Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov and Katia and Marielle Labèque

On Thursday 4th February, the Czech Philharmonic broadcasts its first self-dependent stream from the Rudolfinum. Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov will lead the orchestra in „Scotish“ symphony by Mendelssohn. In the first half, Katia and Marielle Labèque will perform Concerto for two pianos, which was written specially for them by Bryce Dessner.

  • Duration of the programme 1 hour 15 minutes


Bryce Dessner
Concerto for Two Pianos

— Intermission (10') —

 Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 ("Scottish")


Katia a Marielle Labèque pianos

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Semyon Bychkov and Katia and Marielle Labèque

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Tickets and contact information

Concert will be broadcasted on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 4th February at 8pm.

Concert will be broadcasted on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 4th February at 8pm.

In early February, the Dvořák Hall was supposed to witness the world premiere of a work commissioned by the Czech Phil to American composer and multi-instrumentalist Bryce Dessner. Instead, and for the first time ever, the orchestra will do its very own live stream of a concert from the Rudolfinum, which will be broadcast exclusively on social networks. Czech Phil Chief Conductor and Musical Director Semyon Bychkov will conduct the "Scottish" Symphony No. 3 by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. But before that, he will be joined by his wife Marielle Labèque and her sister Katia for the Concerto for Two Pianos, which Dessner wrote for the Labèque sisters. The concerto received its premiere in 2018.

"Bryce has written a magnificent concerto for us and it has became one of our favourite concertos in our repertory. His style is unique because he has a perfect knowledge of so many musical worlds and you can hear all of them in this concerto," recommend Katia and Marielle Labè​que, the soloists in Dessner's piece for the evening.


Katia & Marielle Labèque   pianos
Katia & Marielle Labèque

“The best piano duo in front of an audience today”

New York Times


“The Labèque sisters are tremendous. They are great performers, and great interpreters. And they are wonderful supporters of music – not only modern music, but just music. It is great to work with them”

Philip Glass


“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.”

The Times


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 Gershwinʼs 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, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Marin Alsop, Alain Altinoglu, Semyon Bychkov, Sir Colin Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Gustavo Gimeno, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Pietari Inkinen, Louis Langrée, Zubin Mehta, Juanjo Mena, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Matthias Pintscher, Georges Prêtre, Sir Simon Rattle, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, 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 with Maxim Emelyanychev 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 Adès, Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, György Ligeti, Nico Muhly and Olivier Messiaen. At Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles they presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s new Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. In spring 2017 also saw the world premiere of Bryce Dessner’s concerto at Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgards and in June 2020 a new concerto written by Nico Muhly, will receive its world premiere at Lincoln Center with New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden.

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). A record audience of more then 100.000 attended the Vienna Summer Night Concert in Schönbrunn (now available on CD and DVD by Sony). More than 1.5 million viewers followed the event worldwide on TV.

For their own label, KML Recordings, they have released a CD Box “Sisters”. Previous releases include a Gershwin/Bernstein album, and their project Minimalist Dream House (50 years of Minimalist music). The DVD “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 is released by EuroArts. Their biography “Une vie à quatre mains” by Renaud Machart is published by Buchet-Chastel.

Labèque’s label KML Recordings joined the historical label Deutsche Grammophon, their first collaboration being Stravinskyʼs Rite of Spring and Debussyʼs Epigraphes Antiques, followed by “Love Stories” with music by Leonard Bernstein and David Chalmin, “Amoria” a journey to their Basque roots covering five centuries of music, “Moondog”, a tribute to Louis Thomas Hardin, one of the true geniuses of his time. They just released a new album “El Chan” dedicated entirely to American composer Bryce Dessner, including his Concerto for two pianos with Orchestre de Paris conducted by Matthias Pintscher. The album is dedicated to the film director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritú, who created the album cover artwork.

Most recent performances include concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg, Elb Philharmonie Hamburg and Thom Yorke, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov, Dresden Staatskapelle at Easter Festival Salzburg with Andres Orozco-Estrada , Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic, including return visits to the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl and Cincinnati Symphony. At the invitation of the Philharmonie Hall in Paris for a special “Week End”, attention was focused on “Amoria”, “Invocations” and their new project for two guitars and two pianos with David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner including a piece written for them by Thom Yorke “Don’t fear the Light” with Thom Yorke as special guest.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

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.


