Kirill Gerstein • Czech Philharmonic


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Programme

Leoš Janáček
Concertino

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 75

Franz Schubert
Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D 944 (“The Great”)

Performers

Kirill Gerstein
piano

Semyon Bychkov
conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Kirill Gerstein Czech Philharmonic

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall


Performers

Kirill Gerstein  piano
Kirill Gerstein

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. 

In the 2018/2019 season Gerstein gives the world premiere performance of Thomas Adès’ new Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, with performances in Boston and in Carnegie Hall, New York. Elsewhere in this season, Gerstein appears with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder. He performs in China with the Shanghai and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paolo. He plays recitals in London, Stuttgart, Lisbon, Singapore, Melbourne and Copenhagen, as well as chamber performances with the Hagen Quartet, Veronika Eberle and Clemens Hagen in Lucerne, and with actor Bruno Ganz for recitals in Germany and Austria. 

In autumn 2018 Gerstein’s recording of Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko was released on LAWO Classic’s. Future recording releases this season include Busoni’s Piano Concerto on myrios classics in spring 2019 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Nos. 1–3 in summer 2019, part of Semyon Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky Project recorded for Decca with the Czech Philharmonic. 

Born in 1979 in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, Mr. Gerstein studied piano at a special music school for gifted children and while studying classical music, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ extensive record collection. After coming to the attention of vibraphonist Gary Burton, who was performing at a music festival in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gerstein came to the United States at 14 to study jazz piano as the youngest student ever to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After completing his studies in three years and following his second summer at the Boston University program at Tanglewood, Mr. Gerstein turned his focus back to classical music and moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky and earned both Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees by the age of 20. He continued his studies in Madrid with Dmitri Bashkirov and in Budapest with Ferenc Rados. An American citizen since 2003, Mr. Gerstein now divides his time between the United States and Germany. 

A committed teacher and pedagogue, Gerstein taught at the Stuttgart Musik Hochschule from 2007–2017 and from autumn 2018 he teaches as part of Kronberg Academy’s newly announced Sir András Schiff Performance Programme for Young Artists.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

Celebrating both his fifth season as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic and his 70th birthday, Semyon Bychkov will celebrate his birthday with three concerts in November pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with Shostakovich’s Fifth. It is a season which opens in Prague with the official concert to mark the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the EU and continues with concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka as part of the Dvořákova Prague International Music Festival. Later in the season, Bychkov will conduct Rusalka at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Bychkov's tenure at the Czech Philharmonic was initiated in 2018 with concerts in Prague, London, New York and Washington marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. With the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project in 2019, Bychkov and the Orchestra turned their focus to Mahler. In 2022, Pentatone has already released two discs in the ongoing complete symphonic cycle – Mahler’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies.

Bychkov's repertoire spans four centuries. The unique combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy ensure that his performances are highly anticipated. In addition to being a guest with the major orchestras and opera houses across Europe and the US, Bychkov holds honorary titles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – and the Royal Academy of Music from whom he recently received an Honorary Doctorate. In 2015, he was named "Conductor of the Year’ by the International Opera Awards.

Bychkov began recording for Philips in 1989 and released discs with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne included a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, together with works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Verdi, Glanert and Höller. His 1992 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library recommended recording (2020); Wagner’s Lohengrin was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year (2010); and Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month (2018).

In common with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the culture of the East and the other in the West. Born in St Petersburg in 1952, he emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has lived in Europe since the mid-1980's. Singled out for an extraordinarily privileged musical education from the age of 5, Bychkov studied piano before winning his place at the Glinka Choir School where, aged 13, he received his first lesson in conducting. He was 17 when he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory to study with the legendary Ilya Musin and, within three years had won the influential Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. Denied the prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic, Bychkov left the former Soviet Union in 1975. He returned in 1989 as Principal Guest Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic and, the same year, was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. In 1997, Bychkov was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and in 1998, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.

Compositions

Leoš Janáček
Concertino

Leoš Janáček vytvořil leckterá stěžejní díla až okolo své sedmdesátky. Měl už tehdy za sebou úctyhodnou činnost kompoziční, hudebněteoretickou, folkloristickou, organizační a pedagogickou, přesto pro něho dvacátá léta v novém československém státě znamenala etapu netušeného rozmachu. Svěží sedmdesátník, inspirován v posledním desetiletí života silným milostným vztahem, přímo chrlil nové a originální výtvory, jež mu získávaly úspěch a respekt i u mladé generace. 

Do tohoto okruhu spadá také Janáčkovo Concertino pro klavír a komorní soubor z roku 1925. Vnějším podnětem jeho vzniku bylo umění znamenitého pianisty Jana Heřmana, kterému je skladba věnována, ale autorovu inspiraci neméně povzbudila i probouzející se jarní příroda se svými zvířecími obyvateli (Jaro zněl též původní podtitul). Charakter čtyřvětého útvaru určuje suitově založená výstavba, neotřelá zvukovost daná netradičně sestaveným doprovodným tělesem (dvoje housle, viola, klarinet, fagot, lesní roh) a lidově zbarvená melodika. Všechny tyto znaky se spojují s osobitě pojatou virtuozitou sólového nástroje, takže máme před sebou jakýsi malý klavírní koncert moderního typu. Už od své premiéry, jíž se v brněnském Besedním domě ujala pianistka Ilona Štěpánová-Kurzová, se právem řadí ke skladatelovým oblíbeným dílům. 

