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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Romeo and Juliet, fantasy-overture
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major, K. 365/316a
Petr Iljič Čajkovskij
Symphony No. 3 in D major Op. 29 “Polish”
Katia and Marielle Labèque
“The best piano duo in front of an audience today”
New York Times
“Whether Mozart or Stravinsky, their musical line always sounds as if it’s being woven for the very first time... But the illusion of improvisation is the genius of their performances. In all their recordings there is a deceptive sprezzatura that is born of throwing the preparation to the winds and hanging onto each others ears.”
Katia and Marielle Labèque are sibling pianists renowned for their ensemble of synchronicity and energy. Their musical ambitions started at an early age and they rose to international fame with their contemporary rendition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (one of the first gold records in classical music) and have since developed a stunning career with performances worldwide.
They are regular guests with the most prestigious orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Filarmonia della Scala, Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle and Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Semyon Bychkov, Lionel Bringuier, Sir Colin Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kristjan Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Georges Prętre, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas and Jaap van Zweden.
They have appeared with Baroque music ensembles such as The English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Il Giardino Armonico with Giovanni Antonini, Musica Antica with Reinhard Goebel and Venice Baroque with Andrea Marcon, il Pomo d’Oro and also toured with The Age of Enlightenment & Sir Simon Rattle.
Katia and Marielle have had the privilege of working with many composers including Thomas Adčs, Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, György Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen. On the 26th May 2015 Katia and Marielle gave in Los Angeles at Walt Disney Hall the world premiere of Philip Glass’s new Concerto (written for them) together with Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. A new concerto by Bryce Dessner, written specially for the piano duo, will be ready in 2018.
The Labèques play in festivals and renowned venues worldwide including the Vienna Musikverein, Hamburg Musikhalle, Munich Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, La Scala, Berlin Philharmonie, Blossom, Hollywood Bowl, Lucerne, BBC Proms, Ravinia, Tanglewood and Salzburg. An audience of more than 33,000 attended a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at Berlin’s Waldbühne, now available on DVD (EuroArts).
For their own label, KML recordings, they have released in 2014 the CD Sisters with a selection of musical pieces from their personal and professional lives. Previous releases include a Gershwin/Bernstein album, and their project Minimalist Dream House (50 years of Minimalist music). Next DVD release in collaboration with Euroarts will be out in spring 2017: The Labèque Way, a letter to Katia and Marielle by Alessandro Baricco produced by El Deseo (Pedro and Augustin Almodóvar) and filmed by Félix Cábez.
Katia and Marielle Labèque also launched the KML Foundation, aimed at furthering research and developing awareness of the duo piano repertoire through meetings between artists of all fields. One of the Foundation latest projects is a concert around Moondog's music, in collaboration with Kings Place in London, in continuity to their work on Minimalist composers.
In May 2015 the show Love Stories with the new piece Star-Cross'd Lovers by David Chalmin was premiered at the Paris Philharmonie. This original composition for two pianos, electric guitar and drums is based on the Shakespearean drama Romeo and Juliet. The choreography for 7 dancers is created by world-renowned break-dancer Yaman Okur (Madonna, Cirque du Soleil). The show was also presented in Paris in June 2016 at Chatelet, and the European tour will last until October 2016.
A record audience of more than 100.000 attended the Vienna Summer Night Concert 2016 in Schönbrunn (now available on CD and DVD by Sony), where Katia and Marielle played with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov. More then 1,5 Milliard viewer followed the event worldwide on the TV.
Labèque’s label KML Recordings joined in Summer 2016 the historical label Deutsche Grammophon. A 2 CDs re-edition of their album Minimalist Dream House follow their concert at the Philharmonie de Paris on the 25th of September together with the first recording of their project Love Stories.
Their new record with Deutsche Grammophon dedicated to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Debussy's Epigraphes Antiques will be released in November 2016. At the same time the biography Une vie ŕ quatre mains by Renaud Machart will be published by Buchet-Chastel.
Newly appointed as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov will assume the title at the beginning of the 2018/19 season. Born in Leningrad in 1952, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has been based in Europe since the mid-1980’s. In common with the Orchestra, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the cultures both of the East and the West.
Conducting the Czech Philharmonic for the opening of the 2017 Smetana Litomyšl Festival, Hospodářské noviny wrote of the performance of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini: “the Czech Philharmonic is currently on excellent form and trusts Semyon Bychkov. And, being battle-hardened from working around the world with the best orchestras on the planet, he gives the Philharmonic players the room to develop their musical potential. The result is a unique musical creation.”
