This entire programme could be given the title “Double”. You will be hearing a unique collection of three different works that share the theme of musical pairs in different forms and treatments. While Martinů composed his Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Tympani in 1938 during the tense period preceding the Munich Agreement, the Concerto for Two Pianos, on the other hand, is jubilant and brilliant. In it, the shadow of approaching war is replaced by joy over success in America and the desire to create a virtuosic, radiant concert in which the pianos are not a part of the orchestra, but prominent solo voices.
In view of the length of the compositions and the work required to reset the stage, we have decided to divide the programme into three sections with two intervals. Besides musical themes, the programmed works also all have in common Semyon Bychkov’s personal ties with them: the Double Concerto was the first Czech work that he performed as the new chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. He often performs the Concerto for Two Pianos with his wife Marielle Labèque and her sister Katia, and he has consulted personally with Henri Dutilleux on that composer’s Second Symphony (“Le Double”) and has recorded it on CD.
The word Double in the title of Dutilleux’s symphony refers to the standing of a group of twelve musicians in opposition to the whole orchestra, allowing the composer all kinds of combinations in dialogue or contrast and the use of polyrhythms and polytonality. The programme of this entire Czech Philharmonic concert is being recorded for the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and tympani, H 271
Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra, H 292
Symphony No. 2 (“Le Double”)
Katia a Marielle Labèque
A musician of tremendous emotional power, depth and expressiveness, Ivo Kahánek has gained his reputation as one of the most exciting pianists of his generation and is considered the best Czech contemporary pianist. He is recognised as one of the impressive Romantic pianists and also as a specialist in Czech piano music.
He won the Prague Spring International Music Competition in 2004 and gained awards at other leading international piano competitions (Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, Vendome Prize in Vienna, Stiftung Tomassoni Wettbewerb in Cologne, Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Marienbad, Concertino Praga, etc.).
After his successful debuts at Beethovenfest Bonn and Prague Spring Festival he was invited by the BBC to perform the Incantations – Fourth Piano Concerto by Bohuslav Martinů at the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek. The concert took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London in August 2007 and was broadcast live by the BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Television as well as the Czech National Radio station “Vltava”. This critically acclaimed Proms debut is now being offered by Deutsche Grammophon as a digital download. It’s no wonder that Ivo Kahánek was selected by Sir Simon Rattle to perform at two concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker in November 2014, followed by enthusiastic reactions of critics and the general public alike. Moreover, Ivo Kahánek performs regularly with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and has made highly appreciated performances with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Glasgow, WDR Orchestra Cologne, Philharmonie Essen, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia, Brno Philharmonic and many others. He has performed with internationally renowned artists, e.g. conductors Pinchas Steinberg, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrey Boreyko, Jakub Hrůša, Zdeněk Mácal, Tomáš Netopil, violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Alissa Weilerstein, Pavel Haas Quartet, Tetzlaff Quartet etc.
In 2017 he performed in concert tours of Germany, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, playing piano concertos by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Martinů and Bartók. Moreover, he will give solo recitals in London, Monte Carlo, Porto, Prague, Herceg Novi and many cities.
So far Ivo Kahánek has released nine CDs under the Supraphon Music label (which he has entered an exclusive contract into). His solo CD (Janáček-Martinů-Kabeláč) has received top rates in prestigious musical journals (Le Monde de la Musique, Classics Today, Fanfare). Besides that he frequently collaborates with Czech Radio and Czech Television. His last solo record was devoted to Fryderyk Chopinʼs music (Sonata No. 2 in B minor, 4 Scherzi). A recording of songs by Bohuslav Martinů is to be released by Supraphon with the exquisite soprano, Martina Janková, as well as a CD with the piano and chamber works by Viktor Kalabis.
A graduate of both the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Ivo Kahánek also graduated from the Advanced Instrumental Studies course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and participated in master classes with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Christian Zacharias, Alicia de Larocha, Imogen Cooper, Peter Frankl and many others.
Michael Kroutil, born 1982, studied from 1999 to 2001 at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, then attended the Prague Conservatory. In 2003 he began taking private lessons from Karl Mehling, former timpanist of the Gewandhausorchester and a year later from Mark Steful, first timpanist of the same orchestra. Between 2005 and 2007 he studied the timpani and percussion at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig, and from 2011 attended the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste under the pedagogic guidance of Rainer Seegers, first timpanist of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Michael Kroutil has performed with a number of renowned German (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Leipziger Kammerorchester, Mendelssohn Kammerorchester Leipzig, Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz, Thüringer Symphoniker, Westsächsisches Symphonieorchester, Deutsche Philharmonie) and Czech orchestras (PKF – Prague Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague, the Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic). He has also regularly worked with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2006 and 2007, Michael Kroutil participated in Gewandhausorchester recording projects for EuroArts. Since 2007 he has been first timpanist of the Czech Philharmonic, and is also a member of the international Solistes Européens Luxembourg.
“The best piano duo in front of an audience today”
New York Times
“Whether Mozart or Stravinsky, their musical line always sounds as if it’s being woven for the very first time... But the illusion of improvisation is the genius of their performances. In all their recordings there is a deceptive sprezzatura that is born of throwing the preparation to the winds and hanging onto each others ears.”
Katia and Marielle Labèque are sibling pianists renowned for their ensemble of synchronicity and energy. Their musical ambitions started at an early age and they rose to international fame with their contemporary rendition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (one of the first gold records in classical music) and have since developed a stunning career with performances worldwide.
They are regular guests with the most prestigious orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Filarmonia della Scala, Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle and Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Semyon Bychkov, Lionel Bringuier, Sir Colin Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kristjan Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Georges Prętre, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas and Jaap van Zweden.
