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Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov

While Czech Philharmonic audiences may associate its Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov with the music of Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Shostakovich, and Dvořák, for these concerts, the Orchestra will go back in time with him to present what many regard as one of the greatest compositions of the baroque era: Bach’s Mass in B minor, featuring echoes of Gregorian plainchant.

Subscription series A


Johann Sebastian Bach
Mass in B minor, BWV 232


Miriam Kutrowatz soprano
Catriona Morison mezzo-soprano + alto
Laurence Kilsby tenor
Christian Immler bass

Collegium Vocale 1704
Václav Luks choirmaster

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Semyon Bychkov

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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For this Czech Philharmonic excursion into pre-classical repertoire, Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov tackles one of the supreme works of the baroque era: Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor.

To this day, there is no proof of why the Protestant composer wrote a mass in 1733 using the Catholic rite and one which would be difficult to employ in liturgical practice. According to popular legend, it was Dresden’s Catholic court which commissioned Bach to write a mass, but new discoveries in correspondence from the time now point towards Vienna and the patronage of the Bohemian Count Johann Adam von Questenberg. It is now believed that von Questenberg, Bach’s contemporary and a great admirer of his, probably commissioned the work for a Solemn Mass held for the Feast of Saint Cecilia by a musical fraternity in Vienna known as the “Musicalische Congregation”.

Today the work is deservedly celebrated as a perfect synthesis of all the baroque master’s compositional techniques and procedures.


Miriam Kutrowatz  soprano

Despite her youth, the soprano Miriam Kutrowatz is beginning to make headway on leading operatic and concert stages. She is a member of the opera studio at the Vienna State Opera, and in the 2023/24 season she made her debut at the Zurich Opera House. She has appeared with such ensembles as the Orchestra of the Elbephilharmonie and the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra, and she was a soloist in Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Orchestra of the Vienna Academy. Her repertoire is not limited to a particular era: she sings Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Mahler, and Strauss.

The artistic qualities of this student in the master’s degree programme at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna under Florian Boesch are also documented by a number of prizes from the P. A. Cesti Competition (baroque opera repertoire) and participation in the semifinals at the Glyndebourne Opera Cup in 2020. A year later she also made her debut at the Salzburg Festival. Besides taking part in masterclasses in her field (under Marijana Mijanović, Malcolm Martineau et al.), she has also taken lessons in contemporary dance. 

Catriona Morison  mezzo-soprano

Catriona Morison

After having graduated from music school in Glasgow (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Berlin, and Weimar, the career of the Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison has been on the ascent step by step. She was a member of the opera studio in Weimar, then she won an engagement at the opera in Wuppertal, but the breakthrough of her career came in 2017 (at age 31), when she was the winner at the famed competition BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. Since then, we have been seeing her routinely on concert stages with famed orchestras such as the Cologne Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the Elbephilharmonie and at the festivals in Edinburgh and Salzburg. She has also appeared at the BBC Proms. She has not forgotten about Wuppertal, however, where she recently sang the role of Nerone (The Coronation of Poppaea). 

Her repertoire knows no limits, encompassing works from four centuries including contemporary music. For example, she gave the world premieres of This Frame is Part of the Painting by Errollyn Wallen and of the Prague Symphony by Detlev Glanert, with which she made her Czech Philharmonic debut two years ago. Last season, she stood in at the last moment for the ailing Christa Mayer in Mahler’s Third Symphony.

Laurence Kilsby  tenor

Christian Immler  bass baritone

Christian Immler

Having grown from a choirboy in the Tölzer Knabenchor into a star bass-baritone who travels to the top concert halls around the world, Christian Immler is known to us mainly as an interpreter of baroque and early classical works, but his repertoire is gradually expanding to include the recital and orchestra tradition of the 19th century and onwards to the works of contemporary composers. He is not neglecting opera productions either.

Besides his vocal studies at London’s Guildhall School of Music (Rudolf Piernay), he also studied musicology. His international career began with victory at the Nadia and Lili Boulanger Competition in Paris, which opened him the door to the world’s top orchestras (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam) and famed concert halls. He mainly visits those halls with his piano partner of many years, Helmut Deutsch (their joint CD won the prestigious Diapason découverte).

In 2022 he thrilled the Prague public as Pilate in the St John Passion, and soon afterwards he made his successful debut with the Czech Philharmonic in the Prague Symphony by Detlev Glanert. 

Collegium Vocale 1704  

The vocal ensemble Collegium Vocale 1704 is among the worldwide elite in its field, and it appears together with the baroque orchestra Collegium 1704 on the world’s most important stages including Vienna’s Konzerthaus, the Philharmonie in Berlin, and Paris’s Maison de la Radio. It also participates regularly at the famed festivals in Salzburg and Warsaw. With its founder and conductor Václav Luks, the two ensembles present a concert season at the Rudolfinum in Prague, and Collegium Vocale 1704 also presents chamber music concerts separately at the culture palace Vzlet, where they have had their facilities since 2021.