Hlavní úloha připadá v celém Concertinu klavíru. Platí to zejména pro první větu, v níž tvrdošíjnému ústřednímu motivu, proměněnému později v groteskní valčíkovou variantu, odpovídá jen ozvěna lesního rohu. Druhá věta kombinuje ostře řezané akordické téma klavíru s uštěpačným popěvkem ve vysoké poloze klarinetu. V pochodově pregnantních, jakoby strojově tepajících krajních oddílech třetí věty se ke klavíru připojuje celý soubor, který tvoří zvukové pozadí i v zasněné střední části; virtuózní ráz zde podtrhuje drobná, zato harmonicky smělá klavírní kadence. Veselé folklorní ladění ovládající čtvrtou větu přechází pozvolna v hymnicky vyznívající vyvrcholení, avšak skutečný závěr celého bez oddechu gradujícího díla zakončuje bujně rozvířená coda.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Koncert pro klavír a orchestr č. 3 Es dur op. 75

Mimo odborníky je málokomu známo, že Petr Iljič Čajkovskij napsal celkem tři klavírní koncerty. Není divu: první z nich v tónině b moll v koncertním životě tak zdomácněl, že svým věhlasem zastínil oba zbývající. Přitom zvláště druhý koncert G dur za ním hudební kvalitou ani oslnivou bravurou nijak nezaostává. Největší stín však dopadá na poslední dílo tohoto žánru, které je navíc obestřeno řadou záhad. Celý koncert Es dur je totiž sevřen do jediné věty přibližně čtvrthodinového trvání. Toto pro Čajkovského netypické řešení vzbuzuje neodbytnou otázku, zdali existující tvar skutečně reprezentuje skladatelův záměr, nebo lze uvažovat o jeho neúplnosti. Naznačenou pochybnost by podporoval fakt, že partitura byla dokončena na podzim 1893, tedy jen krátce před smrtí ruského mistra. 

Autorizovaná podoba koncertu nezapře typickou hudební řeč umělcova pozdního období. Skladba spočívá na třech vzájemně kontrastních tématech. Mužně energické první ji zahajuje v temné barvě fagotu a jeho charakteristickou klesající tercii nepřeslechneme ani v celém dalším průběhu. Lyricky vřelá melodie a výrazně rytmizovaný taneční motivek ruského zabarvení doplňují obvyklou sonátovou formu. Klavírní part se vyznačuje velkorysou virtuozitou, kterou ještě podtrhuje rozsáhlá sólová kadence. Celkový ráz hudby nicméně zůstává spíše symfonický než vnějškově efektní. Skladba jistě může v této podobě existovat, přesto její relativní krátkost a netradičnost svádějí některé interprety k připojení dalších dvou vět, které podle dochovaných skic dokončil a instrumentoval skladatelův žák Sergej Tanějev. Toto samostatně vydané Andante a finále (op. 79) tak Čajkovského výtvor někdy dotváří – z autorského i uměleckého hlediska ovšem sporně – do tradiční třívěté formy. Dodejme, že všechny tři zmíněné části jsou založeny na hudebním materiálu pro autorovu plánovanou, ale již nerealizovanou sedmou symfonii.

Franz Schubert
Symphony in C major “The Great”, D 944

Franz Schubert began work on Symphony in C major (D 944) in the summer of 1825; the final score is dated March 1828. Later, to distinguish it from Symphony in C major (D 589) of 1818, it was given the title “Great”. The numbering of Schubert’s symphonies is inconsistent. Their first complete edition was prepared by Johannes Brahms, who put The “Great” C major as No. 8 after Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony in B minor. A later edition also included a fragment of Symphony in E major from 1821, and The “Great” C major was listed as No. 9, but a new critical edition again excluded the fragment from the series. Chronologically, the “Great” Symphony in C major is Schubert’s last symphony.

Its journey to the concert stage was not an easy one. After its completion, Schubert sent it to the Society of Friends of Music (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde) in Vienna, which ran a conservatory and – like the Prague Conservatory – had a student orchestra, to give it the first performance. However, the young players struggled with its complexities and the symphony was ultimately withdrawn. When Robert Schumann visited Vienna in 1839, he learned about the existence of the autograph from Schubert’s brother Ferdinand. Upon Schumann’s initiative, the symphony was premiered on 21 March 1839 by the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

In his article for Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Schumann wrote that those who do not know this symphony know very little about Schubert. “Here, beside sheer musical mastery of the technique of composition is life in every fiber, color in the finest shadings, meaning everywhere, the acutest etching of detail, and all flooded with a Romanticism [...] Consider the heavenly length of the symphony, like a thick novel in four volumes, perhaps by Jean Paul, who was also incapable of coming to an end, and to be sure for the best of reasons: to allow the reader, at a later point, to re-create it for himself... It is still evidence of Schubert’s extraordinary talent that he who heard so little of his own instrumental work during his lifetime could achieve such an idiomatic treatment both of individual instruments and of the whole orchestra.” Schumann could not avoid comparing Schubert with Beethoven, the symphony composer par excellence, but he saw the value of Schubert’s work in “its relationship of complete independence from Beethoven’s symphonies. Conscious of his more modest powers, Schubert refrains from imitating the grotesque forms and audacious relationships that we encounter in Beethoven’s later works. Schubert gives us a work of grace and yet innovation. The symphony has made an impression on us like none other since Beethoven.”

The first movement begins with a slow introduction, giving rise to the three themes of the exposition. This is followed by an extended development and a brief recapitulation with a coda, restating the opening theme of the introduction. The second movement is in a sonata form with the individual sections not clearly separated from each other, forming a continuous stream of music. It juxtaposes two thematic groups. The third movement, scherzo, is characterized by a distinctive rhythmic pattern. The final fourth movement anticipates the further development of symphony, which culminated in the works of Mahler and Bruckner in the 19th century, in which the structural elements of the previous movements appear in new transformations.

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