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Czech Philharmonic • Rudolf Buchbinder
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 (“Emperor”)
Symphony No. 4 in G Major
Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall
Historical connections can sometimes be entertaining. In the scholarly literature, one reads that Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto was dedicated to a Habsburg named Rudolf. This building, the Rudolfinum, was also named for Rudolf. But make no mistake, one Rudolf is not to be confused with the other. Beethoven’s friend was Archduke Rudolf, to whom he also dedicated his great Archduke Trio, Op. 97, while “our” Rudolf was the crown prince seventy years later. Beethoven had given the premieres of all of his piano concertos, but by the time of the Emperor Concerto, he almost could not hear at all, unfortunately, so the part was entrusted to Friedrich Schneider in Leipzig and to Carl Czerny in Vienna. The composition is a culmination of the classical-era instrumental concerto while also throwing the door wide open to Romanticism.
Mahler’s Fourth Symphony concludes a tetralogy through which songs from the cycle The Youth’s Magic Horn run like a common thread. The preceding symphonies work with material from several of the songs, while the Fourth Symphony quotes only one, Das himmlische Leben (Heavenly Life). There are flashes of the song in various forms throughout the symphony, then it finally appears as a whole in the fourth movement. The title Das himmlische Leben comes directly from Mahler, and it captures a child’s idea of heaven. He had originally wanted to use the song in his Third Symphony, which contains quotes of it. Ultimately, however, he made Das himmlische Leben the focal point of his Fourth Symphony, with its breath of heavenly beauty, child-like purity, and deep peace.
Rudolf Buchbinder is one of the legendary artists of our time. His piano playing is an unparalleled fusion of the authority of a career spanning more than 60 years with spirit and spontaneity. His renditions are celebrated worldwide for their intellectual depth and musical freedom.
Particularly his renditions of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs works are considered to be exemplary. He has performed the 32 piano sonatas 60 times in cycles all over the world and developed the story of their interpretation over decades. He was the first pianist to play all Beethoven sonatas at the Salzburg Festival during a summer festival. A live recording is available on DVD.
On the occasion of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs 250th birthday in the 2019/2020 concert season, for the first time in its 150-year history, the Vienna Musikverein is giving a single pianist, Rudolf Buchbinder, the honor of performing all five piano concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven in a specially edited cycle. Buchbinderʼs partners in this unprecedented constellation are the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Music Director Andris Nelsons, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Riccardo Muti and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden under their chief conductors Mariss Jansons, Valery Gergiev and Christian Thielemann.
Together with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mariss Jansons, Rudolf Buchbinder returned to the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Philharmonie de Paris, the Philharmonie Luxembourg and the Carnegie Hall New York as part of a tour.
A première is the focus of the Beethoven Year 2020. Based on Beethovenʼs Diabelli Variations Op. 120, Rudolf Buchbinder initiated a new cycle of variations on the same waltz by Anton Diabelli, which also forms the basis of Beethovenʼs epochal masterpiece. With Lera Auerbach, Brett Dean, Toshio Hosokawa, Christian Jost, Brad Lubman, Philippe Manoury, Krzysztof Penderecki, Max Richter, Rodion Shchedrin, Johannes Maria Staud, Tan Dun and Jörg Widmann, it was possible to win twelve leading contemporary composers of different generations and backgrounds. The New Diabelli Variations were commissioned by a variety of concert promoters worldwide and with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.
The world première recording of the New Diabelli Variations marks the beginning of Rudolf Buchbinderʼs exclusive partnership with Deutsche Grammophon. At the same time he also presents a new recording of Beethovenʼs Diabelli Variations, which he last recorded in 1976.
Rudolf Buchbinder is an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic, the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He is the first soloist to be awarded the Golden Badge of Honor by the Staatskapelle Dresden.
Buchbinder attaches great importance to source research. His private music collection comprises 39 complete editions of Ludwig van Beethovenʼs piano sonatas as well as an extensive archive of first prints, original editions and copies of the piano scores of both piano concertos by Johannes Brahms.
He has been the artistic director of the Grafenegg Festival since its foundation in 2007. Today, Grafenegg is one of the most influential orchestral festivals in Europe.
Two books by Rudolf Buchbinder have been published so far, his autobiography Da Capo and Mein Beethoven – Leben mit dem Meister. Numerous award-winning recordings on CD and DVD document his career.
