2nd March 2020
For an hour and a half, Semyon Bychkov electrified not only the Munich Philharmonic, but the audience in the Philharmonic Hall. The performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth captivated from the shattering beginning to the last breath with which this music fades away. A brief pause united performers and audience before the audience burst into applause.
Bychkov, who has already conducted the Philharmonic in several Mahler symphonies, now also proved himself a supreme navigator of the seemingly chaotic dissolution of the world and musical cosmos that Mahler portrays in his last completed symphony. It was impressive how he maintained and conveyed clear-sightedness in the crashing climaxes and polyphonic layering of the sweeping first movement.
And it was with pleasure that it was possible to follow the sometimes self-quoting events in the individual instrument groups: in the differentiation of the high and low strings; in the varied use of the richly ornamented winds; in the brass which oscillated between free and damped sounds; in the harps; and the massive percussion.
The members of the Philharmonic showed great commitment in all four movements. They made the second movement a wild combination through fairy-tale parades in the Landler and suppleness in the Waltz. In the rondo burlesque, conductor and orchestra highlighted the rawness that Mahler embedded in the fugue (and was manifested unashamedly by the winds)… The finale opened with the conciliatory sound of the violins, a broad stream of strings that culminated in a fine thread, leaving winds and horns to be the focus once again.
23rd February 2020
It could be that it is the shadow of 1907 that echoes in Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: the tragic death of his little daughter Maria and the diagnosis of a damaged heart. Added to which his leaving Vienna to go to the New World. Either way, the first three movements with their fragmented structure balancing between faltering and dissolving, their aphoristic tribal codes and their bizarre instrumentation could easily be interpreted as such. This is why Bruno Walter interpreted the work as a “Farewell’ and Alban Berg as a “Premonition of Death”. Yet Mahler was also faced with the fact that his marriage was in crisis.
.Semyon Bychkov, guest conductor with the Munich Philharmonic, was meticulously immersed in this disconnected patchwork of sound. He emphasized the physiognomy with gestures that were both clear and flexible, and never felt forced. In the Philharmonie, he turned what Mahler may have formulated in ghostly crisis mode into the hyper-expressive vocabulary of modernity. This was already evident in the overlong development of the first movement with its contrasting relief between pianissimo lyricism and triple forte “with supreme force” and in the recapitulation of the chamber-like “Misterioso”. In the second movement, Bychkov never exaggerated the rough dance-like rhythms; but rather focused on the minor section of the closing pianissimo. In the middle of the bizarrely instrumented fugati of the rondo burlesque, an ethereal D major passage and harp idylls floated solemnly. As is always the case with Gustav Mahler: after working through the garish dissonances of world turmoil, he draws a conclusion in the final movement – the dissolution of the disparity into the hope of redemption.
With Bychkov, the Munich Philharmonic, who had done a great job in mastering the complex work, celebrated the painful melting of the typical Mahler idiom with the dying pianissimo of the coda.
12th February 2020
Semyon Bychkov complemented the State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic’s expertise in Strauss, conducting both the incredible outbursts and the magical, lyrical passages splendidly. There was much applause.
10th February 2020
Goerke connected seamlessly with the State Opera Orchestra under Semyon Bychkov, who was conducting Strauss’s “Elektra” in the house for the first time in 20 years with his customary mixture of unrestrained power combined with the ability to focus attention on individual instruments at the appropriate moment, as if being burnt through a glass.