They have appeared with Baroque music ensembles such as The English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Il Giardino Armonico with Giovanni Antonini, Musica Antica with Reinhard Goebel and Venice Baroque with Andrea Marcon, il Pomo d’Oro and also toured with The Age of Enlightenment & Sir Simon Rattle.
Katia and Marielle have had the privilege of working with many composers including Thomas Adčs, Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, György Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen. On the 26th May 2015 Katia and Marielle gave in Los Angeles at Walt Disney Hall the world premiere of Philip Glass’s new Concerto (written for them) together with Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. A new concerto by Bryce Dessner, written specially for the piano duo, will be ready in 2018.
The Labèques play in festivals and renowned venues worldwide including the Vienna Musikverein, Hamburg Musikhalle, Munich Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, La Scala, Berlin Philharmonie, Blossom, Hollywood Bowl, Lucerne, BBC Proms, Ravinia, Tanglewood and Salzburg. An audience of more than 33,000 attended a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at Berlin’s Waldbühne, now available on DVD (EuroArts).
For their own label, KML recordings, they have released in 2014 the CD Sisters with a selection of musical pieces from their personal and professional lives. Previous releases include a Gershwin/Bernstein album, and their project Minimalist Dream House (50 years of Minimalist music). Next DVD release in collaboration with Euroarts will be out in spring 2017: The Labèque Way, a letter to Katia and Marielle by Alessandro Baricco produced by El Deseo (Pedro and Augustin Almodóvar) and filmed by Félix Cábez.
Katia and Marielle Labèque also launched the KML Foundation, aimed at furthering research and developing awareness of the duo piano repertoire through meetings between artists of all fields. One of the Foundation latest projects is a concert around Moondog's music, in collaboration with Kings Place in London, in continuity to their work on Minimalist composers.
In May 2015 the show Love Stories with the new piece Star-Cross'd Lovers by David Chalmin was premiered at the Paris Philharmonie. This original composition for two pianos, electric guitar and drums is based on the Shakespearean drama Romeo and Juliet. The choreography for 7 dancers is created by world-renowned break-dancer Yaman Okur (Madonna, Cirque du Soleil). The show was also presented in Paris in June 2016 at Chatelet, and the European tour will last until October 2016.
A record audience of more than 100.000 attended the Vienna Summer Night Concert 2016 in Schönbrunn (now available on CD and DVD by Sony), where Katia and Marielle played with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov. More then 1,5 Milliard viewer followed the event worldwide on the TV.
Labèque’s label KML Recordings joined in Summer 2016 the historical label Deutsche Grammophon. A 2 CDs re-edition of their album Minimalist Dream House follow their concert at the Philharmonie de Paris on the 25th of September together with the first recording of their project Love Stories.
Their new record with Deutsche Grammophon dedicated to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Debussy's Epigraphes Antiques will be released in November 2016. At the same time the biography Une vie ŕ quatre mains by Renaud Machart will be published by Buchet-Chastel.
Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov was born in Leningrad in 1952, immigrated to the United States in 1975, and has been based in Europe since the mid-1980s. Like the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the cultures both of the East and the West.
Following his early concerts with the Czech Philharmonic in 2013, Bychkov and the Orchestra devised The Tchaikovsky Project, a series of concerts, residencies and studio recordings which allowed them the luxury of exploring Tchaikovsky’s music together. Its first fruit was released by Decca in October 2016, followed in August 2017 by the release of the Manfred symphony. The projectculminates in 2019 with residencies in Prague, Vienna and Paris, and Decca’s release of all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini.
Fourteen years after leaving the former Soviet Union, Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, the same year as he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. His international career had taken off several years earlier when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 1997, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Bychkov conducts the major orchestras and at the major opera houses in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to his title with the Czech Philharmonic, he holds the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he appears annually at the BBC Proms, and the honorary Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. He was named “Conductor of the Year” at the 2015 International Opera Awards. On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. With repertoire that spans four centuries, the coming season brings two weeks of concerts with the New York Philharmonic, which includes the US première of Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2, and the Cleveland Orchestra where he will conduct Detlev Glanert, Martinů and Smetana. In Europe, his concerts include performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Royal Concertgebouw.
Bychkov’s recording career began in 1986 when he signed with Philips and began a significant collaboration which produced an extensive discography with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings – the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997–2010) with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne – include a complete cycle of Brahms’s Symphonies, and works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Wagner’s Lohengrin was voted BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year in 2010; and his recent recording of Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was selected as BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month.
The paramount works created by the 48-year-old Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) in 1938 include the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani H. 271. The piece was commissioned by Paul Sacher, who after the summer holidays invited the composer to his residence in Schönenberg, Switzerland. Martinů and his wife Charlotte subsequently spent several weeks amid the tranquil atmosphere of the countryside. Nevertheless, the composer was well aware of the looming threat of Nazi Germany, which duly reflected in the Double Concerto’s dedication: “To my dear friend Paul Sacher, in memory of the days in Schönenberg, full of peace and fear, amid deer and the threat of war.” Martinů completed the sketch of the final movement on a fatal date – 29 September 1938, the day of the Munich Agreement, permitting Nazi Germany’s annexation of areas along the Czechoslovak borders. Later on, in April 1942, Martinů wrote: “I was working on the Double Concerto, and all my anxieties, all my hopes and ideas floated to my imperilled homeland. (...) It is a composition created under difficult circumstances, yet it does not reflect despair or gloom, but belief in the future, expressed by means of intense dramatic surges, a current of tones that do not stop for a second, melodies that passionately bring to bear their claim to a free and independent life.”
The Double Concerto was first performed in public on 9 February 1940 in Basel by the Basel Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Paul Sacher. It met with great acclaim and Arthur Honegger, who was present at the premiere, voiced his astonishment at the piece’s singularity and novelty.
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