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Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov


The Czech Republic joined the European Union in early May 2004. The Czech Philharmonic is celebrating that act by performing the composition from which the EU has borrowed its anthem. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with its concluding Ode to Joy will be heard under the baton of Semyon Bychkov with soloists and the Prague Philharmonic Choir.

Subscription series B | Duration of the programme 1 hour 10 minutes

Programme

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (70')

Performers

Lyubov Petrova soprano
Lucie Hilscherová alto
Norbert Ernst tenor
Florian Boesch bass

Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Performers

Lyubov Petrova  soprano

Lyubov Petrova

Today a widely acclaimed artist, Lyubov Petrova has a beautiful soprano voice that has taken her nearly everywhere in the world with her “blazing high notes and magnetic stage presence” (Opera News). A graduate of Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory, she came to the attention of the worldwide musical community thanks to victories at two international competitions: the Rimsky-Korsak Competition (1998) and the Elena Obraztsova Competition (1999).

She has appeared on the theatrical stage in Japan, Korea, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom, but we find her most frequently in the USA, where she lives in New York. At the Metropolitan Opera, one of the world’s most famous opera stages, she has sung many roles of the Classical and Romantic repertoire, ranging from Mozart to Wagner. She has plentifully supplemented her operatic career with concert performances around the world. She has already sung Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony several times, including a performance a few years ago with the Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. Perhaps today we shall hear her beautiful piano singing the high register, for which music critics have unfailingly showered her with praise.

Lucie Hilscherová  alto

Lucie Hilscherová

The Czech mezzo-soprano Lucie Hilscherová makes guest appearances at the National Theatre in Prague, the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, the Silesian Theatre in Opava, the State Theatre in Košice, and the Mannheim National Theatre. She has also appeared as Háta in The Bartered Bride in Tokyo (2010, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Suntory Hall, conductor Leoš Svárovský) and London (2011, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Barbican Hall, conductor Jiří Bělohlávek).

She is in demand for concert performances of the lieder and oratorio repertoire, and she also enjoys interpreting the works of contemporary composers. She has collaborated with important orchestras and conductors, appearing at such festivals as Musikfest Stuttgart, Beethovenfest Bonn, Grafenegg Musik-Sommer, Prague Spring, the Easter Festival of Sacred Music in Brno, Smetana’s Litomyšl, the St. Wenceslas Music Festival, and the Peter Dvorský International Music Festival in Jaroměřice.

Norbert Ernst  tenor

Although the Viennese tenor Norbert Ernst is known mainly for the Wagnerian roles he has sung on the important opera stages of London’s Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and the Bayreuth Festival, where he is a regular guest, his range of repertoire is broader. In previous seasons, he has also shined in the operas of Strauss and Mussorgsky at Milan’s La Scala and in Beethoven’s Fidelio in Sankt Gallen. His artistic versatility has been documented by a series of DVDs that record many of his performances at the Vienna State Opera, where he was an ensemble member from 2010 to 2017, including the CD “Lebt kein God” (2016) with arias from operas by Beethoven, Weber, and Wagner.

His discography is enriched by the album “Wohl fühl ich wie das Leben rinnt” with songs of the less traditional repertoire from the late-19th and 20th centuries, which he recorded with the pianist Kristin Okerlund. Concert solo performances and lieder recitals are a routine part of his professional life, with repertoire ranging from Bach’s Passion settings to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

Norbert Ernst is a graduate of the Josef Matthias Hauer Konservatorium in Wiener Neustadt and of Vienna’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst.

Florian Boesch  bass

Florian Boesch

The Austrian baritone Florian Boesch is a versatile singer with respect to breadth of genres and stylistic periods in his repertoire. This is perhaps best seen in his opera performances, where he is equally at home singing Purcell, Weill, Mozart, and Berg. Although he has given many solo performances at concert halls with leading orchestras and conductors, he is familiar to audiences mainly thanks to his close professional relationship with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, with whom he collaborated on projects including Handel’s Messiah and Saul.

His recordings reflect his great interest in the Romantic lieder repertoire, and his interpretations in that field have earned him honours including the BBC Music Magazine Award. He is heard regularly giving lieder recitals at the festivals in Salzburg and Edinburgh, at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and London’s Wigmore Hall, where he has also been an artist-in-residence. 
Boesch was trained as a singer first by his grandmother Ruthilde Boesch and then by Robert Holl at the Musikhochschule in Vienna. He is now himself a teacher at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna.

Prague Philharmonic Choir  

The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), founded in 1935 by the choirmaster Jan Kühn, is the oldest professional mixed choir in the Czech Republic. Their current choirmaster and artistic director is Lukáš Vasilek, and the second choirmaster is Lukáš Kozubík.

The choir has earned the highest acclaim in the oratorio and cantata repertoire, performing with the world’s most famous orchestras. In this country, they collaborate regularly with the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia. They also perform opera as the choir-in-residence of the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.

This season, they will appear at four choral concerts of their own, with programmes focusing mainly on difficult, lesser-known works of the choral repertoire. Again this year they will be devoting themselves to educational projects: for voice students, they are organising the Academy of Choral Singing, and for young children there is a cycle of educational concerts.

The choir has been honoured with the 2018 Classic Prague Award and the 2022 Antonín Dvořák Prize.

Lukáš Vasilek  choirmaster

Lukáš Vasilek

Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007, he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC). Most of his artistic work with the choir consists of rehearsing and performing the a cappella repertoire and preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantatas, oratorios, and operatic projects, during which he collaborates with world-famous conductors and orchestras (such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic).

Besides leading the PPC, he also engages in other artistic activities, especially in collaboration with the vocal ensemble Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. As a conductor or choirmaster, his name appears on a large number of recordings that the PPC have made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon); in recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to the recording of Bohuslava Martinů’s choral music. His recordings have received extraordinary acclaim abroad and have earned honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason.

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).

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