For concert dates and further information please visit the homepage www.buchbinder.net
“This was a testament not only to Mahler, but also to Mr. Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic... this was a moving and intelligent reading of the Resurrection, dramatic in the opening and finale, sweet and playful in the inner movements, and sublime in the setting of Urlicht...”
The New York Times
Semyon Bychkov's tenure as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic was initiated with concerts in Prague, London, New York and Washington marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence in 2018. Since the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project in 2019 – a 7-CD box set released by Decca Classics and a series of international residencies – Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic have been focusing on the symphonic works of Mahler with performances and recordings scheduled both at home and abroad.
During the 2021/22 season, Mahler’s First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Symphonies will all be heard internationally including on tour at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria during the summer. The Czech Philharmonic’s 126th season’s subscription concerts in October will open with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. In the spring, a Czech Festival at Vienna’s Musikverein featuring Smetana’s Má vlast – recorded by Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic during lockdown - alongside works by Kabeláč, Dvořák, Martinů and Janáček will be followed by an extensive European tour including concerts at the Philharmonie in Berlin, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and two concerts at London’s Barbican Centre.
Especially recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has also worked closely with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. In recent seasons he has collaborated with René Staar, Thomas Larcher, Richard Dubignon, Detlev Glanert and Julian Anderson, conducting premières of their works with the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Highlights of the new season include the German première of Larcher’s Piano Concerto with dedicatee Kirill Gerstein in Berlin, the Czech première of Bryce Dessner’s Mari and the world première of Anderson’s Prague Panoramas, also presented in Prague. The three new works are amongst fourteen commissions initiated by Bychkov at the start of his tenure with the Czech Philharmonic.
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, Bychkov 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.
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, took off with a series of high-profile cancellations which 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 symphonic and operatic repertoire is wide-ranging. 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 Jenůfa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov each won the prestigious Premio Abbiati. New productions in Vienna included Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, 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. Recent productions include Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival and Strauss’s Elektra at the Wiener Staatsoper.
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 and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being a frequent guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, 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. This season, in addition to extensive concert commitments with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov's guest conducting engagements include further performances of Mahler’s symphonies with the Orchestre de Paris, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Berlin, Oslo and LA Philharmonic Orchestras, and Strauss’s Elektra at the Opéra national de Paris.
Bychkov made extensive recordings for Philips with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Later, his 13-year collaboration (1997-2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne produced a series of benchmark recordings that included 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), a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was recommended by BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library (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 2015, Semyon Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards.
Symfonie č. 4 G dur
At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from the summer of 1899 until April 1901, Mahler composed his Symphony No. 4, the most classical of his monumental symphonies. The composition has roots that reach back even further in time, however. During the frigid February of 1892, Mahler composed the song Der Himmel hängt voll Geigen for voice and piano to a text from the poetry collection The Youth’s Magic Horn, which contains more than seven hundred texts of old German folksongs and popular songs. The collection had been published nearly a century earlier in 1806–1808 by the young poets Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano. Mahler discovered it by chance in 1887 while visiting the grandson of the composer Carl Maria von Weber, and he drew on it for subject matter for his compositions for another fourteen years. A month after composing the song, in March 1892 Mahler finished orchestrating it with the characteristic use of harp and sleigh bells, and he gave it his own title, Das himmlishe Leben (Heavenly Life). He took a special liking for the song, and he often included it on concert programmes of his music. It was originally to have been the conclusion of this Third Symphony, but ultimately that colossal work would have “just” six movements, and Heavenly Life instead became the finale, intellectual focus, and climax of the Fourth Symphony.
It might seem that the Fourth Symphony is just a continuation and completion of the Third, but already in the first movement we hear unmistakeable fanfares that foreshadow Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, which was yet to come. In Mahler’s music, everything is closely tied together.The second movement, although dancelike, makes an oppressive impression – it is, after all, also a dance of death played on the fiddle by the skeleton Freund Hein! The solo violin is to be tuned a step higher to give it a harsher, shriller tone, making the soloist sound like a street musician instead of a concertmaster of a symphony orchestra. Mahler is said to have taken inspiration from Arnold Böcklin’s 1872 painting titled Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle. (In 1894, the same painting also inspired Jaroslav Vrchlický’s poem, in which a painter is creating a self-portrait but constantly feels something disturbing behind his back. When he turns around, he sees Death with a fiddle.)The third movement is the longest. It is a magnificent series of variations inspired by the vision of a tombstone on which there is a carved image of the departed in eternal sleep. The music leads us to a vision of heaven’s gates.
