Just 23, Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki has won acclaim for his extraordinary interpretive maturity, distinctive sound, and poetic sensibility. The New York Times has called him “a pianist who makes every note count”. Lisiecki’s insightful interpretations, refined technique, and natural affinity for art give him a musical voice that belies his age.
Jan Lisiecki was born to Polish parents in Canada in 1995. He began piano lessons at the age of five and made his concerto debut four years later, while always rebuffing the label of "child prodigy”. His approach to music is a refreshing combination of dedication, skill, enthusiasm and a realistic perspective on the career of a musician.
Lisiecki was brought to international attention in 2010, after the Fryderyk Chopin Institute issued a recording of Chopin’s piano concertos, performed live by Jan at age 13 and 14. BBC Music Magazine wrote of the “mature musicality” of his playing and commended the “sensitively distilled” insights of his Chopin interpretations; the release was awarded the Diapason Découverte. Confirming his status among the most imaginative and poetic pianists of his generation, Deutsche Grammophon signed an exclusive contract with Jan in 2011, when he was just 15 years old. His latest album, featuring Chopin’s rarely-performed works for piano and orchestra, was released in March 2017, and has been awarded the prestigious ECHO Klassik.
Jan says his aim is to always perform in a way that carries forward the beauty and brilliance of the original work. He has demonstrated that he is capable of rendering compositions remarkably close to the way they were intended. “Going into a concert hall should be like going into a sanctuary. You’re there to have a moment of reflection, hopefully leaving feeling different, refreshed and inspired.” The pianist’s development has taken place in company with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Orchestre de Paris, New York Philharmonic, and BBC Symphony, at venues such as Suntory Hall, the Kennedy, Lincoln, and Barbican Centres, and Royal Albert Hall. Jan has cultivated relationships with prominent conductors including Sir Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Daniel Harding, and Pinchas Zukerman.
The remarkable 23-year-old musician made his debut in the main auditorium at New York’s Carnegie Hall in January 2016. In its rave review, the New York Times noted that it was an “uncommonly sensitive performance”. Jan also performs concertos leading from the piano, with ensembles such as the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and Camerata Salzburg. In the 2017/18 season, Jan will perform extensively across the world, including recital tours of Europe and Asia, and subscription debuts with the Boston Symphony, Wiener Symphoniker, and Staatskapelle Dresden, among others. In 2013 he received the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and was also named as Gramophone magazine’s Young Artist of the Year.
Jan is involved in charity work, donating time and performances to such organizations as the David Foster Foundation, the Polish Humanitarian Organization and the Wish Upon a Star Foundation. In 2012 he was named UNICEF Ambassador to Canada having been a National Youth Representative since 2008.
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.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
The programme opens with Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, a work often compared with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s equally famous Piano Concerto in B flat minor (1874/1875) because of its emotional content and wealth of melody. Rachmaninoff came from a Russian aristocratic family, and he exhibited musical talent already as a child. After some less than successful years of study in Saint Petersburg, he transferred to the Moscow Conservatoire, where he came under the powerfully formative influence of the piano teacher Nikolai Sergeyevich Zverev. Rachmaninoff was an outstanding pianist, but he also was drawn to composing and conducting. To him, Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Siloti, Taneyev, Safonov, and Rubinstein were not just famous names, but living figures of musical life he was able to meet in person. By the end of the 19th century he had written his first successful compositions including the opera Aleko, and a promising musical career and fame in Imperial Russia and beyond awaited him. With the help of Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a Moscow neurologist, psychiatrist, and hypnotist, he was able to overcome a severe creative crisis. He finished his Second Piano Concerto and dedicated it to Dahl. After the 1917 revolution, Rachmaninoff and his whole family emigrated from Russia, and he never returned.
