Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
Gautier Capuçon is a true 21st century ambassador for the cello. Performing each season with many of the worldʼs foremost conductors and instrumentalists, he is also founder and leader of the Classe dʼExcellence de Violoncelle at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris based in the stunning new Auditorium designed by Frank Gehry.
During 2017/2018 Capuçon will appear as soloist in a number of orchestral tours across Europe, the US and in Asia. In Europe he will tour with Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Wiener Symphoniker (Philippe Jordan), and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. In the US he will tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Charles Dutoit) and the National Center for Performing Arts; and in Asia with hr-Sinfonieorchester (Andres Orozco-Estrada) and as part of the Verbier Festival with Gabor Takacz. Other concerto highlights include return performances with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Herbert Blomstedt), Wiener Philharmoniker (Semyon Bychkov), Orchestre de Paris (Yu Long), San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (Stephen Deneve), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Mirga Graþinytë-Tyla) and London Philharmonia (Paavo Järvi).
A regular recital and chamber musician, Capuçon appears annually in the major halls and festivals worldwide. Highlights this season include a return to Carnegie Hall (with Daniil Trifonov), an extensive international recital tour with duo partner Jérôme Ducros, and performances at Verbier Festival with: Lisa Batiashvili, Christoph Eschenbach, Janine Jansen, Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang and Tabea Zimmermann. Other artists with whom Capuçon regularly performs include Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Frank Braley, Renaud Capuçon, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and the Artemis and Ébène quartets.
Gautier Capuçon collaborates with contemporary composers including, amongst others, Lera Auerbach, Karol Beffa, Esteban Benzecry, Nicola Campogrande, Qigang Chen, Jerome Ducros, Henry Dutilleux, Thierry Escaich, Philippe Manoury, Bruno Mantovani, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm, and Jörg Widmann.
Recording exclusively for Erato (Warner Classics), Capuçon and has won multiple ECHO Klassik awards and holds an extensive discography. In 2016/2017 he released Beethoven Sonatas with Frank Braley to critical acclaim. Other recent recordings include Shostakovichʼs Cello Concertos with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev; and Schubertʼs String Quintet with Quatuor Ébène. Prior to that he won plaudits for a recital disc of music by Schubert, Schumann, Debussy, Britten and Carter with Frank Braley, and Saint-Saënsʼs First Cello Concerto and La Muse et le Poète with the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France and Lionel Bringuier. He has also recorded chamber music with Martha Argerich, Nicholas Angelich, Renaud Capuçon and Gabriela Montero; and in 2013 Deutsche Grammophon released a DVD featuring Capuçon as soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Gustavo Dudamel in a live performance of Haydnʼs Cello Concerto No. 1.
Born in Chambéry in 1981, Capuçon began playing the cello at the age of five. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris with Philippe Muller and Annie Cochet-Zakine, and later with Heinrich Schiff in Vienna. The winner of various first prizes in many leading international competitions, including the International André Navarra Prize, Capuçon was named “New Talent of the Yearˮ by Victoires de la Musique in 2001.
Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov was born in Leningrad in 1952, immigrated to the United States in 1975, and has been based in Europe since the mid-1980s. Like the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the cultures both of the East and the West.
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. Its first fruit was released by Decca in October 2016, followed in August 2017 by the release of the Manfred symphony. The projectculminates in 2019 with residencies in Prague, 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.
Fourteen years after leaving the former Soviet Union, Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, the same year as he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. His international career had taken off several years earlier when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 1997, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Bychkov conducts the major orchestras and at the major opera houses in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to his title with the Czech Philharmonic, he holds the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he appears annually at the BBC Proms, and the honorary Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. He was named “Conductor of the Year” at the 2015 International Opera Awards. On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. With repertoire that spans four centuries, the coming season brings two weeks of concerts with the New York Philharmonic, which includes the US première of Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2, and the Cleveland Orchestra where he will conduct Detlev Glanert, Martinů and Smetana. In Europe, his concerts include performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Royal Concertgebouw.
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 Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings – the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997–2010) with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne – include a complete cycle of Brahms’s Symphonies, and works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, 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.
The year 1896 was important for the history of Czech music for two reasons: on 4 January, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was founded, and on 19 March, Antonín Dvořák conducted the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 during his ninth and final concert tour in England. Although Dvořák was very happy about this composition, even writing about the “pure joy” which this work brought to him, in his modesty he could not know or guess that it would become one of his most frequently performed pieces, and for many people the best cello concerto ever, sometimes called the “king”. The paradox is that Dvořák had never been particularly drawn to the concertante form and did not recognise the cello as a solo instrument: he actually complained that it “whinges up above, and grumbles down below”. Nevertheless, by serendipitous circumstances, in the autumn of 1894 he decided to compose a concerto for cello. His first attempt at a solo concerto for this instrument was made almost thirty years ago, but Dvořák held this early concerto in such low regard that he did not mind the loss of its autograph (found after the composer’s death) and never included it in any list of his works.
