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Czech Phil: The Spring Stars II • Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider


Danish virtuoso Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider is coming back to the Czech Philharmonic after more than three years. Together with Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov he will perform the first violin concerto by Max Bruch. The aim of the concert is to raise money for medical professionals. Beethoven’s symphony Eroica is dedicated to them.

Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes

Programme

Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Max Bruch
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1  in G minor, Op. 26

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”

Performers

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider violin

Semjon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Marek Eben host

Photo illustrating the event Czech Phil: The Spring Stars II • Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Tickets and contact information

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 25th March at 8.15pm.

The concert will be broadcast on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 25 March 2021 at 8:15 pm.

Performers

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider  violin

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider inaugurates his first season as Music Director of the Orchestre national de Lyon in September 2021. He conducted the Orchestra’s 2019/20 season opening concerts and together they toured Russia in February 2020. Szeps-Znaider is a regular guest conductor of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Bamberg Symphony and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

Following an outstandingly successful debut conducting ‘Magic Flute’ at the Dresden Semperoper, Szeps-Znaider was immediately re-invited to conduct ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ at the House in Autumn 2019. This season he returns to Dresden Semperoper for a revival of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and makes his debut at the Royal Danish Opera conducting a new production of Magic Flute.
Also a virtuoso violinist, Szeps-Znaider maintains his reputation as one of the world’s leading exponents of the instrument with a busy calendar of concerto and recital engagements. During the 19/20 season he appeared as soloist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France and Konzerthausorcheter Berlin, and performed the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Rudolf Buchbinder in Vienna’s Musikverein.

Szeps-Znaider enjoys a strong relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra; an orchestra he has worked with extensively both as conductor and as soloist. Together they recently recorded the complete Mozart Violin Concertos, directed from the violin by Szeps-Znaider, with The Strad extolling his playing as ‘possibly among the most exquisite violin sound ever captured on disc’.

His extensive discography also includes the Nielsen Violin Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, the Elgar Concerto in Bminor with Sir Colin Davis and the Dresden Staatskapelle, award-winning recordings of the Brahms and Korngold concertos with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic, the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 and Glazunov Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and the Mendelssohn Concerto on DVD with Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Szeps-Znaider has also recorded the complete works of Brahms for violin and piano with Yefim Bronfman.

Szeps-Znaider is passionate about supporting the next generation of musical talent, and is President of the Nielsen Competition, which takes place every three years in Odense, Denmark. He plays the “Kreisler” Guarnerius “del Gesu” 1741 on extended loan to him by The Royal Danish Theater through the generosity of the VELUX Foundations, the Villum Fonden and the Knud Højgaard Foundation.

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).

Marek Eben  host

Marek Eben

Marek Eben was born in 1957 in Prague. He studied music drama at the Prague Conservatoire. After finishing school, he worked at the Vítězslav Nezval Theatre in Karlovy Vary, then at the Kladno Theatre, and from 1983 to 2002 he was an ensemble member at Prague’s Studio Ypsilon Theatre. Besides acting, he also involves himself with music. He is the exclusive songwriter for the band The Eben Brothers, which has released five albums (Malé písně do tmy, 1984; Tichá domácnost, 1995; Já na tom dělám, 2002; Chlebíčky, 2008; Čas holin, 2014), and he wrote the music for the films Bizon and Hele on letí and for the television series Poste restante. He has also composed music and written texts for about 20 plays (including Matěj Poctivý – Matthew the Honest, Vosková figura – The Wax Figure, Amerika, and Othello for Studio Ypsilon and The Winter’s Tale for the National Theatre). Since 1996, he has been the moderator of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

He has worked extensively on television, serving as the moderator of various programmes such as the contest O poklad Anežky České (The Treasure of St Agnes of Bohemia), the TýTý Awards Presentation, Stardance, and the discussion programme Na plovárně (At the Swimming Pool), which won the Elsa Award in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 for the best talk show. Marek Eben has also won this prize as a moderator in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2007. He is also the two-time overall winner of the TýTý Awards.

Compositions

Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) gave musical Classicism its crowning achievement in the pathos of his music, the selection of heroic themes and the use of unconventional means of expression, heralding in many ways the upcoming period of Romanticism. His Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 was written in 1807, in close succession to Razumovsky Quartets, first two versions of his only opera Leonora (later presented as Fidelio), Violin Concerto and Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. At that time, the composer was recovering from his unrequited love for the young widow of Count Joseph Deym, Josephine von Brunsvik, whom he taught to play the piano. At the same time, however, he had another serious personal crisis due to the struggle with his growing deafness. This later prevented him from participating in the concert life both actively and passively. From then on, he was only able to search for meaning of life in compositional activities. Beethoven became deeply concerned with issues of heroism and noble ideas about the ultimate salvation of the universe, which was reflected in the increased pathos of his compositions. He was at the peak of his creative powers and released into the world one quality work after another.

Coriolan Overture is an introductory music to the eponymous drama by Heinrich Joseph von Collin (1772–1811), a progressive Austrian author whose work Beethoven admired. This once-successful theatrical play is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy about the 5th-century Roman general Coriolanus, who fell victim to a conspiracy. Beethoven’s overture is actually a symphonic poem expressing the composer’s impressions of the play. It is composed in sonata form and works with two contrasting themes, which according to many interpreters of the work of this German musical genius depict the inner struggle of the main protagonist. Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture was first performed at a private concert in the Viennese palace of Prince Lobkowicz in March 1807. Two other new pieces by Beethoven, Fourth Symphony and Piano Concerto No. 4, were premiered at the same concert.