The three-movement Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor bears all of the features of a Late-Romantic work, full of melodic beauty, inspiration from folk music, nostalgia, broadly lyrical passages, and also virtuosity. The composer wrote the second and third movements (Adagio sostenuto and Allegro scherzando) in 1900. The songful theme of the slow movement played by the flute, clarinet, piano, and orchestra, is one of the most fervent melodies of the Russian piano literature of that era. The opening movement in sonata-form (Moderato) was the last to be composed in the spring of 1901. Alexander Siloti conducted the premiere of the complete concerto in Moscow that autumn with the composer at the piano.
Pro českého hudebního skladatele Antonín Dvořáka znamenalo jeho tříleté působení na postu ředitele Národní konzervatoře v New Yorku, na nějž ho v roce 1892 vynesl mimořádný úspěch jeho děl v amerických koncertních síních, mezi jiným také velký zlom v jeho kompoziční činnosti. Americká atmosféra a tamní hudební kultura jej inspirovaly k vytvoření svérázných děl, která geniálním způsobem spojují americké podněty s tradicí evropské hudby. Vedle Smyčcového kvartetu F dur, Smyčcového kvintetu Es dur a kantáty Americký prapor to byla především proslulá Symfonie č. 9 e moll „Z Nového světa“. Dvořák na této své poslední symfonii pracoval v New Yorku v období mezi 10. lednem a 24. květnem 1893.
Sám skladatel v době kompozice o symfonii v jednom z dopisů do vlasti napsal: „Zdá se mi, že americká půda na mou mysl blahodárně bude působit a skoro bych řekl, že již v té nové symfonii něco takového uslyšíte.“ A spokojený s výsledkem symfonii o něco později trefně charakterizuje: „Inu, vliv Ameriky každý, kdo má čuch, musí vycítit.“ Přestože Dvořák záměrně necituje černošské nebo indiánské melodie, do svých vlastních témat zavádí charakteristické prvky melodiky amerických menšin, zvláště exoticky znějící pentatoniku. V úvodní větě je proti bluesově synkopovanému hlavnímu tématu postaveno mollové vedlejší téma inspirované rytmem české polky. Pomalou větu, slavné Largo, otevírá melancholická melodie anglického rohu upomínající na černošské spirituály. Dvořák jí přitom dal její charakteristický pentatonický ráz až v průběhu zkoušek před prvním provedením. Podnětem k této větě snad byla scéna pohřbu Minnehahy, družky irokézského vůdce Hiawathy, z eposu Henryho Wadswortha Longfellowa Píseň o Hiawathovi. Dvořák toto významné dílo americké literatury, námětově čerpající z indiánské mytologie, četl již dávno před svým pobytem v Americe v překladu Josefa Václava Sládka.
v sněhu hrob jí vyhrabali
v hlubokém a tmavém lese,
pod jedlemi kvílícími;
šat jí dali nejskvostnější,
oblekli jí hermelíny,
pokryli ji chladným sněhem,
bílým jako hermelíny:
tak pohřbili Minnehahu.
Rovněž inspiraci pro scherzo nalezl Dvořák v Longfellowově eposu, tentokrát ve vylíčení sňatku Hiawathy s Minnehahou.
Rychleji, pak rychle, rychle,
kotoučem se kroužil, vířil,
přes hosti se švihal skokem
jedním vírem kolem chaty,
až za sebou strhl listí,
až se prach a vítr
kolem něho roztočily.
Dvořákovu představu bujarého křepčení indiánského kouzelníka Pau-Puk-Keewise vystřídá český tanec sousedská. Finále, které zpracovává materiál předchozích vět, je radostným završením celého díla.
Symfonie byla poprvé provedena 26. prosince 1893 v newyorské Carnegie Hall Newyorskou filharmonií pod taktovkou Antona Seidla. Symfonie se stala ve světě nejúspěšnější Dvořákovou skladbou. Její evropská premiéra se konala 21. června 1894 v Londýně. V českých zemích skladba poprvé zazněla v Karlových Varech 20. července 1894. Pražské publikum se symfonie dočkalo 13. října 1894 v Národním divadle za autorova řízení.