The Tchaikovsky Project is characterised by the way in which the orchestra and conductor have applied exhaustive research methodology to create a deep understanding for the works as whole entities. While the Czech Philharmonic was already recognised for its relationship to the music of Tchaikovsky, The Tchaikovsky Project has involved rigorous exploration of works previously not known to the orchestra; for example the Manfred Symphony. Equally important to the project, and equally rigorous, has been the rediscovery of pieces which have already been recorded countless times by the world’s orchestras – and through expansive research and studying of the scores finding the motivation, need and urgency to record them again.
The first recording instalment in The Tchaikovsky Project in 2016 – the Pathétique Symphony No. 6 coupled with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture – was followed by the Manfred Symphony in 2017. The review of the former in Gramophone, where it was made Editor’s Choice, commended the “powerful, devastating” Pathétique and its critic wrote of the Fantasy-Overture that “it feels personal in a way that the warm, homespun playing of the Czech Philharmonic only accentuates.” About the recording of the Manfred Symphony, The Sunday Times – where the disc was Album of the Week as well as one of the 100 Best Records of The Year – noted that “this outstanding issue makes one look forward to the other five canonical symphonies with impatience.”
Prior to recording each piece, the orchestra and Semyon Bychkov performed them live in concerts – then stepped away for a time before recreating them in recording. While working in the studio, every orchestra member had the chance to listen back to the audio between takes and was encouraged to voice any feelings of need for another take – a working method emphasising the individual ownership and responsibility of each player; and the importance of the individual to the whole.
As a transitional project into new leadership, The Tchaikovsky Project has allowed for a strong and auspicious start of the Czech Philharmonic’s creative partnership with its new Music Director and Chief Conductor. The project, signified by complete immersion into a composer’s world in the concert hall as well as recording studio, is emblematic of Semyon Bychkov’s in depth way of working – and the first of several journeys of its kind for the Czech Philharmonic. They will next delve into the music of Mahler, furthering their fusion of traditions of the East and West.