Royal Opera House
Semyon Bychkov [is] a conductor alert not only to minute fluctuations of mood but also to the extraordinary stylistic variety of a score that harks back to Mendelssohn and Weber as much as it pre-echoes the Ring. [...] the orchestra sounds terrific.
The Times, December 2010
Bychkov's expansive, impassioned conducting brings a rare cohesion and integrity to Wagner's operatic problem child. I haven't heard a Tannhauser to match it. Whatever one thinks of the staging, those who have tickets have a musical treat in store.
Sunday Times, December 2010
For committed listeners, this is the opera you study to enhance understanding of Wagner's other operas. But can it work as a piece of theatre? Semyon Bychkov, conductor of the first Royal Opera House production since 1987, clearly believes it can. Spacious in tempi and cinematic in detail, Bychkov's Tannhäuser is an inexorable river of sound, sometimes sparkling with sunlight and oxygen, sometimes still, sucking the listener down to the lightless, airless silt of shame and despair.
Independent on Sunday, December 2010
The musicians in the pit, as well as the resplendent chorus on stage, deserve high praise. Wagner divides and subdivides his orchestral sections, with no place to hide. Whether vital, sexy Venusberg violas, solemn Pilgrim-hymn trombones or urgent, contrapuntal woodwind, the Royal Opera orchestra rose to the challenge. Bychkov, who made a prolonged study of Lohengrin before a definitive recording, has now turned his perceptive gaze on Tannhäuser, opting for the Paris version. The music is often described as "uneven" but here achieved a propulsive drive and coherence.
The Observer, December 2010
The performance was carried by the transparency of Semyon Bychkov’s conducting, and the rich contrasts of the sound world: Bychkov subtly illuminated almost every detail and drew a great arch over the entire work.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 2010
The success of the evening mostly resides with Semyon Bychkov who once again showed that he is the best conductor of Wagner that Covent Garden has had for decades. For me his Wagner has only probably ever been bettered in the performances I heard conducted by Reginald Goodall. Bychkov’s interpretation has a persuasive grandeur, an almost seamless flow, and exquisite attention to musical detail. He brings out sounds from the Covent Garden orchestra that I wonder if they knew they capable of … had he not done much the same when he conducted them in Lohengrin and Don Carlos recently.
, www.musicweb-international.com, December 2010
The direction of the Russian master Semyon Bychkov is undoubtedly the highlight of the new production of "Tannhäuser" by Richard Wagner, which has just premiered at the Royal Opera House in London. Bychkov drew without doubt the very best out of the orchestra, which played with a great sense of musical architecture and Wagnerian sound.
http://www.efeamerica.com, December 2010
…the music is immensely powerful, and when performed as convincingly as in the new production of Tannhäuser at Covent Garden, it is four-and-a-half hours of uplifting entertainment with not a dull moment. […] The overture sets the tone magnificently. The conductor Semyon Bychkov coaxed a gripping performance from the Covent Garden orchestra, moving impressively between a whisper and a triumphal roar that filled the opera house with the full glory of Wagner's music. etail.
The Daily Express, December 2010
Bychkov provided a near-ideal balance of architectural vision and luminous detail.
The Financial Times, December 2010
At Covent Garden, thanks to the magic wrought by conductor Semyon Bychkov, the opera for once seemed like an integrated dramatic whole. Weighty, measured, slow-burning, and lit from within by superb orchestral playing, Bychkov's interpretation has a sense of gravity that pays long-term dividends and makes even the mismanaged climax of Act 2 seem purposeful.
The Daily Telegraph, December 2010
Above all this return to the Royal Opera House of Tannhäuser proved a musical triumph. Semyon Bychkov's conducting was superior even to that of his Lohengrin last year. He generally took his time, but the score never dragged, given that Wagner's long line was ever secure. Climaxes were sparing and therefore all the more powerful when they came. Perhaps most importantly of all, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House was on superlative form. Brass onstage and off were weightily impressive without brashness. The woodwind choir evoked a Middle Ages that may never actually have existed, but certainly did in Wagner's imagination. As for the strings, one might well have thought them from Vienna, so beautiful was their sheen.
www.wagneropera.net, December 2010
In the pit, Semyon Bychkov turned good Wagner into great Wagner bringing the full and glorious force of the Royal Opera Chorus forward for Wagner's hopeful peroration.
The Independent, December 2010
...to carry the whole four and a half hour evening [...] one relied on a hero in the pit, conductor Semyon Bychkov. The energy, the honesty, the flexibility of his instructions would have been enough. But he was also drawing the most divine beauty from each and every musician. Each break-away solo or chamber-like melodising from the clarinet, violin, cello, horns or the flutter-tonguing flutes glistened with unalloyed joy. It reminded us that beneath all the musical fanfare of Wagner is a great miniaturist. Some of the most captivating moments of the evening came from Wagner's frequent retreat into small forces.
The Arts Desk, December 2010
Micro-managed down to the last detail, Semyon Bychkov's conducting is immaculately shaped, setting the crown on one of Covent Garden's great evenings.
The Stage, December 2010
Semyon Bychkov led a lyrical, expansive, compelling account of the score, giving due attention to the weightier moments and never allowing the more intimate ones to become overwhelmed. This is a singers' conductor, in the best sense of that term. Those put off by the staging - and I suspect there were many - could simply close their eyes and wallow in the glorious sounds from the pit.
www.musicomh.com, December 2010
...throughout the evening a sturdy foundation of the highest musical values was provided by Semyon Bychkov, who proved once again that, in the right hands, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House can give any of the world's great bands a run for their money. A very leisurely account of the overture's opening bars might have made one fear we were in for a long evening, but Bychkov went on to strike a well-nigh perfect balance between long paragraph and passing detail. The rich brass and silky strings, meanwhile, were a great deal more seductive than anything the Venusberg had to offer, and the expanded chorus were outstanding.
www.musicalcriticism.com, December 2010
If the evening belongs to anyone, it is to Semyon Bychkov. He conducts Wagner's massive score with such sweet blend and momentum that it could be chamber music, yet the music's majesty blazes through in every phrase. Each section of the orchestra (with a particular nod to the brass) shines for him in a balance that is well nigh ideal. Tempos, too, are well chosen, faintly on the speedy side but only occasionally feeling rushed.
www.classicalsource.com, December 2010
Semyon Bychkov proved a master of pacing, timing and dramatic inspiration, drawing the finest playing I've heard all season from the ROH orchestra, and a sense of orchestral discipline that is more usually found wanting. Last year's Lohengrin was great, but his Tannhäuser is greater still. Resisting any urge to step on the gas too early, he teased the three and half hours of music to a masterful, exhilarating climax. And that's what Tannhäuser is all about.
www.intermezzo.typepad.com, December 2010
It's Bychkov, though, who consistently sustains the drama and does his best to supply what's missing elsewhere. Complemented by some superb orchestral playing and great choral singing, he lays out the score with the same sense of spaciousness, grand ceremonial and intensity he brought to his conducting of Lohengrin at the ROH last year. His contribution, together with those of Gerhaher and Botha, make the whole enterprise worthwhile.
The Guardian, December 2010