Photo illustrating page  Kirill Gerstein Czech Phil: The Spring Stars IV

Czech Phil: The Spring Stars IV • Kirill Gerstein


Czech Philharmonic

Concert series Spring Stars of the Czech Phil will conclude with famous piano concerto by Robert Schumann performed by pianist Kirill Gerstein and Chief Condutor Semyon Bychkov. The second half of the programme will be dedicated to Tchaikovsky and his Little Russian Symphony.

Duration of the programme 1 hod 15 min

Programme

Robert Schumann
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (34')

— Intermission (10') —

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 “Little Russian“ (32')

Performers

Kirill Gerstein piano

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Marek Eben host

Photo illustrating the event Czech Phil: The Spring Stars IV Kirill Gerstein

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

29 Apr 2021  Thursday 8.15pm

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 29th April at 8.15pm.

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 29th April at 8.15pm.

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 29th April at 8.15pm.

Performers

Kirill Gerstein  piano
Kirill Gerstein

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. 

In the 2018/2019 season Gerstein gives the world premiere performance of Thomas Adès’ new Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, with performances in Boston and in Carnegie Hall, New York. Elsewhere in this season, Gerstein appears with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder. He performs in China with the Shanghai and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paolo. He plays recitals in London, Stuttgart, Lisbon, Singapore, Melbourne and Copenhagen, as well as chamber performances with the Hagen Quartet, Veronika Eberle and Clemens Hagen in Lucerne, and with actor Bruno Ganz for recitals in Germany and Austria. 

In autumn 2018 Gerstein’s recording of Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko was released on LAWO Classic’s. Future recording releases this season include Busoni’s Piano Concerto on myrios classics in spring 2019 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Nos. 1–3 in summer 2019, part of Semyon Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky Project recorded for Decca with the Czech Philharmonic. 

Born in 1979 in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, Mr. Gerstein studied piano at a special music school for gifted children and while studying classical music, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ extensive record collection. After coming to the attention of vibraphonist Gary Burton, who was performing at a music festival in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gerstein came to the United States at 14 to study jazz piano as the youngest student ever to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After completing his studies in three years and following his second summer at the Boston University program at Tanglewood, Mr. Gerstein turned his focus back to classical music and moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky and earned both Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees by the age of 20. He continued his studies in Madrid with Dmitri Bashkirov and in Budapest with Ferenc Rados. An American citizen since 2003, Mr. Gerstein now divides his time between the United States and Germany. 

A committed teacher and pedagogue, Gerstein taught at the Stuttgart Musik Hochschule from 2007–2017 and from autumn 2018 he teaches as part of Kronberg Academy’s newly announced Sir András Schiff Performance Programme for Young Artists.

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

Compositions

Robert Schumann
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Allegro affettuoso
Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso 
Allegro vivace

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 is the only piano concerto by Robert Schumann. It came into being in a rather complicated way. In 1841 Schumann composed Fantasy (Phantasie) in A minor for Piano and Orchestra, but publishers and concert agents did not show as much interest in it as the composer had hoped. Four years later (partly at the urging of his wife, piano virtuoso Clara Schumann), he decided to expand it into a piano concerto. The Fantasy became the first movement, to which Schumann added second and third movements – Intermezzo and Allegro vivace. The complete work was premiered on 1 January 1846 by Clara Schumann as a soloist and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Ferdinand Hiller, to whom Schumann dedicated the work.

In comparison to other piano concertos of the time, Schumann’s concerto is instantly recognized as having an orchestral character. He himself wrote about it in a letter to his wife: “I have already told you about my concerto: it is a cross between a symphony, a concerto, and a grand sonata. It is clear that I cannot write a concerto for the virtuoso; I must think of something else.” The piano part together with the orchestra forms a closely interconnected whole. Listeners and critics, who were accustomed to virtuoso pieces in which the orchestra usually played only an accompanying role, greatly appreciated the concerto. But there were also those like Franz Liszt, who described the work as “a piano concerto without a piano”.