Both ensembles collaborate regularly with the Bachfest Leipzig and the Opéra Royal in Versailles, which was a coproducer (along with the National Theatre in Brno and the Théâtre de Caen) of Handel’s opera Alcina performed in early 2022. Among their most important recent CDs have been the first Czech recording of Handel’s Messiah, Rameau’s Boreádes, which received the Trophées 2020 award and the 2021 Edison Award as the best opera recording of the year, and Zelenka’s Missa 1724 (2020).

Václav Luks  conductor

Václav Luks studied at the Pilsen Conservatoire and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and he further engaged in the specialised study of early music at the Schole Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland. After returning from abroad in 2005, he transformed the chamber ensemble Collegium 1704, which he had founded during his studies, into a baroque orchestra, and he established the vocal ensemble Collegium Vocale 1704. In addition to his intensive work with Collegium 1704, Václav Luks also collaborates with other renowned ensembles such as the Netherlands Bach Society, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and the Handel & Haydn Society in Boston. He has worked with internationally renowned singers such as Karina Gauvin, Vivica Genaux, Philippe Jaroussky, Bejun Mehta, Sarah Mingardo, and Andreas Schöll. Under his direction, Collegium 1704 recorded the music for Peter Václavʼs epic film Il Boemo about the life of Josef Mysliveček. Václav Luks also served as the film director’s chief musical advisor. In June 2022, he received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French ambassador in Prague.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor

Semyon Bychkov

In the 2023/2024 season, Semyon Bychkov’s programmes centred on Dvořák’s last three symphonies, the concertos for piano, violin and cello, and three overtures: In Nature’s Realm, Carnival Overture, and Othello. In addition to conducting at Prague’s Rudolfinum, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic took the all Dvořák programmes to Korea and across Japan with three concerts at Tokyo’s famed Suntory Hall. Later, in spring, an extensive European tour took the programmes to Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and France and, at the end of year, the Year of Czech Music 2024 will culminate with three concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York. As well as featuring Dvořák’s concertos for piano, violin and cello, the programmes will include three poems from Smetana’s Má vlast, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass for which the orchestra will be joined by the Prague Philharmonic Choir. 

Bychkov’s inaugural season with the Czech Philharmonic was celebrated with an international tour that took the orchestra from performances at home in Prague to concerts in London, New York, and Washington. The following year saw the completion of The Tchaikovsky Project – the release of a 7-CD box set devoted to Tchaikovsky’s symphonic repertoire – and a series of international residencies. In his first season with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov also instigated the commissioning of 14 new works which have subsequently been premiered by the Czech Philharmonic and performed by orchestras across Europe and in the United States.

As well as the focus on Dvořák’s music, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic are exploring the symphonies of Mahler as part of PENTATONE’s ongoing complete Mahler cycle. The first symphonies in the cycle – Symphony No. 4 and Symphony No. 5 were released in 2022, followed in 2023 by Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”. Last season’s highlights included performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony in Prague and Baden-Baden, and during the 2024/2025 season, Bychkov will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 with the orchestra in Prague, New York, and Toronto, and Symphony No. 8 in Prague.

While especially recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has built strong and lasting relationships with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux, and Maurizio Kagel. More recent collaborations include those with Julian Anderson, Bryce Dessner, Detlev Glanert, Thierry Escaich, and Thomas Larcher whose works he has premiered with the Czech Philharmonic, as well as with the Concertgebouworkest, the Vienna, Berlin, New York and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras, Cleveland Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In common with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the culture of the East and one in the West. Born in St Petersburg in 1952, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has lived in Europe since the mid-1980s. Singled out at the age of five for an extraordinarily privileged musical education, 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 won the influential Rachmaninoff Conducting Competition. Bychkov left the former Soviet Union when he was denied the prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic.

By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg 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 in 1998, 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 bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov each won the prestigious Premio Abbiati. In Vienna, he has conducted new productions of Strauss’ Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, as well as revivals of Strauss’ Elektra and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; while in London, he made his operatic debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Recent productions include Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival, Strauss’ Elektra and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in Madrid. He returned to Bayreuth to conduct a new production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in summer 2024.

Bychkov’s combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that his performances are highly anticipated. In the UK, the warmth of his relationships is reflected in honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms. In Europe, he tours with the Concertgebouworkest and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being a guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orchestre National de France, and Orchestra dell’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 has recorded extensively 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 (Symphonies 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 1992 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the Orchestre de Paris 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.”

In 2015, Semyon Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music in July 2022 and the award for Conductor of the Year from Musical America in October 2022.

Bychkov was one of the first musicians 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 the 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.

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