Beyond the gates we are welcomed by a “child’s” voice – a soprano – in heaven, where peace reigns supreme, where there is no bustle of the secular world, where everyone can rejoice and dance. And with this image of childlike naivety, Mahler completes his journey from the complex to the simple, from experience to innocence, and from earthly life to heavenly bliss.
In the twenty-first century, Mahler’s music and its message are still attractive to listeners. The form, content, and intellectual and emotional power of the music make it surprisingly relevant to our post-modern epoch.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) zanechal v oboru instrumentálních koncertů pět děl určených klavíru, jeden Houslový koncert a Trojkoncert pro klavír, housle a violoncello. Rozličné skici a náčrtky však dokládají, že se tímto druhem zabýval dlouhá léta – posledním svědectvím je plánovaný, avšak opuštěný šestý klavírní koncert z roku 1815. Klavír byl pro Beethovena zásadním nástrojem. Sám byl ceněným klavíristou, podle stupňující se náročnosti jeho děl, klavíru určených, lze usuzovat i na rozvoj vlastní technické vyspělosti jako interpreta. Beethoven vyšel z Mozartova odkazu a dále jej rozvinul, a to především ve třech aspektech: ve způsobu prezentace sólového partu, ve snaze po myšlenkové jednotě uvnitř jednotlivých vět, usiloval také o jejich vzájemný vztah, a rozšířil užití harmonických prostředků.
V Koncertu pro klavír a orchestr č. 5 Es dur například otevírá větu třikrát opakovaný, improvizačně působící úsek – akord Es dur v orchestru a rapsodická pasáž klavíru. Tento úvod utvrzuje hlavní tóninu, teprve poté nastupuje vlastní expozice, která prochází řadou harmonických modulací. Celá věta osciluje mezi durovým a mollovým tónorodem, střídání nálad je podporováno kontrastem tematického materiálu. Tehdejší posluchač, uvyklý konvenčním postupům, se musel ve zdánlivě nelogických harmonických spojích a nezávisle působících úsecích nejprve zorientovat. Druhá věta svou meditativní lyrikou už předjímá romantické období. Příkladem myšlenkového spojení mezi větami je vynoření tematického materiálu finální věty v závěru druhé věty. Závěrečná věta je připojena attacca, formálně se jedná o sonátové rondo, v jehož provedení opět Beethoven uplatnil originální harmonické řešení. Věta končí rozsáhlou kodou. Skladatel nenechává prostor pro obvyklé improvizované kadence, všechny pasáže jsou detailně vypsány. Tato důslednost se vykládá dvojím způsobem: dílo nebylo určeno pouze profesionálním klavíristům, nýbrž také pokročilým amatérům, k čemuž poukazují v partituře i alternativní, technicky méně náročná místa. Je to však také zároveň doklad uzavřenosti díla, které se nemělo stát předmětem interpretační libovůle.
Skladbabyla komponována roku 1809, dokončena v únoru 1810 a skladatel ji věnoval svému mecenáši a žáku, arcivévodovi Rudolfovi, příštímu arcibiskupu v Olomouci. Ještě téhož roku koncert vyšel tiskem v Londýně; přízvisko Emperor (Císařský) dodal dílu anglický vydavatel, snad s ohledem na majestátní charakter díla, ale i s poukazem na nositele dedikace, habsburského arcivévodu. Roku 1811 vydalo partituru také nakladatelství Breitkopf & Härtel v Lipsku, kde se v Gewandhausu uskutečnila 28. listopadu 1811 světová premiéra; sólistou byl Johann Christian Friedrich Schneider, později dvorní kapelník vévodství Anhalt-Dessau. Klavíristou vídeňské premiéry následujícího roku, 11. února 1812, byl Beethovenův žák Carl Czerny. Uskutečnila se současně s otevřením výtvarné výstavy, na níž byla prezentována mimo jiné díla Raffaelova. Menší ohlas Beethovenovy novinky ve Vídni než v Lipsku se vysvětluje právě tímto společenským rámcem – svým způsobem šlo o hudební doprovod vernisáže. Ve velice krátké době se však z celé pětice Beethovenových klavírních koncertů stal Koncert Es dur nejoblíbenějším.