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.
“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.
For further information please visit the homepage http://lisabatiashvili.com/.
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.
For further information please visit the homepage https://www.gautiercapucon.com/
Now at the beginning of a new 5-year contract as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov’s relationship with the Orchestra has become noticeably deeper with extraordinary performances of the great Czech masters running in parallel with a much-acclaimed Mahler cycle recorded for Pentatone, and memorable performances of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Strauss, Schumann, and Beethoven.
Bychkov’s inaugural season with the Czech Philharmonic in 2018 was celebrated with an international tour that took the Orchestra from performances at home in Prague to concerts in London, New York, and Washington. Dvořák is a major focus throughout the 128th season – in addition to being featured in the season launch and the opening subscription concerts, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic take Dvořák to audiences in South Korea and Japan, reprising the East Asia tour originally planned for 2020. Later in the season, the Orchestra will bring Dvořák to the major European capitals in celebration of 2024’s Year of Czech Music.
For the past three seasons, Bychkov’s work with the Czech Philharmonic has focused on the music of Gustav Mahler, with performances of the symphonies at the Rudofinum, on tour and ultimately committed to disc. Pentatone’s Mahler Cycle launched in spring 2022 with the release of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, followed by recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in October and, most recently Symphony No. 2. This season Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 will be performed at the Rudolfinum and in Baden‑Baden.
Other major projects during Bychkov’s tenure include the commissioning of 14 new works – nine from Czech composers and five commissions from international composers. The symphonies of Detlev Glanert and Julian Anderson were both inspired and named after Prague, Bryce Dessner composed a tone poem inspired by the nature of the Basque Coast where Bychkov lives, and Thierry Escaich and Thomas Larcher composed piano concertos.
Bychkov’s first major initiative with the Czech Philharmonic was The Tchaikovsky Project – a 7-CD box set devoted to Tchaikovsky’s symphonic repertoire released by Decca and a series of international residencies. Last September, after giving the official concert to mark the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the EU, Bychkov and the Orchestra started the season as guests of the Dvořák Prague International Music Festival, where they gave three concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka.
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 Leningrad 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 Rachmaninoff Conducting Competition. He left the former Soviet Union in 1975, having been denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic.
By the time Bychkov returned to Leningrad 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 and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras and the Concertgebouworkest. 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 opera 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. While Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, his productions of Janáček’s Jenůfa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La boheme, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov each won the prestigious Premio Abbiati. New productions in Vienna have included Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina; while in London, he made his operatic debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Recent productions include Strauss’ Elektra at the Paris Opera,
Dvořák’s Rusalka at Covent Garden and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde at Teatro Real in Madrid.
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 with the Concertgebouworkest 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.
Bychkov made extensive recordings for Philips with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Concertgebouworkest, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. 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), Rachmaninoff (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). Of The Tchaikovsky Project released in 2019, BBC Music Magazine wrote: “The most beautiful orchestra playing imaginable can be heard on Semyon Bychkov’s 2017 recording with the Czech Philharmonic, in which Decca’s state-of-the‑art recording captures every detail.”
Bychkov was the first musician to express his position on the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, since when he has spoken in support of Ukraine in Prague’s Wenceslas Square; on radio and television in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Austria, the UK and the USA; written By Invitation for The Economist; and appeared as a guest on BBC World’s HARDtalk.
In October 2022, Semyon Bychkov was named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year Worldwide. Earlier in the year he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music and, in 2015 he was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards.
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.
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.