26th November 2019
The undeniable highlight of this first evening was the memorable interpretation of Symphony No. 5 given by Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic. It was carried from beginning to end by one epic breath which oscillated between enthusiasm and desolation, and on a par with that of the incontrovertible Mvravinsky. It is hard to know what to admire the most: the quality of the orchestral playing or the ‘rightness’ of the conducting. Opening with the mournful bowing of the double basses, the Adagio-Allegro at the beginning soon unfolded with phrasing that alternated between feverishness, lyricism and drama in a huge variant of tempi, nuances and contrasts. The clarity of the performance highlighted the orchestral solos (both winds and percussion) like numerous counterpoints. The Adagio stood out above all for the pathetic lament of the solo horn which exhaled a lyricism laden with threats and pushed the desolation to a climax, while the dialogue between strings and winds in the waltz-like Allegro moderato was no more reassuring. The finale, with its enormous crescendo, emphatic timpani and fanfares of brass, left us questioning whether the outcome was victory or resignation, an important existential question that will be solved in his final symphony, No. 6… Symphony No. 6, known as the Pathétique filled the second part of the concert. As with the Fifth the previous evening, Semyon Bychkov’s interpretation was really convincing… It is a very theatrical work, with the first movement affirming superbly the contrast between the lugubrious Adagio (bassoon, bass strings) and the terrifyingly dramatic and urgent Allegro (fanfares of brass and timpani)… the Allegro Molto Vivace found all its vitality and its Dionysian tension in a formidable crescendo that made the most of all the orchestral forces, before the true lament of the final Adagio, where the wails of the strings mingled with the dark cantilenas of the bassoon and horn and, in a resigned and premonitory acceptance, the threatening brass set the seal on the victory of destiny. With these two concerts, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic continue to assert themselves as brilliant new references in Tchaikovsky’s music!