Czech Phil: The Spring Stars II • Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Danish virtuoso Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider is coming back to the Czech Philharmonic after more than three years. Together with Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov he will perform the first violin concerto by Max Bruch. The aim of the concert is to raise money for medical professionals. Beethoven’s symphony Eroica is dedicated to them.

  • Duration of the programme 1 hod 40 min


Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Max Bruch
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1  in G minor, Op. 26

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”


Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider violin

Semjon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Marek Eben host

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Tickets and contact information

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 25th March at 8.15pm.

The concert will be broadcast on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 25 March 2021 at 8:15 pm.


Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider  violin
Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider inaugurates his first season as Music Director of the Orchestre national de Lyon in September 2021. He conducted the Orchestra’s 2019/20 season opening concerts and together they toured Russia in February 2020. Szeps-Znaider is a regular guest conductor of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Bamberg Symphony and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

Following an outstandingly successful debut conducting ‘Magic Flute’ at the Dresden Semperoper, Szeps-Znaider was immediately re-invited to conduct ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ at the House in Autumn 2019. This season he returns to Dresden Semperoper for a revival of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and makes his debut at the Royal Danish Opera conducting a new production of Magic Flute.
Also a virtuoso violinist, Szeps-Znaider maintains his reputation as one of the world’s leading exponents of the instrument with a busy calendar of concerto and recital engagements. During the 19/20 season he appeared as soloist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France and Konzerthausorcheter Berlin, and performed the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Rudolf Buchbinder in Vienna’s Musikverein.

Szeps-Znaider enjoys a strong relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra; an orchestra he has worked with extensively both as conductor and as soloist. Together they recently recorded the complete Mozart Violin Concertos, directed from the violin by Szeps-Znaider, with The Strad extolling his playing as ‘possibly among the most exquisite violin sound ever captured on disc’.

His extensive discography also includes the Nielsen Violin Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, the Elgar Concerto in Bminor with Sir Colin Davis and the Dresden Staatskapelle, award-winning recordings of the Brahms and Korngold concertos with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic, the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 and Glazunov Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and the Mendelssohn Concerto on DVD with Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Szeps-Znaider has also recorded the complete works of Brahms for violin and piano with Yefim Bronfman.

Szeps-Znaider is passionate about supporting the next generation of musical talent, and is President of the Nielsen Competition, which takes place every three years in Odense, Denmark. He plays the “Kreisler” Guarnerius “del Gesu” 1741 on extended loan to him by The Royal Danish Theater through the generosity of the VELUX Foundations, the Villum Fonden and the Knud Højgaard Foundation.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

“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.

Marek Eben  host
Marek Eben

Marek Eben was born in 1957 in Prague. He studied music drama at the Prague Conservatoire. After finishing school, he worked at the Vítězslav Nezval Theatre in Karlovy Vary, then at the Kladno Theatre, and from 1983 to 2002 he was an ensemble member at Prague’s Studio Ypsilon Theatre. Besides acting, he also involves himself with music. He is the exclusive songwriter for the band The Eben Brothers, which has released five albums (Malé písně do tmy, 1984; Tichá domácnost, 1995; Já na tom dělám, 2002; Chlebíčky, 2008; Čas holin, 2014), and he wrote the music for the films Bizon and Hele on letí and for the television series Poste restante. He has also composed music and written texts for about 20 plays (including Matěj Poctivý – Matthew the Honest, Vosková figura – The Wax Figure, Amerika, and Othello for Studio Ypsilon and The Winter’s Tale for the National Theatre). Since 1996, he has been the moderator of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

He has worked extensively on television, serving as the moderator of various programmes such as the contest O poklad Anežky České (The Treasure of St Agnes of Bohemia), the TýTý Awards Presentation, Stardance, and the discussion programme Na plovárně (At the Swimming Pool), which won the Elsa Award in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 for the best talk show. Marek Eben has also won this prize as a moderator in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2007. He is also the two-time overall winner of the TýTý Awards.


Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) gave musical Classicism its crowning achievement in the pathos of his music, the selection of heroic themes and the use of unconventional means of expression, heralding in many ways the upcoming period of Romanticism. His Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 was written in 1807, in close succession to Razumovsky Quartets, first two versions of his only opera Leonora (later presented as Fidelio), Violin Concerto and Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. At that time, the composer was recovering from his unrequited love for the young widow of Count Joseph Deym, Josephine von Brunsvik, whom he taught to play the piano. At the same time, however, he had another serious personal crisis due to the struggle with his growing deafness. This later prevented him from participating in the concert life both actively and passively. From then on, he was only able to search for meaning of life in compositional activities. Beethoven became deeply concerned with issues of heroism and noble ideas about the ultimate salvation of the universe, which was reflected in the increased pathos of his compositions. He was at the peak of his creative powers and released into the world one quality work after another.

Coriolan Overture is an introductory music to the eponymous drama by Heinrich Joseph von Collin (1772–1811), a progressive Austrian author whose work Beethoven admired. This once-successful theatrical play is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy about the 5th-century Roman general Coriolanus, who fell victim to a conspiracy. Beethoven’s overture is actually a symphonic poem expressing the composer’s impressions of the play. It is composed in sonata form and works with two contrasting themes, which according to many interpreters of the work of this German musical genius depict the inner struggle of the main protagonist. Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture was first performed at a private concert in the Viennese palace of Prince Lobkowicz in March 1807. Two other new pieces by Beethoven, Fourth Symphony and Piano Concerto No. 4, were premiered at the same concert.

