24th January 2017
Under Bychkov’s baton, the musicians were perfectly relaxed. Perfect, not in the sense of an absence of errors demanded by the live situation and this legend of legendary orchestras, but perfect because the Orchestra breathed as one in Brahms’ musical language, claiming the North German as if one of their own. You only need to have heard the Viennese to understand the extent to which they understood the idiom.
This evening was great because Mahler’s artistry took the music to its very limits. At the beginning, at least 16 of the first violins played what sounded like nothing but quivering air – almost inaudibly quiet and inaudibly high. Then gradually, the composer seemed to pluck remembered images from the air: here the bird-like call of the clarinet, and there the distant rumble of thunder from the timpani, and entwined them in the seemingly carefree melody from “Liedern eines fahrenden Gesellen”. Ultimately driving the work forward at full throttle unabated until it reached its conclusion and climax.
The audience was remarkably attentive. In the moments of introspection, when it felt as if the music’s desolation moved the ground beneath Mahler’s feet, the silence was palpable.
23rd January 2017
Semyon Bychkov formed the delicate transitions in Mahler’s First Symphony with a long breath. The 64 year old conductor with greying curls exuded a tremendous calm as he created undulating curves with his hands and drew the fine sounds of Vienna from the Philharmonic Orchestra. And then, all of sudden, with the twitch of the baton, the sound exploded.
20th December 2016
As part of Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s residency, The Orchestre National de France gave a superb performance of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto, accompanied by conductor Semyon Bychkov who was at first wise and later, in Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, exalted…
Following the interval, Semyon Bychkov returned on his own to the stage where he conducted a much larger orchestra in the rarely heard Manfred Symphony… Bychkov developed the opening bars of the work which still lacked heat slowly and showed the risk in the rapport between the rapid attacks of the violins and the woodwind until the exalted sound carried on high a coda which is one of the most beautiful themes that the composer ever wrote.
12th December 2016
Bychkov continued to paint magical colours in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Manfred’ Symphony. His extensive experience as an opera conductor proved beneficial in this programme. Cautious, yet with a theatrical flair, he brought out the individual voices, breathing with them, making them flourish whilst all the while maintaining control, with the help of the formidable percussion, and a balance of sound. The liveliness of the tempi kept the more lyrical themes agile and free of schmaltz. When Manfred finds salvation in the finale, the beauty with which the Philharmonic played was almost sacred in character, borne also out of the long-held tension at the end of the piece. It is both regrettable and remarkable that we do not hear Bychkov more regularly in Munich at the opera house.