September 21, 2017
Semyon Bychkov - Fall 2017 Newsletter
Chris Christodoulou

Praise for Semyon Bychkov in All-Russian Programs at the BBC Proms

Last month, in his annual appearance at the BBC Proms, Semyon Bychkov led performances of Romantic repertoire from his native Russia. He conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he holds the Günter Wand Conducting Chair, in two programs at Royal Albert Hall: (1) a concert performance of Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, as completed and edited by Shostakovich; and (2) works by Tchaikovsky and two composers influenced by him, Sergei Taneyev and Sergei Rachmaninoff, with pianist Kirill Gerstein featured in Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto. From the reviews:

Prom 29: Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina

“Holding [the performance] together with a wise yet energising hand was conductor Semyon Bychkov. He revealed the extraordinary colours of Shostakovich’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s unfinished score – basically browns and greys but shot through with unearthly glows – and set each melodic phrase in relief, as if it were a sacred icon. Every aspect of this tremendous work was projected with fervent exactitude, from drunken revelry to – at the opera’s tragic end – the burning conviction of the Old Believers that heaven awaited them, as they mounted their funeral pyre.”

 The Telegraph27 August 2017

Khovanshchina [was] conducted with meticulous clarity, steady radiance and a slow heartbeat by Semyon Bychkov.”

The Times8 August 2017

“Semyon Bychkov, conducting Shostakovich’s orchestration of the score, drew deeper than usual playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and took his time with an ample flexibility that made the opera cast an awesome shadow.”

Financial Times8 August 2017

“Semyon Bychkov … secured playing of energy and refinement from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.”

Independent7 August 2017

Prom 63: Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, Taneyev’s Oresteia Overture, and
Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto, featuring Kirill Gerstein

“Bychkov had all the architecture [in the Manfred Symphony] firmly mapped out and brought dramatic tension to its long spans, allowing him to get the best from the orchestra. The lugubrious colouring of the start was a case in point, and although the BBCSO always seems at its most committed for Bychkov, the strings had uncommon power here.”

The Telegraph, 30 August 2017

“…in this exceptionally vivid performance [of the Manfred Symphony], Bychkov’s flair and Tchaikovsky’s genius for orchestral textures kept us listening…”

The Times, 4 September 2017

“Bychkov is one of those conductors who bring a special, deep-level sound with them. … The earthy sonorities in which Bychkov specialises opened both Taneyev’s Overture to The Oresteia … and Manfred: in the first instance with writhing double basses, in the second piercing bassoons and bass clarinets protested by jabbing lower strings.”

The Arts Desk, 1 September 2017

“Bychkov, baton in hand for the whole concert, proved himself alive to the wash and interplay of the score’s hush and tension, as well as to its outbursts of Rimskian brilliance, aspects even more in evidence in parts of Manfred.”

Seen and Heard International, 2 September 2017


The Tchaikovsky Project Continues with the Manfred Symphony

On August 25, Decca Classics released Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, marking the second installment in his and the orchestra’s recording cycle The Tchaikovsky Project. From the reviews:

"There is much here to build upon the promise of Bychkov’s Pathétique – the exceptional performance which launched this ongoing ‘Tchaikovsky Project’ … The soulfulness of this Manfred finds concentration in the first movement [in which] Bychkov makes something really special of the wistfully lyric episode for strings at the heart of the movement … Bychkov has his finger on the pulse of this music [and] his realisation of the returning main theme with horns in glorious counterpoint carries such sweeping authenticity. … the prospect of what is to come from this [recording] series can be keenly anticipated."

Gramophone, Awards 2017 issue (September)

“The Czech orchestra [is] clearly inspired by Bychkov’s dramatic, almost Wagnerian conception of the piece. The Russian conductor clearly revels in the gloomy, doom-laden quality of the music … This outstanding issue makes one look forward to the other five canonical symphonies with impatience.” (“Album of the Week”)

The Sunday Times, 3 September 2017

“…a superb performance in excellent sound … [Bychkov is] a musical maverick of real genius…”

Daily Mail, 26 August 2017

“The epic expansiveness of the Manfred Symphony suits Bychkov’s operatic tendencies perfectly. He clearly relishes the music’s moments of grandeur, over-the-top rhetoric and dramatic coups, and the Czech orchestra responds with playing of tremendous character.”

The Guardian, 17 August 2017

The Tchaikovsky Project was launched in October 2016 with a recording of the composer’s Sixth Symphony (“Pathétique”) and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. The cycle marks Mr. Bychkov’s first recording collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic, as well as Decca’s first Tchaikovsky cycle in nearly 40 years (and the first in high-definition 96K/24-bit sound). The complete box set is scheduled for release in 2019.


Upcoming Performances in the United States

In the U.S. during the 2017-18 season, Semyon Bychkov conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony.

The New York Philharmonic performances are headlined by signature works in Mr. Bychkov’s repertoire: Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony. The first program (May 17–19, 22) features Shostakovich’s Fifth alongside Brahms’s Tragic Overture and Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, featuring Bertrand Chamayou. The second program (May 24–26) pairs Strauss’s post-Romantic symphony with a modern masterpiece, Berio’s Sinfonia, featuring contemporary vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth.

In his remaining U.S. concerts, Mr. Bychkov conducts repertoire from his Beloved Friend Tchaikovsky concert series (including the Manfred Symphony), Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, and Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, featuring frequent collaborators Katia and Marielle Labèque. The programs are as follows:

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra (May 3–5 in Chicago; May 6 in Iowa City): Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony; Bruch’s Concerto
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic (May 12 & 13)*: Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony; Bruch’s Concerto
  • San Francisco Symphony (May 31–June 2): Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony (“Little Russian”); Taneyev’s Oresteia Overture; Bruch’s Concerto

*Program also includes piano duo-only performance of Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor for Four Hands.

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One of the world’s most esteemed conductors, Semyon Bychkov has achieved international recognition for an approach to music making that combines innate musicality with the rigors of Russian music pedagogy. He has conducted virtually all of the major orchestras in the U.S. and Europe and previously served as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, and Orchestre de Paris, and Chief Conductor of both the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and the Dresden Semperoper. Mr. Bychkov currently holds the honorary Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he appears annually at the BBC Proms. In 2015, the International Opera Awards named him “Conductor of the Year.” Website:

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Press contact:
Shuman Associates | (212) 315-1300

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