Max Bruch
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26

Vorspiel. Allegro moderato
Finale. Allegro energico

The German composer Max Bruch (1838–1920) began composing at the age of nine and wrote his first symphony at the age of 14. Very soon he became an internationally acclaimed musician, but he was recognized more as a conductor because his compositions were hard to swallow both for the public and critics. He produced more than 200 opuses, including three symphonies, four operas, several instrumental concertos and many choral pieces in the field of sacred and secular music. As a composer, Bruch remained captive of a conservative “school” of German music all his life, and he kept composing in the traditional way still in the 20th century, when the art world had long been fascinated by completely different creative methods.

Bruch’s musical legacy is accepted today with similar embarrassment, and his (almost) only work that is performed on concert stages is the first of his three violin concertos, which on the contrary occupies a very important place in the concerto repertoire and is extremely popular with violin virtuosos and audiences. Bruch composed Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 in 1866, when he was music director in Koblenz in the Rhineland. The original version of the composition was premiered the same year on 24 April by Otto von Königlow as soloist and with Bruch conducting. After that, Bruch rewrote the concerto together with the world-famous violinist Joseph Joachim, giving it its final form in which this composition is performed to this day. It is interesting that in this composition Bruch entrusted the solo instrument with a considerably more important role than the orchestra, which serves as mere accompaniment. The concert begins with a lyrical violin cadence, followed by an equally lyrical dialogue between soloist and orchestra. The first movement leads directly into the slow second movement, which is melodically the most inventive of the whole composition. A faster tempo comes with the third movement, which has the playful character of an energetic dance and brings the work to a rousing virtuoso close.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”

Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre. Adagio assai
Scherzo. Allegro vivace
Finale. Allegro molto

History of Beethoven’s Third Symphony has been analyzed in a great deal of literature, and the remarks of his biographers about this work go far beyond the music as such. The symphony has been linked to Beethoven’s worldview and political beliefs, the reasons for its composition have been examined, and there is a number of hypotheses about its name and dedication. According to second-hand reports, the impulse for the symphony came from General Bernadotte, the French envoy to Vienna, whom Beethoven admired and whose salon he attended. The funeral march of the second movement, for example, was associated with the death of Admiral Nelson (however, at the time of his death at Trafalgar 1805, the symphony was already written); others linked it to Beethoven’s interest in ancient heroes and the like. The first sketches for the symphony come from 1802 when Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul of the French Republic; Beethoven’s admiration for him and everything French went so far that he even intended to relocate to Paris. He wanted to dedicate his new symphony to Napoleon, but his patron, Prince Lobkowitz, did not like the idea. He offered Beethoven a considerable amount of money for this composition, reserving the right to perform it for six months. Beethoven resolved this issue by a compromise – he dedicated the symphony to Lobkowitz, while giving it the title “Bonaparte”. In mid-May 1804, however, Napoleon declared himself Emperor, and according to the testimony of Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven tore the title page of the symphony in a fury. The original autograph score has not survived, but the changed name can be also seen in its copy, from which the original title was erased so forcefully that there is a hole in its place. The symphony was rehearsed in private in Lobkowitz Palace in Vienna in the late May and early June 1804 by an orchestra conducted by the concert master Anton Wranitzky. Lobkowitz took advantage of his right to the symphony, and let it be performed at his Jezeří Castle in northern Bohemia (in the presence of the Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand, who was passing through the Czech lands on a diplomatic mission), and in January 1805 again in his palace in Vienna. The public premiere of the symphony took place on 7 April 1805 at the Theater an der Wien under Beethoven’s direction. The question remains who is referred to in the title Sinfonia Eroica, “composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grande Uomo” (Heroic Symphony, “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”), under which the composition was published in the autumn of 1806. The “great man” seems to be Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who was killed on 10 October 1806 at the Battle of Saalfeld.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major “Eroica” was soon perceived as a revolutionary work both in terms of the social and artistic revolutions. For example, as early as 1839, it was written: “Beethoven transformed the storm of the world revolution into tones; with anxiety and yet full of enthusiasm, we listen how he dares to approach the limits of harmony.” The symphony represents a milestone in the development of Beethoven’s symphonic music as well as the genre as such. Above all, it is extremely extensive. The unusual number of three French horns in the instrumentation is sometimes related to Beethoven’s early problems with hearing, but it rather suggests a tendency to expand the orchestra’s sound capabilities, as they were fully developed in Romanticism through technical improvements in the design of instruments. The main theme does not consist only of a simple swinging between the notes of an E flat major chord that quickly stumbles on a dissonant C sharp, but the opening two tutti chords determine the rhythmic basis of the whole movement and give the background for all material. The development section, bringing in a new theme, which will also appears in the coda, is gaining in importance. The second movement is the first example of using the funeral march as a separate symphony movement, and scherzo is one of the most energetic in Beethoven’s oeuvre. The final movement features masterful variations, undeniably connected with Beethoven’s music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43, i.e., Fifteen Variations and Fugue, Op. 35 also called Eroica Variations. In many ways, Beethoven’s Eroica paved the way for the great symphonies of the next generation of composers.

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