Max Bruch
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26

Vorspiel. Allegro moderato
Adagio
Finale. Allegro energico

The German composer Max Bruch (1838–1920) began composing at the age of nine and wrote his first symphony at the age of 14. Very soon he became an internationally acclaimed musician, but he was recognized more as a conductor because his compositions were hard to swallow both for the public and critics. He produced more than 200 opuses, including three symphonies, four operas, several instrumental concertos and many choral pieces in the field of sacred and secular music. As a composer, Bruch remained captive of a conservative “school” of German music all his life, and he kept composing in the traditional way still in the 20th century, when the art world had long been fascinated by completely different creative methods.

Bruch’s musical legacy is accepted today with similar embarrassment, and his (almost) only work that is performed on concert stages is the first of his three violin concertos, which on the contrary occupies a very important place in the concerto repertoire and is extremely popular with violin virtuosos and audiences. Bruch composed Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 in 1866, when he was music director in Koblenz in the Rhineland. The original version of the composition was premiered the same year on 24 April by Otto von Königlow as soloist and with Bruch conducting. After that, Bruch rewrote the concerto together with the world-famous violinist Joseph Joachim, giving it its final form in which this composition is performed to this day. It is interesting that in this composition Bruch entrusted the solo instrument with a considerably more important role than the orchestra, which serves as mere accompaniment. The concert begins with a lyrical violin cadence, followed by an equally lyrical dialogue between soloist and orchestra. The first movement leads directly into the slow second movement, which is melodically the most inventive of the whole composition. A faster tempo comes with the third movement, which has the playful character of an energetic dance and brings the work to a rousing virtuoso close.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”

Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre. Adagio assai
Scherzo. Allegro vivace
Finale. Allegro molto

History of Beethoven’s Third Symphony has been analyzed in a great deal of literature, and the remarks of his biographers about this work go far beyond the music as such. The symphony has been linked to Beethoven’s worldview and political beliefs, the reasons for its composition have been examined, and there is a number of hypotheses about its name and dedication. According to second-hand reports, the impulse for the symphony came from General Bernadotte, the French envoy to Vienna, whom Beethoven admired and whose salon he attended. The funeral march of the second movement, for example, was associated with the death of Admiral Nelson (however, at the time of his death at Trafalgar 1805, the symphony was already written); others linked it to Beethoven’s interest in ancient heroes and the like. The first sketches for the symphony come from 1802 when Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul of the French Republic; Beethoven’s admiration for him and everything French went so far that he even intended to relocate to Paris. He wanted to dedicate his new symphony to Napoleon, but his patron, Prince Lobkowitz, did not like the idea. He offered Beethoven a considerable amount of money for this composition, reserving the right to perform it for six months. Beethoven resolved this issue by a compromise – he dedicated the symphony to Lobkowitz, while giving it the title “Bonaparte”. In mid-May 1804, however, Napoleon declared himself Emperor, and according to the testimony of Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven tore the title page of the symphony in a fury. The original autograph score has not survived, but the changed name can be also seen in its copy, from which the original title was erased so forcefully that there is a hole in its place. The symphony was rehearsed in private in Lobkowitz Palace in Vienna in the late May and early June 1804 by an orchestra conducted by the concert master Anton Wranitzky. Lobkowitz took advantage of his right to the symphony, and let it be performed at his Jezeří Castle in northern Bohemia (in the presence of the Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand, who was passing through the Czech lands on a diplomatic mission), and in January 1805 again in his palace in Vienna. The public premiere of the symphony took place on 7 April 1805 at the Theater an der Wien under Beethoven’s direction. The question remains who is referred to in the title Sinfonia Eroica, “composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grande Uomo” (Heroic Symphony, “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”), under which the composition was published in the autumn of 1806. The “great man” seems to be Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who was killed on 10 October 1806 at the Battle of Saalfeld.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major “Eroica” was soon perceived as a revolutionary work both in terms of the social and artistic revolutions. For example, as early as 1839, it was written: “Beethoven transformed the storm of the world revolution into tones; with anxiety and yet full of enthusiasm, we listen how he dares to approach the limits of harmony.” The symphony represents a milestone in the development of Beethoven’s symphonic music as well as the genre as such. Above all, it is extremely extensive. The unusual number of three French horns in the instrumentation is sometimes related to Beethoven’s early problems with hearing, but it rather suggests a tendency to expand the orchestra’s sound capabilities, as they were fully developed in Romanticism through technical improvements in the design of instruments. The main theme does not consist only of a simple swinging between the notes of an E flat major chord that quickly stumbles on a dissonant C sharp, but the opening two tutti chords determine the rhythmic basis of the whole movement and give the background for all material. The development section, bringing in a new theme, which will also appears in the coda, is gaining in importance. The second movement is the first example of using the funeral march as a separate symphony movement, and scherzo is one of the most energetic in Beethoven’s oeuvre. The final movement features masterful variations, undeniably connected with Beethoven’s music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43, i.e., Fifteen Variations and Fugue, Op. 35 also called Eroica Variations. In many ways, Beethoven’s Eroica paved the way for the great symphonies of the next generation of composers.