3rd March 2018
Just as in its first recording for the complete Tchaikovsky cycle, the Czech Philharmonic was radiant under the leadership of Semyon Bychkov. Tchaikovsky suits the orchestra beyond measure, allowing them to show off both as instrumental sections and as outstanding individuals. The precision and attendant assuredness of Semyon Bychkov’s performance obviously was an outgrowth of the rehearsals. Although the composer’s broad melodies are a temptation for grand pathos, everything was amazingly polished, without any hint of excessive sentimentality and bitter-sweetness. There was smoothness to the sonic conception, favouring the inner voices, and even at the climactic moments, the sound was never violent. It was quite clearly audible and visible that the conductor knows when he can give the orchestra room, without limiting it with his gestures. Moreover, I have never before heard the musicians of the Czech Philharmonic play with such respect for the dynamics, such breadth and suspense, and with such great intensity, all the way back to the very last stands. And you could see the joy on their faces. Decca could directly release a recording of yesterday’s performance of the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36. An awesome evening of music making.
2nd March 2018
Bychkov also brought a bit of sober detachment to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and ultimately the work’s existential urgency was not the main feature of the performance. The woodwinds, which have a number of enchanting passages in the symphony, played with marvelously perfect tuning… We would expect the wonderful solos by the players, many of whom we have long known by name and from other chamber ensembles. Even more pleasantly surprising, however, was the balanced, homogenous tone of all of the string sections, which played up the symphony’s extraordinarily lively dialogue. The second movement sounded touching and elegant, but Tchaikovsky also had a feel for instrumental virtuosity, as the pizzicato third movement shows, as does the fourth movement, for that matter. Sonically, this pure, concentrated performance, further motivated by the ongoing recording project, was simply wonderful.
1st March 2018
The degree of commitment of all of the players to Bychkov [in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony], his refinement of details, the unfolding of the ingenious score, and the manner of interpretation was extraordinary…
With its purportedly autobiographical content, the symphony is very emotional, colourful, and thematically tightly organised. The core of the work is unquestionably the first movement, and from the fanfares of the French horns and bassoons, the Philharmonic players gave a performance of great intensity. Under Bychkov’s direction, the orchestra breathed every phrase. The Andantino was stratospheric. Already the solo oboe sounded so delectable, and the orchestra took over from it with the utmost elegance! And then the third movement with the superb string pizzicato and the dialogue with the wind instruments… And finally, the fiery Allegro with its folk music background. And what caught my ear the most? The way the whole symphony breathed, how precise everything was, how carefully the interpretation’s architecture had been thought through, how the playing had all of the intensity of any foreign orchestra, and the excellence of the solo playing (Jana Brožková, Andrea Pazderová, Tomáš Kopáček, Jan Machat…). Under Semyon Bychkov’s leadership, the Tchaikovsky Project on the Decca label could leave a timeless mark on the history of classical music recordings.
1st March 2018
A new Chief Conductor and a new friendship: the Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov understand each other…
Under Bychkov’s baton, [Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony] sounded poised; the conductor took pains to shade the dynamics, and he managed to sustain the music’s tension… The brass’s pronouncements of inexorable fate were among the scintillating moments. Bychkov embodies a combination of meticulousness and relaxation, and he is obviously passing this combination onto the Orchestra. One definitely comes away with the impression that a friendship like that expressed by the concert programme is also growing between the orchestral musicians and the Chief Conductor which is certainly promising for the future.