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In October 1921, when a New York reporter asked Richard Strauss which of his own pieces he liked most, he answered: “Those that reflect myself and my opinions most clearly: Zarathustra, Quixote, and Domestica.”
Don Quixote, Op. 35, symphonic poem (38')
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (40')
Gautier Capuçon cello
Lawrence Power viola
Semyon Bychkov conductor
In October 1921, when a New York reporter asked Richard Strauss which of his own pieces he liked most, he answered: “Those that reflect myself and my opinions most clearly: Zarathustra, Quixote, and Domestica.” The power of Don Quixote lies in the way Strauss was able not only to describe the story, but also to express the psychological transformations of the individual characters by working with the musical themes that represent them. Don Quixote is played by solo cello, alternating with violin in places. Strauss entrusted Sancho Panza to clarinet and tenor tuba and Dulcinea to oboe. According to English critic Ernest Newman, “Nowhere outside the work of glorious old Bach is there such a combination in music of inexhaustible fertility of imagination.” Strauss finished Don Quixote in 1897 in Munich and the première took place a year later in Cologne.
The public first heard Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances is an arrangement for two pianos, which the composer played together with Vladimir Horowitz. Eugene Ormandy conducted the orchestral première in January 1941 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The work opened up to the audience a breathtaking and enchanting world of sound filled with rich harmonies and imaginative rhythms that are not far off from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. We find quotes in it from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel, the Dies Irae theme, and Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, which triumphs over the theme of death as a symbol of resurrection. Another extraordinary feature is the use of alto saxophone as a solo instrument. The music’s sonic beauty, compositional mastery, and inexhaustible wellspring of musical ideas make the Symphonic Dances one of the most impressive compositions of the twentieth century.
Gautier Capuçon is a true 21st century ambassador for the cello. Performing internationally with many of the world’s foremost conductors and instrumentalists, he is also founder and leader of the ‘Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle’ at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. A multiple award winner, he is acclaimed for his expressive musicianship, exuberant virtuosity, and for the deep sonority of his 1701 Matteo Goffriller cello “L’Ambassadeur”.
Committed to exploring and expanding the cello repertoire, Capuçon performs an extensive array of works each season and regularly premieres new commissions. His current projects include performing the world premiere of Tabachnik’s cello concerto “Summer” and collaborations with Danny Elfman and Thierry Escaich.
In the 2019/2020 season Capuçon appears with, amongst others, the philharmonic orchestras of Los Angeles / Philippe Jordan, Czech Philharmonic / Semyon Bychkov, and Rotterdam / Valery Gergiev; the symphony orchestras of St. Louis / Stéphane Denève, Singapore / Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Bavarian Radio / Gianandrea Noseda; and hr-Sinfonieorchester / Alain Altinoglu. He tours Europe and the USA with Leipzig Gewandhausorchester / Andris Nelsons and San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas, and is Artist-in-Residence at LuganoMusica.
As a chamber musician, this season he performs on tour with Yuja Wang in venues such as Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Vienna Konzerthaus, Barbican Centre London, and Philharmonie Paris, as well as with Renaud Capuçon, Frank Braley, Jérôme Ducros, and Leonidas Kavakos. Other regular recital partners include Nicholas Angelich, Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Lisa Batiashvili, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Artemis and Ébène quartets.
Recording exclusively for Erato (Warner Classics), Capuçon has won multiple awards and holds an extensive discography. His latest album – Chopin and Franck sonatas with Yuja Wang – was recorded live on tour last season. Earlier recordings include concertos by Shostakovich (Mariinsky Orchestra / Valery Gergiev) and Saint-Saëns (Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France / Lionel Bringuier); the complete Beethoven Sonatas with Frank Braley; Schubert’s String Quintet with the Ébène Quartet; an album of encores recorded with Paris Chamber Orchestra / Douglas Boyd and Jérôme Ducros (entitled Intuition); and, most recently, an album of Schumann works, recorded live with Martha Argerich, Renaud Capuçon and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Bernard Haitink.
Capuçon has been featured on DVD in live performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker / Gustavo Dudamel (Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1) and with Lisa Batiashvili, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann (Brahm’s Concerto for Violin and Cello). A household name in his native France, he also appears on screen and online in shows such as Prodiges, Now Hear This, and The Artist Academy, and is a guest presenter on Radio Classique in the show Les Carnets de Gautier Capuçon.
Born in Chambéry, 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. Now, he performs with world leading orchestras, works with conductors such as Lionel Bringuier, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin; and collaborates with contemporary composers including Lera Auerbach, Karol Beffa, Esteban Benzecry, Nicola Campogrande, Qigang Chen, Bryce Dessner, Jérôme Ducros, Henry Dutilleux, Thierry Escaich, Philippe Manoury, Bruno Mantovani, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm, and Jörg Widmann.
For further information please visit the homepage https://www.gautiercapucon.com/
“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.
A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff created mostly in the 20th century, but his music – influenced mainly by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – remains firmly rooted in the late Romantic style. Rachmaninoff himself commented on this: “I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. I have made an intense effort to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me.” Although he composed three operas, an equal number of symphonies, several sacred works, and a number of remarkable songs, he is best known for his piano works, which include four concertos and a number of solo pieces. Rachmaninoff, himself an accomplished pianist, performed with success not only in his homeland but also in Europe and on the American continent. He was also active as a conductor, first in Moscow, where he conducted operas by Glinka and Tchaikovsky at the Bolshoi Theatre, then in Dresden from 1906 to 1909, before making his first major concert tour to the United States. Rachmaninoff did not accept the regime established after the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, and soon afterwards left his homeland permanently. He first lived in Europe and in 1935 settled in the United States, where he developed a rich concert career and continued to compose. Although he privately and publicly criticized the Soviet regime, he bore the separation from Russia very hard; his family maintained Russian customs, surrounded themselves with Russian friends, and hired Russian servants. In exile, Rachmaninoff was an ardent patriot, which was especially evident after the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany, when he donated his concert fees to support the Red Army. He died in California just four days before his 70th birthday.
His very last composition is Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, composed in 1940. Rachmaninoff gave the individual movements of this three-movement work titles seemingly indicating the times of day (Noon – Twilight – Midnight), but in reality it is probably a metaphor related to the stocktaking at the end of his life, when he was already very ill. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, whose instrumental embellishments include the use of the alto saxophone as a solo instrument in the first movement, have been choreographed for ballet on several occasions, but more often they are performed as a stand-alone symphonic piece that can make an emotional impact in its own right.