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13th October 2018

Opera Slovakia


One of the last but artistically most important concerts of the 54th annual Bratislava Music Festival was devoted to the music of Gustav Mahler.  The Czech Philharmonic performed his Symphony No. 2 in C Minor under the leadership of Semyon Bychkov, the orchestra’s new Chief Conductor beginning this season.  The symphony was a reflection of Bychkov’s enormous musical intelligence and passion for music.  The Czech Philharmonic and Bychkov will be presenting the symphony again this season at New York’s Carnegie Hall and at the Musikverein in Vienna.  Their performance at the Reduta in Bratislava was unique, nearly indescribable in words, rich with emotion, and verging on artistic perfection…

The energetically and dynamically expressive wind section of the Czech Philharmonic brought Mahler’s motifs and ideas to life in this movement in an incredible manner.  The stormy music of the beginning is followed by a lovely cantilena for the violins.  In the violin solos, the concertmaster Josef Špaček played superbly, with expression and subtlety of dynamics.

What Semyon Bychkov truly achieved in his musical conception of the Second Symphony was to allow his listeners room to perceive every harmony and hue of Mahler’s music.  Every musical detail is of great importance to him, whether a timpani stroke, the sound of a triangle, or a section of musical instruments playing offstage.  Under his direction, all of the instrumental sections of the Czech Philharmonic played to the best of their ability.  The result of the players’ efforts and boundless energy was a sound equal to perfection.  Even in a work as instrumentally rich and complex as the Resurrection Symphony, we were able to perceive the individual colours of the orchestra’s instrumental sections thanks to the conductor’s precise, thoughtful work in preparing the performance…

The final minutes of this imposing work with the sound of both ensembles under Bychkov’s leadership were transformed into an integral structure, and the victorious, triumphant, final chord in E flat major resounded long after the public began to applaud.  Within a few seconds, the work’s interpretation and performance under Bychkov’s direction had lifted the listeners from their seats throughout the Slovak Philharmonic Concert Hall.  The enthusiastic public gave the orchestra, the Philharmonic Choir, and maestro Bychkov an ovation that went on for several minutes.  Perhaps the applause was also for Mahler himself, who created this visionary work, in which he showed that light penetrates the darkness.  Suffering, doubt, and hope are transformed into hope, and mankind, tormented by life, will have a chance to be reborn.  To enter into eternity.

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12th October 2018


Frank Kuznik

Bychkov and the orchestra left no doubt that a new era was underway with a glorious performance of Mahlerʼs Resurrection Symphony. Authoritative, colorful and full-blooded, it also had unexpected moments of whimsy and light, agile playing that contrasted nicely with the heavy intensity and high volume the conductor favors. Mahler is considered a native son in the Czech lands, but under Bychkovʼs baton his music sounded more universal and accessible without losing any of its distinctive personal dimension.

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11th October 2018


Jan Průša

The Czech Philharmonic is in wonderful form.  Hard work is bearing fruit, and Semyon Bychkov is certainly making a contribution to this, bringing to Prague new opportunities for learning, and this is also offing him the chance to gain a feeling for the Czech way of playing. There is an obvious resonance between him and the players.  Already from the first movement, Allegro maestoso, it was clear that there was no friction anywhere.  The whole composition had been thought through carefully by Bychkov, as was clear right from the beginning.

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11th October 2018

Věra Drápelová

The interpretation itself was first-class. The difficulties of ensemble playing with the vast forces, including the instruments offstage, came off without a hitch, and the energy with which everyone was playing held the listeners’ attention, drawing the audience into the composition… We should mention that the Czech Philharmonic will also be performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Bychkov on its upcoming American tour.  It will perform it on 28 October, the national holiday celebrating Czech statehood, at New York’s Carnegie Hall.  And Bychkov makes no secret of the fact that he wants to present Mahler to the world more as a composer with roots in the territory of what is now the Czech Republic.

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