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For the first programme of Series C, chief conductor Semyon Bychkov has invited the youthful Swedish violinist Johan Dalene, whose appearance at the Rudolfinum will be his Prague debut and first collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic. The Prague Symphony by the German composer Detlev Glanert will receive its world premiere.
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (31')
— Intermission —
Prague Symphony. Lyric Fragments after Franz Kafka (Symphony No. 4) (world premiere) (45')
Johan Dalene violin
Catriona Morison mezzo-soprano
Christian Immler bass-baritone
Semyon Bychkov conductor
The Prague Symphony was commissioned by the Czech Philharmonic through Semyon Bychkov and its performance will be a great event.It had been planned for March 2021, but that was not possible, so the work was first heard elsewhere. It was commissioned by Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic, and the performance will be a major event. Maestro Bychkov is equally excited about the soloist for the Sibelius concerto: “I think the evening’s soloist Johan Dalene is an exceptionally talented violinist, and I am greatly looking forward to his performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto.”
22-year-old Swedish-Norwegian violinist Johan Dalene is already making an impact on the international scene, performing with leading orchestras and in celebrated recital halls both at home and abroad. His ability to “make his Stradivarius sing like a master” (Le Monde), coupled with his refreshingly honest musicality and engagement with musicians and audiences alike, has won him countless admirers. This talent was heralded most recently as winner of the Norwegian Soloist Prize and First Prize at the prestigious 2019 Carl Nielsen Competition, which was broadcast to audiences worldwide. In October 2022 he was awarded the “Young Artist of the Year” prize by Gramophone.
Johan’s recent and forthcoming orchestral highlights include his debut at the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony with Jordan de Souza, debut performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with Sakari Oramo, Czech Philharmonic with Semyon Bychkov, San Francisco Symphony with Esa-Pekka Salonen, London Philharmonic Orchestra with Karina Canellakis and many more.
Johan is equally passionate about chamber music and will be giving a series of recitals in the USA for the first time in Spring 2023, notably at New York’s Carnegie Hall and San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. Other chamber highlights include a new collaboration with Igor Levit and Julia Hagen, for performances at London’s Wigmore Hall and the Heidelberg Festival. Recently selected as a European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) Rising Star, he performed recitals in some of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, while also engaging in Education, Learning and Participation work with diverse communities in cities across the ECHO network.
Recording exclusively for BIS, Johan released his third album on the label in March 2022 – it features the Nielsen and Sibelius Concerti, with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic with John Storgards, and garnered Johan his third coveted “Editor’s Choice” from Gramophone Magazine. His second disc of Nordic recital music (released in Spring 2021) received a prestigious Diapason D’Or.
Johan began playing the violin at the age of four and made his professional concerto debut three years later. In Summer 2016, he was student-in-residence at Switzerland’s Verbier Festival and in 2018 was accepted on to the Norwegian Crescendo programme, where he worked closely with mentors Janine Jansen, Leif Ove Andsnes and Gidon Kremer. Today he studies with Per Enoksson, Professor at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, as well as with Janine Jansen, and has also participated in masterclasses with a number of distinguished teachers, including Dora Schwarzberg, Pamela Frank, Gerhard Schulz, and Henning Kraggerud. He has been awarded various scholarships and prizes, notably from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, The Anders Wall Giresta Scholarship, Queen Ingrid’s Honorary Scholarship and many others.
He plays a Stradivarius violin from 1736, generously on loan from the Anders Sveaas’ Charitable Foundation.
Catriona Morison, Scottish mezzo-soprano based in Berlin, became known to a wider audience in 2017 when she won the Main Prize as well as the shared Song Prize of the internationally renowned BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. At that time, she was an ensemble member of the Wuppertal Opera for two seasons (2016–2018), where she added a variety of interesting roles to her repertoire, including Nicklausse (Les contes dʼHoffmann), Charlotte (Werther), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Little Arab (Juliette) Princess Clarice (The Love for Three Oranges) and Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro). Guest engagements in opera have taken her to the Edinburgh International Festival, Cologne Opera, Bergen National Opera, Hamburg State Opera and Weimar National Theatre, among others. In 2015 she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival under Franz Welser-Möst as a member of the Young Singers Project and in the same year at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.
In the 2022/2023 season, the artist will expand her repertoire with two important roles: in Braunschweig she can be heard as Fricka in Rheingold, and she returns to Opera Wuppertal as Nerone in Monteverdiʼs L’incoronazione di Poppea. Concert repertoire holds a special place for Catriona Morison. In summer 2019 she made her BBC Proms debut, performing Elgarʼs Sea Pictures with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Elim Chan. She also sang the world premiere of Errollyn Wallenʼs This Frame is Part of the Painting also at the BBC Proms, a work commissioned for her. The artist continues to tour internationally in 2022/2023: With Schoenbergʼs Gurre-Lieder with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Fabio Luisi in Copenhagen, with Mahlerʼs Klagendem Lied with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto under Stefan Blunier, with the world premiere of Detlev Glanertʼs Prague Symphony with the Czech Philharmonic under Semyon Bychkov in Prague as well as with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, with Mozartʼs Requiem under Manfred Honeck with both the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She can also be heard in Cologne with the Gürzenich Orchestra under Julien Chauvin in Pergolesiʼs Stabat Mater.
