Symphony No. 2 H 295
Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World", Op. 95
The multifaceted pianist Kirill Gerstein has rapidly ascended into classical music’s highest ranks. His early training and experience in jazz has contributed an important element to his interpretive style.
Mr. Gerstein is the sixth recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award. Since receiving the award in 2010, Mr. Gerstein has shared his prize through the commissioning of boundary-crossing works by Timo Andres, Chick Corea, Alexander Goehr, Oliver Knussen, and Brad Mehldau. Mr. Gerstein was awarded First Prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, received a 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and a 2010 Avery Fisher Grant.
A significant highlight of Mr. Gerstein’s 2016/17 season is the New York premiere of a new Urtext edition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic led by Semyon Bychkov. He will also perform this version of the concerto with the Atlanta Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra (in its U.S. premiere), and Naples Philharmonic. Mr. Gerstein’s ECHO Klassik Award-winning world premiere recording of this version of the work, paired with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin led by James Gaffigan was released by Myrios Classics in 2015 and marked Mr. Gerstein’s first orchestral recording. Internationally, this version of the score was performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms in London, as well as with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Additionally this season, Mr. Gerstein performs Busoni’s epic Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra led by Sakari Oramo (and returns in the 2018/19 season to play the world premiere of a BSO-commissioned piano concerto by the orchestra’s first-ever artistic partner, Thomas Adès), Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the original jazz band version and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra led by James Gaffigan, and both Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue with the St. Louis Symphony conducted by David Robertson to be recorded for future release. He also returns to the New Jersey, San Diego, and Vancouver Symphonies, performs recitals in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center, Chicago presented by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Seattle, and joins the Hagen Quartet for chamber music concerts at Zankel Hall in New York and at Duke University. In Europe, Mr. Gerstein performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 as part of Semyon Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky festival with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and plays with the Brno Philharmonic, Deutches-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Göttinger Symphonie Orchester, Hamburger Symphoniker, Helsinki Philharmonic, and Luzerner Sinfonieorchester.
He has appeared at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony, and at the Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chicago’s Grant Park, Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival, Mann Music Center and Saratoga. He has performed recitals in Paris, Prague, Hamburg, London’s Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, and at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. He made his Salzburg Festival debut playing solo and two piano works with Andras Schiff and has also appeared at the Lucerne and Jerusalem Chamber Music Festivals as well as at the Proms in London.
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.
Between 1942 and 1946, during his time in the USA, Bohuslav Martinů wrote five of his six symphonies (the final one was completed in 1953). He only began composing within the genre at a relatively mature age. Symphony No. 2 H 295,commissioned by the Czechoslovak community in Cleveland, came into being within a mere seven weeks, between 29 May and 24 July 1943, during Martinů’s summer holiday in Darien, Connecticut.
As is the case of Martinů’s previous symphony, the Second too is based on the classical, four-movement platform, yet it possesses a more chamber-like sound, with small ensembles afforded a considerable scope within the large orchestra, thus referring to the Baroque concerto grosso technique that Martinů was so keen on applying. It would seem that the composer also decided to make the texture’s lucidity accommodate to the work’s duration (the Second is the shortest of his symphonies). Now and then, the melodiousness and the overly happy atmosphere possess a pastoral nature. Coincidentally, Symphony No. 2 was premiered on the very same day as was another Martinů piece, the Memorial to Lidice,on 28 October 1943, with the former performed by the Cleveland Orchestra in Cleveland, and the latter by the New York Philharmonic in NYC.
In 1854, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) sketched a sonata for two pianos. Two years later, he brought the idea to fruition in the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor Op. 15. The piece was premiered to great acclaim on 23 January 1859 in Hanover; four days later, it was performed at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig – on both occasions, Brahms himself played the piano and the concerts were conducted by his friend Joseph Joachim. The reception in Leipzig, however, was negative, with the critics denouncing the piece as unfinished, pointing out that “the motifs are undeveloped, the harmony maimed and the rhythm staggering on weak legs, the technique is schoolboyish...”
Two months later, on 24 March 1859, Brahms performed the concerto in his native Hamburg and it again met with a good reception. The work was further promoted by Clara Schumann, who first played it, with Brahms conducting, in Hamburg on 3 December 1861. The first movement opens with a long exposition of the orchestra, while the piano, besides the exposition themes, introduces its own theme, which is treated in the development. The calm of the second movement corresponds to the words “Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini” (Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord), which Brahms wrote at the head of its score. The concluding Rondo is dominated by an energetic idea, which is compensated by more lyrical passages and two piano cadenzas.
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