21st November 2019
With a spirit that is rarely heard in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic gave the first of three guest performances dedicated to this Russian composer at Vienna’s Musikverein. No wonder his partner at the “first piano concerto in B minor” was the young pianist Kirill Gerstein.
Soloist and conductor pulled together to perform one of the most popular works of piano literature in its original version. Gerstein communicated with the orchestra eye to eye. His hard but accented attacks matched Bychkov’s refreshing but never lyrical reading. He played the wild cadenzas that were a tour de force, perfectly on his own and returned to seek dialogue with the musicians in the finely balanced passages. Bychkov has been Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic since 2018. He began recording all Tchaikovsky symphonies with this orchestra in 2015. And so, as we heard in Manfred, he has done this composer an important service. He staged this “Symphony in B minor in four pictures by Byron” theatrically, exploiting the soft, velvety sound of the orchestra in all its facets. It was pure drama. The principals, especially the woodwinds, were all excellent. The applause lasted a long time.