...] The conductor's command of line remained second to none, though permitting us to hear the movement as if in a single breath.
Seen and Heard International, 2 April 2012
[...] this performance positively cracked from beginning to end with the kind of urgency and sense of purpose that only a conductor of Bychkov's standing can bring to the work [...] Bychkov certainly brought out all the contrasts if the second movement and throughout was awarded with astonishingly accomplished playing from all sections of the orchestra, the woodwind being especially responsive to his unerring direction.
musicOMH, April 2012
Bychkov's conducting is fascinating to watch. He works with extreme precision and economy of movement, using a long baton which is moved rapidly and crisply, aimed at whichever section of the orchestra is important to him at that particular moment [...] every section of the LSO sounded perfectly balanced with gorgeous timbre. [...] More importantly, it was a lucid rendering. Mahler's music has so much going on at the same time that the ear often struggles to take it all in: there's usually something that doesn't quite fit. Under Bychkov, I felt that every note from every instrument was in its proper place - even the notes from the lowly tambourine seemed to be played at satisfyingly correct moments.
Bachtrack, April 2012
Both [Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht and Strauss' Alpensinfonie] are works that seem to be made for the Gewandhausorchester's soundworld. And indeed, the shades and nuances, the glistening reflections and visions, the silvery solos of Verklaerte Nacht can hardly ever have been experienced with as much intuitive sensualness as they were at this performance. The arc of suspense did not once dip throughout the entire performance [...] partially due Bychkov's constant modulation of the tempo, which is perfectly attuned to the breathless agitation of the music. [In the Alpensinfonie] Bychkov counts on colour and the big gestures of this titan of instrumentation. And it is a total joy: how the woodwinds find each other for new combinations; how the strings are glowing, radiating and caressing around [concertmaster] Frank-Michael Erben; how the brass pull the imaginary alphorn into the hall; how together they brave the mighty thunderstorm, whilst at the same time aware of the tenderness along the way.
Leiziger Volkszeitung, 21 January 2012
NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg
It is a joy to watch this maestro at work. Not just because Semyon Bychkov's beat is unmistakably precise, but also because his manner of conducting follows a wonderfully fluent flow of movement. And it was just this aesthetic that proved a felicitous inspiration to the NDR Symphony Orchestra, whose exquisite sound combines clarity with rotundity and warmth. [...] The orchestra gave a performance of one of its showpieces [Brahms No. 1] which was well-proportioned and powerful, with a finale that bloomed gorgeously but was never over-heated. There was nothing unusual in Bychkov's interpretation, just wonderful conducting. Sheer joy.
Peter Krause, Die Welt
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Cite de la Musique, Paris, November 2011
With only thirty two string players the Orchestra gave a chamber-music essence to the [Brahms' Double Concerto] which, thanks to the energetic conducting of Bychkov, did not lack power and brought out the dialogues and exchanges with the soloists, particularly in the central Andante. [...] Confident, energetic and lively, sometimes even erect and brusque, the interpretation [of Schubert's Symphony No. 9] absolutely highlighted the essential driving force of the work.
www.concerto.net, November 2011
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
Turin, December 2011
There was something magical in the performance of Brahms' Second Symphony that Semyon Bychkov conducted with the RAI Orchestra to mark the start of a new Brahms cycle. The rhapsodically natural yet rigorous pace, the colouristic esthetic, both intense and intimate but without becoming either stiff or excessively confidential, gave Bychkov's interpretation a melancholy grace, which was both spontaneous and profound. The symphony's score helps, but Bychkov has always had the right way to avoid harshness and post-romantic unctuousness in Brahms music.
La Repubblica, 4 December 2011
A passage that turned out to have absolute clarity, a lesson in instrumentation and form, an essay on the Brahms in love with the past (bringing ancient forms back to life), but also contemporary at the same time [...] we were comforted by a great and well balanced performance, which ended joyously, but was perfectly and consistently in tune with the atmosphere of extreme 'discreetness' that characterizes this superb score. [...] Bychkov succeded in obtaining both chamber sonorities and the necessary vigour [Brahms Double Concerto], drawing attention to the mixture of tenderness and Viennese heartiness, combined with rough Nordic bonhomie which make Brahms' music so unmistakable.
Il Corriere Musicale, 5 December 2011
Long applause saluted the second of two concerts at the Auditorium conducted by Semyon Bychkov last night. Even RAI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA showed how happy they were: when a conductor is authoritative and technically demanding, but clearly knows how to involve the orchestra in a major interpretational project - something that doesn't happen often - the certainty that they will reach their goal together is palpable in the performance and brings enormous gratitude to the person in charge.
La Stampa, 11 December 2011
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Many conductors use this nearly hour-long piece [Ein Heldenleben] as an excuse to pump up the orchestra as well as their own egos. Not Bychkov. The Russian-born maestro downplayed the bombast, tightened the sprawl and banished the vulgarity. In so doing, he heightened the music's sumptuous beauty and warmth of feeling, and had one marvelling anew at the sonic and contrapuntal mastery with which Strauss deploys his huge orchestral forces... So, too, Bychkov shaped the expansive love scene with great tenderness, not just in the breadth of sound he drew from the orchestra but in the glowing tonal quality he brought to it.
Chicago Tribune, November 2011
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Bychkov opened with a forceful romp through the early Strauss tone poem Don Juan [...] The orchestra seemed remarkably unperturbed considering the technical demands [...] The horns (so important in Strauss) roared with a thrilling swagger and self-confidence.
Bay Area Reporter, November 2011
It is happening now with such reliable consistency you could set your watch by it [...] Conductor Semyon Bychkov makes a guest appearance with the San Francisco Symphony, and the orchestra responds with a performance of depth, passion and brilliance. The pattern was repeated when Bychkov led the orchestra in music by Schumann and Richard Strauss. The results were phenomenal, a virtuoso display of ensemble playing and rich orchestral colours. [...] listening to him perform a work of the standard repertoire makes you feel as though you've gone deeply into the workings of the piece along with him and heard it as if for the first time. Certainly Strauss' Don Juan which opened the programme, emerged in a vibrant and exciting new light. Bychkov tapped into the particular alchemy of Strauss' tone poems...
San Francisco Chronicle, November 2011
Fortunately, Bychkov approached this music with an impeccable sense of balance, honouring the many layers of detail that occupy Strauss' orchestral writing without ever letting them all devolve into a pile of auditory clutter. In other words it was a perfect account of this music to encourage the discovery of new aspects of the score.
San Francisco Examiner, November 2011