Song is of particular importance to Catriona Morison, as documented by her latest CD with songs by E. Grieg, J. Brahms, Josephine Lang and R. Schumann, alongside Malcolm Martineau. She has performed at the Wigmore Hall, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Leeds Lieder Festival, the Oxford Lieder Festival and the Schubertiada Vilabertran as well as at the Heidelberger Frühling, in Madrid and Barcelona.
With a voice of “warm, noble timbre and great flexibility” (Forum Opéra), German bass-baritone Christian Immler is a multifaceted artist whose career ranges widely across the worlds of lieder, oratorio and opera, “a technically, musically and stylistically consummate interpreter, with a truly grounded bass capable of tenoral splendour, exemplary diction and emotional urgency coupled with a deep intellectual textual understanding.” (Klassik Heute) His artistry is strongly centred in the baroque and early Classical repertoire, but with a versatility that extends through the 19th century recital and orchestral tradition and into contemporary works.
Recent highlights include Rocco in Beethoven’s Leonore with René Jacobs and the Freiburger Barockorchester, widely acclaimed recordings of the St Matthew and St John Passions with Bach Collegium Japan and the cantatas of Bach, Werner and Albrechtsberger at Müpa Budapest, as well as recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Minnesota Orchestra, Haydn’s Stabat Mater and Salve Regina with the Kammerorchester Basel, Mozart’s C minor Mass with Ensemble Pygmalion, and Weber’s Der Freischutz with both the Insula Orchestra, and the Freiburger Barockorchester.
His operatic experience has ranged from Monteverdi’s Seneca and Charpentier’s Achis in David & Jonathas conducted by William Christie, and Jupiter in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux with Raphaël Pichon at the Opéra Comique, through to Pharnaces in Zemlinsky’s Der König Kandaules at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and roles in Fenelon’s JJR, Citoyen de Genève and Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
A keen recitalist, Christian has performed at Wigmore Hall in London, the Frick Collection in New York, the Paris Philharmonie, the Salzburg Mozarteum, and the Tonhalle Zurich. He enjoys a long-time partnership with pianist Helmut Deutsch, with whom he released his album “Modern Times” which was awarded both the “Diamant d’Opéra” and the prestigious “Diapason Découverte”. Their latest project, devoted exclusively to newly discovered lieder of Hans Gál and displaying Christian’s particular interest in 20th Century “Emigré Composers” was released in 2021. Most recently, he has released a disc of Jorg Widmann’s song cycle “Das Heisse Herz” and Schumann lieder on Alpha Classics, with pianist Andreas Frese.
Following early training as a boy alto soloist in the Tölzer Knabenchor, Christian Immler studied with Rudolf Piernay at the Guildhall School of Music in London. Much in demand for worldwide masterclasses, Christian is Professor of Voice at the Kalaidos Fachhochschule in Zurich, has taught the Lied and Oratorio class at the International Summer Academy of the Mozarteum Salzburg on several occasions and has served on several jury panels, including at the International Nadia et Lili Boulanger Competition in Paris, from which his own victory launched his career.
His more than 50 recordings have been awarded prizes such as a 2016 Grammy Nomination (Steffani’s Niobe), the Echo Klassik, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Gramophone Award, and France Musiques’ Enregistrement de l’année.
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.
The principal artistic legacy of Finland’s national composer Jean Sibelius consists of his symphonic works. He wrote only one concerto for solo instrument and orchestra, yet it has become one of his most frequently performed works and one of the most difficult and most popular concertos in the entire violin literature.
The Violin Concerto in D minor did not have an easy path to triumph in the world’s concert halls. Sibelius originally dedicated it to the renowned violinist Willy Burmester, who was also supposed to have given the work’s world premiere in Berlin. Shortly beforehand, however, Sibelius found himself in financial difficulty, as he did many times during his lifetime, and plans for the concerto’s premiere had to be re-evaluated. The premiere finally took place in early 1904 in Helsinki with Sibelius himself conducting the local orchestra, and the violin part was entrusted to Viktor Nováček, a rather obscure violinist of Czech origin. The composer had high hopes for the concerto’s premiere, but circumstances did not allow their fulfilment. Nováček did not have enough time to learn the work, nor was his ability up to the demands of Sibelius’s concerto. Disappointed by negative reviews, the composer withdrew the work and went to work on revising it. The second performance of the concerto was at Berlin’s Singakademie, but Sibelius’s publisher had the decisive word in choosing the soloist and conductor. For this reason, Burmester once again was not the performer of the solo part, which was instead played by Karel Halíř, the concertmaster of the Berlin Court Orchestra, and Richard Strauss conducted the performance. Although Halíř also was not a virtuoso on par with Burmester, the second version of the concerto got positive reviews from the Berlin critics. The concerto’s acceptance into the repertoire was slowed by the extraordinary technical difficulty of the solo part. It did not gain its present popularity until after the Second World War, thanks in particular to American violinists including the legendary Jascha Heifetz, who made the first recording of the concerto in 1935.
