Lisa Batiashvili, Gautier Capuçon • Czech Philharmonic

The pairing of Lisa Batiashvili and Gautier Capuçon in Brahms’s Double Concerto is a dream come true for both musicians and audiences.

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Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello and orchestra 

Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47


Lisa Batiashvili

Gautier Capuçon

Semyon Bychkov

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Lisa Batiashvili, Gautier Capuçon • Czech Philharmonic

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall

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The pairing of Lisa Batiashvili and Gautier Capuçon in Brahms’s Double Concerto is a dream come true for both musicians and audiences. Seldom do two of the world’s very greatest artists join forces rather than playing solo concertos, instead playing a work together that demands the same degree of instrumental virtuosity along with the experience of a chamber music players. Moreover, Lisa Batiashvili and Gautier Capuçon have played Brahms’s Double Concerto together many times, and their appearance at the Rudolfinum with the Czech Philharmonic will be recorded and released by the DECCA label.

Brahms dedicated his Double Concerto to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim, as a sign of the renewal of their lifelong friendship, which had been disrupted by Joachim’s divorce when Brahms took sides with Joachim’s wife Amalie. For the concerto’s dedication, Brahms wrote the sentence: “To him, for whom it was written”. So that there could be no doubt about who was meant, he used the musical motif A-E-F, a permutation of the anagram of Joachim’s personal motto F-A-E: Frei aber einsam – Free but Lonesome.


Lisa Batiashvili  violin

Lisa Batiashvili

“Batiashvili’s fearless playing is so tonally rich and technically immaculate.” (The Guardian)

Lisa Batiashvili, the Georgian-born German violinist, is praised by audiences and fellow musicians for her virtuosity. An award winning artist, she has developed long-standing relationships with the world’s leading orchestras, conductors and musicians.

Batiashvili is also the Artistic Director of Audi Sommerkonzerte, Ingolstadt. For the 2019 festival – ‘Fantastique’ – Batiashvili curated a diverse programme featuring artists such as Daniel Harding with Bayerische Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Gautier Capuçon, Les Vents Francais and Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. For the 2020 festival, Batiashvili will design a programme to celebrate Audi’s anniversary year.

In the 2019/2020 season Batiashvili performs with, among others, the Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Berlin Staatskapelle / Daniel Barenboim, London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle, Orchestre de Paris / Lahav Shani, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig / Andris Nelsons, and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich / Paavo Järvi.

Recording exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon, Lisa’s latest album – ‘Visions of Prokofiev’ (Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Yannick Nézet-Séguin) – won an Opus Klassik Award and was shortlisted for the 2018 Gramophone Awards. Earlier recordings include the concertos of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius (Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim), Brahms (Staatskapelle Dresden / Christian Thielemann), and Shostakovich No. 1 (Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks / Esa-Pekka Salonen).  

Bastiashvili has had DVD releases of live performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker / Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Bartók Violin Concerto No.1) and with Gautier Capuçon, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann (Brahm’s Concerto for Violin and Cello). 

She has won several awards: the MIDEM Classical Award, the Choc de lʼannée, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana International Prize, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festivalʼs Leonard Bernstein Award and the Beethoven-Ring. Batiashvili was named Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 2015, was nominated as Gramophone’s Artist of the Year in 2017, and in 2018 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Sibelius Academy (University of Arts, Helsinki).

Lisa lives in Munich and plays a Joseph Guarneri “del Gesù” from 1739, generously loaned by a private collector.

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Gautier Capuçon  cello

Gautier Capuçon

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.

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Semyon Bychkov  conductor

Semyon Bychkov

In recognition of the 2024 Year of Czech Music – a major celebration of Czech music celebrated across the Czech Republic every 10 years since 1924 – Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov has put the music of Antonín Dvořák at the centre of his programmes with the Czech Philharmonic throughout the 2023–2024 season. In addition to conducting three programmes devoted to Dvořák in Prague, Bychkov and the Orchestra will tour the Dvořák programmes to South Korea, Japan, Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium and the United States, as well as recording the last three symphonies for Pentatone. 

Semyon Bychkovʼs tenure at the Czech Philharmonic began in 2018 with concerts in Prague, London, New York, and Washington commemorating the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. Following the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project, Bychkov and the Orchestra began their focus on Mahler. The first discs in a new Mahler cycle were released by Pentatone in 2022, with Symphony No. 5 chosen by The Sunday Times as its Best Classical Album.

Bychkovʼs repertoire spans four centuries. His highly anticipated performances are a unique combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy. In addition to guest engagements with the world’s major orchestras and opera houses, Bychkov holds honorary titles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – and the Royal Academy of Music, who recently awarded him an Honorary Doctorate. Bychkov was named “Conductor of the Year” by the International Opera Awards in 2015 and, by Musical America in 2022.

Bychkov began recording in 1986 and released discs with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra and London Philharmonic for Philips. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne featured Brahms, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Strauss, Verdi, Glanert and Höller. Bychkov’s 1993 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the Orchestre de Paris continues to win awards, most recently the Gramophone Collection 2021; 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 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, he studied at the Leningrad Conservatory with the legendary Ilya Musin. Denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and, has lived in Europe since the mid-1980’s. In 1989, the same year he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, Bychkov returned to the former Soviet Union as the St Petersburg Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor. He was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra (1997) and Chief Conductor of Dresden Semperoper (1998).


Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello, and orchestra

Vivace ma non troppo

At his time, Johannes Brahms was considered a completely old-fashioned composer. Although he lived and worked in the era of Late Romanticism and on top of that was heavily influenced by Robert Schumann, i.e., a romantic composer par excellence, he soon found that this composition style did not suit him. Brahms preferred being inspired by the musical past, especially by the masters of the Late Baroque and Classicism. He wrote only absolute music and never turned his attention to programmatic music typical of Romanticism. Interestingly, Brahms was also not attracted to the opera, which he had never attempted. Like the great composers of the previous eras, Brahms was a master of pure and clear form. However, it would be wrong to think that this prominent composer was a conservative reactionary, as was claimed by his opponents, especially the followers of the New German School. His oeuvre is clearly distinguishable from the compositions of previous periods. Brahms updated classical forms and was not afraid to use innovative harmonic practices.

Brahms wrote four symphonies, three string quartets and other chamber music pieces. The number of his vocal compositions is high as well, consisting of songs and choral music. Worthy of note is his German Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem), inspired by the death of his mother. It is based on biblical texts selected by Protestant-raised Brahms from Luther’s German translation of the Bible. He also created four instrumental concertos: two for piano, one for violin and Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello and orchestra. The latter composition does not represent any formal return to the Baroque concerto grosso; both solo instruments play their autonomous parts, engaging in a dialogue with each other, individually with the orchestra, and sometimes in unison with the orchestra. It is actually the first use of violin and cello together as solo instruments in an instrumental concert. In terms of form, this work is reminiscent of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, or Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano with orchestral accompaniment.

Brahms’s Double Concerto came into being during the summer of 1887. At the very beginning of the composition there are two solo cadenzas – after a short introduction, the cello exposes the first theme; the following musical idea is begun by the orchestra in the first movement in sonata form, while the second solo instrument completes it. The calm pace of the second movement gives soloists a rest before the fast final movement, where both of their instruments hardly stop, presenting passionate imitation dialogues in fast music notes. Double Concerto had its world premiere on 18 October 1887 in Cologne with the solo parts being performed by renowned virtuosos of the time for whom this last orchestral piece by Brahms was intended from the beginning – the violinist Joseph Joachim and the cellist Robert Hausmann.

Dmitri Shostakovich
Symfonie č. 5 d moll op. 47

The great master of music of the Soviet Union, Dmitri Shostakovich, inherited his musical talent from his parents. He composed his first works at the age of nine. In 1923 he graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in piano performance, and in two years he successfully completed his studies of composition, graduating with his Symphony No. 1 in F minor. This work, performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (as the city was named at that time) in 1926, received great critical acclaim, and the twenty-year-old Shostakovich, who had previously worked as a pianist-improviser for silent films, became a renowned composer literally overnight. He soon adopted the compositional practices of Western European modernism, which are particularly evident in Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues for piano, Symphony No. 4 in C minor, the ballets The Age of Gold and The Bolt and the operas The Nose and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. The Moscow premiere of Lady Macbeth in 1936 brought a turning point in his career. It happened to be attended by Joseph Stalin, who subsequently initiated the first cultural-political attack against Shostakovich in the form of an article entitled Muddle Instead of Music published in the Pravda newspaper. Another repression came in 1948 following the adoption of the infamous cultural doctrine formulated by Andrei Zhdanov and subsequent purges against Soviet composers. Both for internal and external reasons, Shostakovich then also composed patriotic works in order “to meet the needs of the Soviet people”, for which he was praised and awarded by the Soviet power. His compositions seeking the official approval include, for example, Symphony No. 7 in C major “Leningrad”, which is a reaction to the siege of Leningrad in 1941, the cantata Poem of the Motherland (1947) or the oratorio Song of the Forests (1949) which celebrates the concept of contemporary forestry policy. Shostakovich wrote a total of fifteen symphonies, the same number of string quartets, six instrumental concerts and many other compositions. A specific part of his work consists of film scores for a large number of Soviet films.

1937 saw the culmination of a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union called the Great Purge, which began three years ago. It was a period of fear and insecurity for all categories of Soviet society. The paranoid Joseph Stalin decided to destroy all real and perceived enemies of the political regime. Arrests, deportations to Gulag labor camps, mass executions and disappearance of people without a trace were commonplace, and even the regime’s top representatives could not be sure whether they were to be the next victims of these atrocities. Dmitri Shostakovich received an official offer of a teaching post at the Leningrad Conservatory, but he was rightly frightened by the devastating criticism of his opera the year before. He was also afraid to publicly present his avant-garde Fourth Symphony, which by its very modern, experimental tone was certainly not in line with the aesthetic ideas of Socialist Realism, which became a compulsory artistic direction in the Soviet Union. Instead he proceeded to compose Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. In contrast to his previous symphonies, he chose a more traditional and understandable musical language. He certainly did not resort to banalities and created an impressive composition of very serious and profound content. Shostakovich’s fears of how his Fifth Symphony would be accepted proved unfounded. Its premiere took place on 21 November 1937 as part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Shostakovich’s close friend Yevgeny Mravinsky. The work was a huge success both with the public and official critics from the Communist Party, and served as a model of Soviet symphonism. Shostakovich was left in peace until the next decade, when he was subjected to other attacks.