Following his early concerts with the Czech Philharmonic in 2013, Bychkov and the Orchestra devised The Tchaikovsky Project, a series of concerts, residencies and studio recordings which allowed them the luxury of exploring Tchaikovsky’s music together, both in Prague’s Rudolfinum and abroad. The first fruit of The Tchaikovsky Project – a recording of Symphony No. 6 coupled with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture – was released by Decca in October 2016, and was followed in August 2017 by the release of the Manfred Symphony. The Tchaikovsky Project culminates in 2019 with residencies in Vienna and Paris, and Decca’s release of all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini.
Semyon Bychkov won the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition when he was 20 years old. Two years later, having been denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, he left the former Soviet Union where, aged five, he was singled out for an extraordinarily privileged education in music. Initially studying piano, Bychkov was later selected to study at the Glinka Choir School where he received his first conducting lesson aged 13. Four years later he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory as a student of the legendary Ilya Musin.
By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, he had enjoyed success in the US as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which began in France with Opéra de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, had taken off when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras. In 1989, he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997, Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Bychkov’s repertoire is wide-ranging both in the concert hall and in the opera house. He conducts in all the major houses including La Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden Semperoper, Wiener Staatsoper, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Teatro Real. Madrid. While Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, his productions of Janáček’s Jenufa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov were awarded the prestigious Premio Abbiati. He recently conducted Wagner’s Parsifal at the Wiener Staatsoper, and will return in 2018 with the same opera. Other new productions in Vienna include Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina; while in London, he made his debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten and Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. In the UK, in addition to regular performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, his honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra - with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – reflect the warmth of the relationships. In Europe, he tours frequently with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being an annual guest of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orchestre National de France and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; in the US, he can be heard with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras.
Recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has worked closely with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. In recent seasons he has worked closely with Renée Staar, Thomas Larcher, Richard Dubignon, Detlev Glanert and Julian Anderson, conducting premières of their works with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Bychkov’s recording career began in 1986 when he signed with Philips and began a significant collaboration which produced an extensive discography with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings - the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997-2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne – include a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Strauss (Elektra, Daphne, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegel), Mahler (Symphony No. 3, Das Lied von der Erde), Shostakovich (Symphony Nos. 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), Rachmaninov (The Bells, Symphonic Dances, Symphony No. 2), Verdi (Requiem), Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Wagner’s Lohengrin was voted BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year in 2010; and his recent recording of Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was selected as BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month.
Semyon Bychkov was named 2015’s Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards.
Of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, we can say with certainty that Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29 is usually the least performed, even though there is no doubt about its considerable charm. Its five contrasting sections have a deeper psychological take compared to Tchaikovsky’s two previous symphonies. The course of the composition seems to show a way out of darkness into light: from the opening funeral march, the music passes into a festive procession and continues with poetic images alternating a fast, lofty as well as melancholy waltz. In the other movements, we are captivated by the above-mentioned lyrical meditation followed by vivid images of Scherzo, and the composition culminates in Finale in the atmosphere of spontaneous merriment. The work on this symphony went quickly; after three weeks Tchaikovsky could begin with instrumentation and at the beginning of August 1876 the symphony was completely finished. Its premiere took place in Moscow as early as 7 November under the direction of Nikolai Rubinstein, and shortly after that, on 24 January 1876, it was presented in St. Petersburg by Eduard Nápravník.
On 4 March 1870, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was present at the first performance of his overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet, which was heard at a concert in Moscow conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein. The second version publicly premiered in St. Petersburg on 5 February 1872 under the direction of Eduard Nápravník, and immediately afterwards on 18 February in Moscow again under Nikolai Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky himself was satisfied only with the version of 1880, which he later conducted at concerts in St. Petersburg, Berlin and during his visit to Prague in early 1888 in the Rudolfinum. This third reworked version is the one that is now in the repertoire.
In Shakespeare’s tragic tale of unfulfilled love of Verona lovers, Tchaikovsky did not follow the chronological course of individual scenes expressed by means of music. He chose the form of an “absolute” overture, and in accordance with its subtitle “fantasia” enriched and completed it by rhapsodic formal elements. The final version uses dynamic means of expression and changes in melodic lines, rhythm and instrumentation. The large-scale sonata form opens with a free-form introduction of the fateful idea. The overture itself features the irreconcilable feud of the two noble families, which prevented the loving relationship between Romeo and Juliet. At the culmination of the fight, the key in the secondary theme changes to D flat major in a gentle lyrical melody characterizing the power of love of the two lovers. The violent clan feud erupts again in the development, and the recapitulation brings about the tragic fate of the unfortunate couple. The composition concludes with a lyrical catharsis: the Verona lovers find eternal peace only after death.
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