From the very beginning, the first movement is characterized by sharp changes of tempos and moods. The orchestra storms in, and this is followed by descending cascades of piano chords contrasted with a mournful melody sung by oboes, immediately repeated by the piano. The opening theme is the main building material of the whole movement. The monumental cadenza was written by Schumann himself. The brief middle movement (Intermezzo: Andante grazioso) is a lyrical dialogue between the piano and orchestra. The soloist again presents the main theme of the first movement, which moves without pause into the final movement. The energetic Allegro vivace produces a triumphant and joyful atmosphere and is characterized by a number of impressive rhythmic experiments.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 “Little Russian“

Andante sostenuto—Allegro vivo
Andantino marziale, quasi moderato
ScherzoAllegro molto vivace
Finale. Moderato assai—Allegro vivo

The most prominent Russian Romantic composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, studied law in St. Petersburg, but was always drawn to music. He worked as a lawyer in the civil service, but soon began to study with Anton Rubinstein at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After graduating, Tchaikovsky moved to Moscow where he began to teach music at the Moscow Conservatory, headed by Rubinstein’s brother Nikolai. However, teaching did not make him happy, he was just eking out his living. From 1876 on, his patroness Nadezhda von Meck provided him with financial support, thanks to which he could devote himself fully to composition and performance of his works. At this time, he created his most famous compositions which brought him recognition in Russia as well as in Europe: the ballets Swan Lake (1876) and Sleeping Beauty (1889), the operas Eugene Onegin (1878) and The Queen of Spades (1890) and many other orchestral, chamber and vocal pieces. He repeatedly visited Prague (1888, 1892), where he befriended Antonín Dvořák. Tchaikovsky’s swan song is Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique”. He died a week after its premiere. The official cause of death was reported to be cholera, but there is much speculation that his death was suicide, allegedly committed in order to preclude the disclosure of Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality.

Tchaikovsky’s composition to be heard tonight is somewhat in the shadow of his other symphonies. Conventionally oriented program directors of symphony orchestras often prefer the last three of his symphonies (Nos. 4–6) over his Symphony No. 2 “Little Russian”. This does not mean, however, that this work is not worth the attention of the public. On the contrary, it is good that we have the opportunity to listen to it at the concert tonight!

Tchaikovsky started to work on Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in G major, Op. 44 in October 1879 when he was visiting his sister’s family at their estate at Kamenka (Kamyanka) in what is today the Cherkassy Region of Ukraine. His brother-in-law, Lev Davydov, wanted Tchaikovsky to work undisturbed, and he had previously made available a separate house to him which he equipped with a piano. The composer loved the local environment and regularly came to visit.

The concerto’s first movement is in the traditional sonata form with two contrasting themes (the second musical idea appears after the first solo cadenza), but it has an unusually extensive development. Another special feature can be found in the second movement, Andante non troppo, where piano as the solo instrument is joined by violin and later also by cello. The orchestra, limited just about to the strings, plays only a minimal role in this movement. The brisk final movement has tested the technical competencies of many generations of soloists. Tchaikovsky dedicated this concert to Nikolai Rubinstein, his former superior at the Moscow Conservatory, who died in 1881 before he could give its premiere. The concerto was then performed for the first time in New York on 12 November 1881 by the English pianist Madeleine Schiller with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Little Russian” also came into being in Kamenka. Tchaikovsky composed it in the summer months of 1872. In the 19th century, the Ukrainian territory under the rule of the Russian Empire was called “Little Russia”. Tchaikovsky heard several folk songs in Ukraine which he noted down with interest, and subsequently used them in this symphony in all four movements. The inspiration by East Slavic folklore is obvious in the slow introduction of the first movement presented by horn and later bassoon; the movement continues in sonata form and the first movement ends with a recapitulation of the opening folk theme. The second movement is again framed by one musical idea. It begins in an untraditional way with rhythmic strokes of the tympani. Its whole subsequent course has the form of a festive march (reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s opera Undine). Scherzo (third movement) takes the form of a trio dominated by wind instruments; is it followed by a majestic introduction of the fourth movement. After that, the music considerably accelerates and brings about a number of expressive contrasts. The music gradually increases in intensity, making the listener think that it is a fast-paced coda which would soon close the symphony. However, then comes the exposition of a short lyrical theme and it is clear that the real culmination is yet to come. Indeed, Tchaikovsky ends his symphony in his typical way – by a monumental conclusion in the orchestral tutti.

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