Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov

The dark atmosphere of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony ushers in its dramatic character and its compositional seriousness. Dvořák wanted to create a work referencing the traditions of Beethoven and Brahms and he succeeded in doing so without sacrificing any of his melodic inventiveness and creative light touch.

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Detlev Glanert
Prague Symphony, lyric fragments after Franz Kafka for Mezzosoprano, Bassbaritone and Orchestra (world première) (40')
Antonín Dvořák
Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70 (35')


Daniela Sindram mezzo-soprano
Albert Pesendorfer bass-baritone

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Semyon Bychkov

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall

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The dark atmosphere of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony ushers in its dramatic character and its compositional seriousness. Dvořák wanted to create a work referencing the traditions of Beethoven and Brahms and he succeeded in doing so without sacrificing any of his melodic inventiveness and creative light touch. Dvořák composed it on commission for London’s Philharmonic Society. Knowing that Beethoven had written his Ninth Symphony for the same society, he wanted to compose a work that would be “capable of stirring the world”. After the première at St. James Hall, Dvořák described the public’s reaction as follows: “The symphony was well liked and the audience acknowledged me and welcomed me in the most ostentatious fashion. There was pandemonium after every movement, rousing to the very end, just like at home, in fact. But this is, as always, a minor concern for me. The important thing is that the symphony, even with only two rehearsals, went superbly.” The London première took place in the spring of 1885 and in the autumn that followed, Dvořák already conducted it at the Rudolfinum. Conductors Hans Richter, Arthur Nikisch, and Hans von Bülow made the Seventh Symphony famous around the world. After the Berlin première, Dvořák wrote into von Bülow’s score enthusiastically: “Hurrah! You have brought this work to life!”

The first half of the concert also gives us a chance to experience the excitement of witnessing a world première of a new work. Detlev Glanert is practically one of Semyon Bychkov’s “court” composers; Bychkov has already conducted his Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch in Prague in 2020. Glanert’s compositional style is influenced by the music of Mahler and Ravel. As a successful opera composer who uses the communicative power of the human voice, Glanert has also chosen to include two vocal soloists in his Prague Symphony.


Daniela Sindram  mezzo-soprano
Albert Pesendorfer  bass baritone

The Austrian bass Albert Pesendorfer studied singing and flute at the Bruckner University in Linz and at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. From 2002 to 2005 he held a full-time engagement at the theatre in Erfurt, during the 2005/2006 season at the Tyrolean State Theatre in Innsbruck and from 2006 to 2011 at the State Opera in Hanover. In 2012 he joined the company of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where he sang until 2016.

Since then, among the places where he has performed are the Vienna State Opera, the Hamburg State Opera, the Cologne Opera, the National Opera in Tokyo, the Zurich Opernhaus, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Semperoper in Dresden, the Theater an der Wien, and the Flemish Opera in Antwerp. He has performed at important opera festivals including an appearance in the summer of 2014 in Bregenz as Sarastro and in 2016 in Bayreuth as Hagen in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung under the baton of Marek Janowski. He excelled in the same role with enormous success at the Vienna State Opera under the baton of Ádám Fischer.

Albert Pesendorfer’s repertoire encompasses more than seventy roles including Hans Sachs (Die Meistersinger), Gurnemanz (Parsifal), Fasolt (Rheingold), Hunding (Die Walküre), Hagen (Götterdämmerung), King Mark (Tristan und Isolde), King Heinrich (Lohengrin), Osmin (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Rocco (Fidelio), Sparafucile (Rigoletto), Philip II (Don Carlos), and Banquo (Macbeth). In 2011 the journal Opernwelt nominated him for the title of Singer of the Year for his portrayals of the roles of Hunding and Hagen at the Hanover State Opera.

Concert performances have taken Albert Pesendorfer to the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Musikpalast in Budapest, the Brucknerhaus in Linz, the Philharmonie in Berlin, London’s Barbican Hall, Japan, the United States, and elsewhere. His debut with the Czech Philharmonic also belongs on this list.

Since the winter semester of 2015, Albert Pesendorfer has been a professor of singing at the Universität der Künste in Berlin.

He can now be heard at the Vienna Volksoper as Timur (Turandot), Hemit (Der Freischütz), and Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), and he has enjoyed especially great success as Sebastian Kundrather in the opera Kehraus um St. Stephan by Ernst Krenek.