Bryce Dessner
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra

For the American composer Bryce Dessner (*1976), writing classical music is just one realm of his diverse activities. The musical career of this native of Cincinnati, Ohio began in the rock band The National, which he founded at the turn of the century with his brother, and which is still in successful operation today. Over time, besides songs he began to compose concert works, music for dance theatre, and film scores, and he became a symbol of success in a field sometimes referred to as crossover. He employs his experience with contrasting musical genres as a curator of festivals and other musical events, including MusicNOW and HAVEN, of which he is also a co-founder. With the release of the album Aheym in 2013, he first introduced himself as a composer of classical music. The recording contains a series of compositions for the famed Kronos Quartet, including Little Blue Something, which was inspired by an encounter with the music of the Czech alternative duo of Irena Havlová and Vojtěch Havel, and to be precise, their recording Little Blue Nothing. The pair create meditative compositions employing the unique sound of two viols da gamba, which Dessner describes as an important influenced at the beginning of his career as a composer.

Bryce Dessner’s film music credits include The Two Popes (2019) and collaboration on the music for The Revenant (2015) by the director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Dessner’s visit to the director’s homeland inspired his first work for two pianos and the Labèque sisters, the suite El Chan, named for a legendary spirit from the depths of a canyon. The Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra is a further collaborative step. While writing it, the composer visited the piano studio where the sisters were working, and their music collection became part of the new work’s inspiration. Bryce Dessner, who has moved from the USA to Paris, professes to have been influenced by a number of French composers, such as Olivier Messiaen, Francis Poulenc, and Henri Dutilleux.

In his own words, the composer understands the two pianos “more like one gigantic instrument than like two contrasting voices”, and the perfect ensemble playing of Katia and Marielle Labèque reinforces that impression. The concerto is in the classical three-movement form with an alternation of fast and slow passages, and the orchestra sound is enhanced by a wide range of percussion including various metal objects. The work was composed in 2017 and was premiered in April 2018 in London with the London Philharmonic Orchestra accompanying Katia and Marielle Labèque.

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 ("Scottish")

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847) is one of the most famous composers of the early Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, he soon exhibited a versatile musical talent as not only a composer, but also a pianist, organist, and conductor. One of his achievements as a performer and promoter was the reawakening of the musical community’s interest in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. His own compositions won great acclaim in Great Britain, which he visited on ten occasions.

The details of the creation of the symphony commonly called the “Scottish” and its position in the context of the composer’s oeuvre are a bit of a mystery to music historians. It is certain that the first impulse for writing the symphony came during Mendelssohn’s first visit to the British Isles in 1829 when he was accompanied by Karl Klingemann, a friend of the family who was working there in the diplomatic services. One of the goals of his visit was to meet the writer Sir Walter Scott, the literary idol of the Romantic movement in Europe. Although their encounter supposedly did not turn out the way that Mendelssohn had hoped (they caught the author just as he was leaving home and managed to exchange only a few words with him), Mendelssohn had a number of powerful experiences in his travels around Scotland. According to a letter from the composer to his family, the initial impulse was his visit to the ruin of the Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, the seat of Queen Maria Stuart of Scotland in the sixteenth century. It was there that he wrote down the opening motif of the symphony’s first movement. After that sudden flash of inspiration, however, it took a long thirteen years before the symphony was finished. Although it is called his third, in reality, it is the fifth of his symphonies.

When performing and publishing his symphony, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy did not draw any attention to “Scottish” content in his symphony, nor did he provide any concrete musical programme. Nonetheless, dramatic development can be heard in the music, and listeners can project Scotland’s stirring history onto it. The first, second, and fourth movements contain passages that suggest scenes of a battle or marching, while the third movement is stylized as a funeral march. The second movement contains melodic elements that are reminiscent of Scottish folk music, although there are no specific quotes. The symphony ends with a coda, in which the composer quotes his own musical setting of the prayer Ave Maria, and this can be understood as a hidden reference to Maria Stuart. Innovative for its day is the composer’s requirement that the individual movements of the symphony follow each other without a pause, allowing the music to flow more seamlessly. The symphony was premiered in Leipzig in 1842, and Mendelssohn dedicated it to Queen Victoria.

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