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.
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.
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.
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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