During the 2019/2020 season, Pesendorfer is returning to the title role in Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov at the Vienna Volksoper.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

Celebrating both his fifth season as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic and his 70th birthday, Semyon Bychkov will celebrate his birthday with three concerts in November pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with Shostakovich’s Fifth. It is a season which opens in Prague with the official concert to mark the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the EU and continues with concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka as part of the Dvořákova Prague International Music Festival. Later in the season, Bychkov will conduct Rusalka at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Bychkov's tenure at the Czech Philharmonic was initiated in 2018 with concerts in Prague, London, New York and Washington marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. With the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project in 2019, Bychkov and the Orchestra turned their focus to Mahler. In 2022, Pentatone has already released two discs in the ongoing complete symphonic cycle – Mahler’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies.

Bychkov's repertoire spans four centuries. The unique combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy ensure that his performances are highly anticipated. In addition to being a guest with the major orchestras and opera houses across Europe and the US, Bychkov holds honorary titles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – and the Royal Academy of Music from whom he recently received an Honorary Doctorate. In 2015, he was named "Conductor of the Year’ by the International Opera Awards.

Bychkov began recording for Philips in 1989 and released discs with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne included a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, together with works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Verdi, Glanert and Höller. His 1992 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library recommended recording (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 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 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 in 1975. He returned in 1989 as Principal Guest Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic and, the same year, was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. In 1997, Bychkov was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and in 1998, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.


Antonín Dvořák
Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

Zcela jiný svět, než na jaký jsme u Dvořáka zvyklí, představuje jeho Symfonie č. 7 d moll op. 70. Postrádá slovanskou melodiku, bohaté větvení myšlenek, folklorní inspiraci i nezdolný optimismus. Odkud se v této skladbě najednou vzala chmurná, temná nálada, vzdor, pochybnosti a patos? Podle některých badatelů za to mohl autorův vnitřní konflikt mezi vlastenectvím a kosmopolitismem, touhou a vnějším očekáváním, ve dvořákovské literatuře se také často píše o tvůrčí krizi, jíž hudebník procházel a jež jako by v této symfonii vrcholila. Nasnadě je i souvislost s opusy Johannesa Brahmse, Dvořákova objevitele a velkého osobního vzoru, jehož symfonie se staly Dvořákovi silnou inspirací a výzvou. On sám si do partitury poznamenal, že hlavní téma první věty vymyslel v roce 1884 při vjezdu slavnostního vlaku několika stovek maďarských Čechů a Maďarů do Prahy, kteří přijeli navštívit Národní divadlo. V napjaté společenské atmosféře šlo více o politickou než kulturní událost, doprovázenou navíc rozsáhlými manifestacemi, ovšem nemůžeme s jistotou říci, že podobu symfonie ovlivnila tehdejší politická situace.

Sedmou symfonii začal Dvořák psát na popud londýnské Filharmonické společnosti, jež ho zároveň jmenovala čestným členem, přičemž nabídku pojal jako skvělou příležitost zkomponovat něco opravdu výjimečného a vyrovnat se jak Brahmsovi, tak Beethovenovi. A vskutku, tato symfonie je považována za Dvořákovu nejsymfoničtější skladbu, jež je sice intimní, ale zároveň nadmíru dramatická, dokonale vyrovnaná z hlediska formy a obsahu, instrumentačně úsporná, myšlenkově soudržná, skoro až sevřená, zkrátka beethovensko-brahmsovská.

První věta v sonátové formě začíná zlověstně ostrým tématem, jež posléze promění kontrastní smířlivá myšlenka. Poté na něj opět padne stín a celá věta končí podobně rezignovaně, jako začala. Skutečné zklidnění přináší druhá věta, již lze vnímat jako modlitbu duše, následuje rytmicky výrazné, temné scherzo s dramatickou melodií. Ve čtvrté větě dochází konečně k zásadnímu zlomu, heroickému vzedmutí vůle, jež vyústí v plné osvobození.

Premiéra Sedmé symfonie se uskutečnila 22. dubna roku 1885 v londýnské St. James Hall pod Dvořákovým vedením a byla až na ojedinělé výjimky nadšeně přijata laickým publikem i kritikou. Česká premiéra se konala 29. listopadu téhož roku v pražském Rudolfinu.

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