Sibelius had long desired to write a violin concerto. The choice of instrument was no coincidence; the composer devoted himself intensively to playing the violin. Before the current season began, this evening’s soloist Johan Delane said, “From the work’s technical difficulty, one recognises immediately that Sibelius was a violinist. The concerto exploits all of the instrument’s capabilities, and it is able to describe the natural surroundings of Scandinavia convincingly.” While, for example, the German composers of the early 20th century were taking inspiration from modernism and were exploring the new frontiers of tonality, the character of Sibelius’s music remained very romantic, but one cannot say that his musical language was stuck in the past. Sibelius’s music was also influenced by the French Impressionists, and he is sometimes categorised among those composers. His Violin Concerto literally overflows with melodic motifs that also embody a wide range of moods from lyricism to melancholy and finally the dancelike frolicking of the third movement. The violin part is exceptionally virtuosic in many ways, and the soloist must demonstrate first-class technical skill and expressive feeling. The violin fundamentally carries the melodic material, and the orchestral accompaniment never completely overwhelms the soloist. Here, too, Sibelius undeniably benefits from his experience as a symphonist who was able to make sensitive use of all of the colouristic possibilities of the individual groups of instruments.
Sibelius came from a Swedish-speaking family, and he did not begin to learn to speak Finnish until he was 11 years old. Despite this, he was a patriot all his life and loved Finland’s natural beauty. His compositions were often inspired by nature and by Finnish mythology. Sibelius is regarded as his country’s national composer and as one of the symbols of Finnish identity and of the country’s struggle for independence from Russia. That struggle came to a head with the revolution of 1917, when Sibelius’s homeland won its independence.
One of Semyon Bychkov’s artistic goals with the Czech Philharmonic is to perform music by contemporary composers, and not just compositions that have already been written and performed elsewhere. The Czech Philharmonic has approached nine Czech and five foreign composers, who have written or are writing new works for the orchestra. One of them is the 62-year-old composer Detlev Glanert. A native of Hamburg, Germany, he and the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic share not only a close personal friendship, but also a similar artistic outlook. Bychkov has repeatedly conducted Glanert’s works all around Europe, and he regards him as one of today’s most interesting composers: “I greatly admire Detlev’s music. He’s an outstanding opera composer with a feeling for the text and a sense of drama and philosophy. The first time I heard his Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch, I was brought to tears in several places by how beautiful the music is. That doesn’t happen to me often with contemporary music.”
In recent years, the Czech Philharmonic was supposed to have given three performances of Glanert’s music. In January 2019 there was a performance of the brief orchestral composition Weites Land based on motifs from Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. Then the Czech premiere of the monumental Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch was planned for March 2020. Composed for the 500th anniversary of the great Dutch painter’s death, it was commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of what would have been an extraordinary musical event. A few years later, Glanert’s Prague Symphony met with the same fate, when the Czech Philharmonic was supposed to have become the first orchestra in the world to perform it. While the performance of the symphony has been rescheduled successfully, and the work is finally being given its world premiere in Prague, the artistically and logistically more demanding Requiem, which requires not only a symphony orchestra, but also a quartet of vocal soloists, a narrator, and two choirs, is still awaiting its opportunity.
Detlev Glanert is acclaimed above all as a composer of works for voice and orchestra, and he has 14 operas to his credit. Even in his Prague Symphony, inspired by the Czech capital city and by Franz Kafka, he has not avoided working with a text and the human voice. The composer has written his own libretto using excerpts from Kafka’s lesser-known poetry, which he has entrusted to a pair of singers. Glanert’s teacher was the German opera composer Hanz Werner Henze, but in his music we also observe inspiration from Brahms, Mahler, Strauss, and even Maurice Ravel. Glanert sees the composers of the Second Viennese School as his musical forefathers. At the same time, however, he says that he gives precedence to melodies over tone rows, and he is even unafraid to speak of some kind of musical beauty, however subjectively it may be perceived. Glanert also regards making a connection with the listener as especially important: “A work has to tell you something about what is going on in real people’s lives. It has to tell you something about the world you live in and something about you, personally. This principle applies in opera just like in orchestral music. And if it isn’t there, the work is dead.”
Glanert patterned his latest symphony after Prague itself and after Franz Kafka’s descriptions of the city in his works. “Prague never lets go. Neither of you, nor of me. This little mother has claws”, wrote Kafka to his schoolmate Oskar Pollak. Glanert took inspiration from Kafka’s less familiar poetic texts, letters, and diary entries, and using fragments from them he put together his own libretto. He conceived the symphony as a sequence of twelve songs linked directly together, thereby creating a continuous flow of about 45 minutes of music. For Glanert as an experienced opera composer, the human voice is one of the key media for dramatic communication, and he is also capable of using every nuance of vocal colour to express the whole range of moods and emotions. For his Prague Symphony, he has used lower-pitched voices, mezzo-soprano and bass-baritone. That combination seems to give the best reflection of the sometimes enchanting and sometimes dark mood of Kafkaesque, mystical Prague.