The first and the most important impulse for Dvořák to choose this genre was a cello concerto by the American composer and cellist Victor Herbert. At that time, Dvořák was the director of the National Conservatory in New York; Herbert taught the cello there and was also the principle cellist with the New York Philharmonic Society. Dvořák was so excited by Herbert’s work that he studied its score in great detail and several months later began to compose his own cello concerto. Perhaps in line with the deeply intimate Biblical Songs created in the spring of 1894, Dvořák continued on this personal level, revealing in his new work his experiences at that particular time in his life: being homesick and missing his children (except for his son Otakar who was with him in the U.S., his other five children remained in Bohemia), longing after his summer home in Vysoká, where he could work undisturbed, and reminiscing about gravely ill Josefina Kounitzová, his sister-in-law and friend, whom Dvořák had loved in the past. The combination of Dvořák’s creative élan and inner melancholy gave rise to his innermost composition, dominated by a firm compositional order, which is not without hope. Josefina is memorialized in the concerto by the melody of Dvořák’s song Leave Me Alone from the cycle Four Songs, Op. 82, of which Josefina was particularly fond.
The concerto is in three movement. It opens with a grandiose orchestral introduction, expanding from two main themes. While the first is characterized by bigger melodic intervals, the second theme consists of a sweet, gentle melody. A seemingly spontaneous idea was born after a long and laborious struggle, after which Dvořák found its correct form. He himself admitted that the lyrical theme of the introductory Allegro made him tremble. In the second movement he went even further, creating one of his most impressive lyrical expressions. This is where the quotation from the song Leave Me Alone is heard. Then comes the rondo, which represents the symbol of hope, of resurrection after a dark night on the cross, an image of the pain transformed. Dvořák wrote it a few weeks before he left New York for good; this might be why it is elated by an eager expectation, which, however, was spoiled upon Dvořák’s return to Bohemia by the news of Josefina’s premature death. In response to this sad fact, Dvořák radically changed the conclusion of the whole concert, inserting a new section of sixty bars before the original short coda, after which the solo violin again quotes Josefina’s favourite song.
The world premiere of the concerto was held in London’s Queen’s Hall on 19 March 1896 and was conducted by the composer himself. Originally, the composition was to be premiered by Dvořák’s close friend and mentor of the cello part, Hanuš Wihan, to whom the work was dedicated, but in the end its performance was entrusted to a young English cellist, Leo Stern. It is rumoured that the change of cellists was caused by Wihan’s rather insensitive insistence to play his own virtuoso cadenza, which Dvořák resolutely rejected, but the real reason was probably bad timing. Stern went to see Dvořák in Bohemia and worked hard with him, practising almost seven hours a day in order to master it because the composition was extremely difficult for him in terms of intonation. Stern also presented the work at the Prague premiere on 11 April 1896 and later in Leipzig, Chicago and New York.
Symphony No. 4 in F minor Op. 36 is the first among Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s (1840–1893) great symphonies. It was composed in 1877–1878, during the difficult period of the composer’s brief and unsuccessful marriage, and is dedicated “to my best friend”, Tchaikovsky’s patron Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck. The premiere took place in Moscow on 10/22 February 1878 under the baton of Nikolay Rubinstein.
The first movement is a meditation on fate. The growing feeling of depression and hopelessness is replaced by an arabesque for clarinet and a lyrical melody in strings: “Is it not better to escape from reality and to take refuge in dreams? O joy!” But no – it was only a dream. Fate is unavoidable. In the second movement the solo oboe induces a melancholy feeling which comes in the evening when a book falls from one’s hand, and we indulge in dreaming and melancholy, feeling sorry that so much is now a thing of the past. The third movement, Scherzo in a whimsical F major, “expresses no definite feeling”. The pizzicato of the strings, complemented in the trio by woodwinds and brass, presents the slightly ironic atmosphere of a sneering arabesque. The concluding Finale seems joyful, developing the melody of the Russian folk song In the Field Stood a Birch Tree, but in the middle section (Andante) the rejoicing is threatened by the reappearing motif of fate. Nevertheless, hope and joy – if not one’s own, then at least that of others – triumph in the end.
Wed – Fri / 6:30 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall or Western Lounge
Location is specified for each concert in the concert programme and navigation signs at the Rudolfinum.
Pre-concert talks are offered free of charge as a bonus before the evening concerts of the A and B subscription series. They are given by conductors, soloists and members of the Czech Philharmonic, as well as musicologists and music writers who take part in discussions or lectures which will prepare for the evening concert.
They are presented by Eva Hazdrová-Kopecká, Pavel Ryjáček or Petr Kadlec.
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