Semyon Bychkov To Return to New York Philharmonic To Conduct Two Programs
Semyon Bychkov will return to the New York Philharmonic to conduct two weeks of programs, including the 50th anniversary of a Philharmonic commission, artist debuts, and symphonic cornerstones. In the first week, Mr. Bychkov will conduct Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1, with soloist Bertrand Chamayou in his Philharmonic debut; Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5; and Brahms's Tragic Overture, Thursday, May 17, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 18 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. The following week, Mr. Bychkov will lead the Orchestra in Berio's Sinfonia, with vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth in its Philharmonic debut, and Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony, Thursday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 25 at 2:00 p.m.; and Saturday, May 26 at 8:00 p.m.
These performances mark the 50th anniversary of the World Premiere of Berio's Sinfonia, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 125th anniversary and dedicated to then Music Director Leonard Bernstein. In its review of the 1968 premiere, The New York Times called Sinfonia "one of the musics of the future." The second movement, titled o king, is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated six months before the premiere. The composer wrote: "The eight voices simply send back and forth to each other the sounds that make up the name of the Black martyr, until they at last state his name clearly and intelligibly."
Semyon Bychkov developed a friendship with Berio beginning in 1987, when he attended a performance of Berio's Concerto for Two Pianos, led by the composer and featuring Mr. Bychkov's future wife, Marielle Labèque. "That night began a very beautiful friendship which lasted until the end of his life, with several shared projects," Mr. Bychkov said. "Sometimes, we would spend entire hours on the phone as I had many questions to ask him concerning Sinfonia [and other works]. ... He was very patient, and he had such a joyful way in discussing music, all kinds of music." Mr. Bychkov released a recording of Berio's Sinfonia with the Orchestre de Paris in 1996.
Roomful of Teeth has previously performed Berio's Sinfonia, scored for eight amplified voices and orchestra, with the Seattle, BBC, and Stony Brook symphony orchestras. "We don't do a lot of repertoire that isn't written explicitly for us, but this is a good fit," said Roomful of Teeth founder and artistic director Brad Wells. "Roomful of Teeth is an outlier as a vocal ensemble because it never performs unamplified. ... The group is very smart about 'playing' the microphones, so they are entirely comfortable singing in a piece like Sinfonia."
Philharmonic Free Fridays
The New York Philharmonic is offering an allotment of free tickets to young people ages 13-26 for the concerts Friday, May 18 and Friday, May 25 as part of Philharmonic Free Fridays. Philharmonic Free Fridays offers a limited number of free tickets to 13-26-year-olds to many of the 2017-18 season's Friday subscription concerts. Information on the 2017-18 season of Free Fridays is available at nyphil.org/freefridays.
Newly appointed music director and chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov was born in St. Petersburg and studied at the Glinka Choir School and at the Leningrad Conservatory as a pupil of Ilya Musin. He won the Rachmaninoff Conducting Competition at age 20, but was denied the prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic and immigrated to the United States. Returning as principal guest conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic in 1989, Mr. Bychkov enjoyed success in the United States and Europe following a series of high-profile cancellations that resulted in invitations to conduct the New York and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He was named music director of the Orchestre de Paris in 1989, chief conductor of Cologne's WDR Symphony Orchestra in 1997, and chief conductor of the Dresden Semperoper in 1998. In the U.S. he can be heard annually with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Cleveland Orchestra. In Europe he is an annual guest of the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra, and tours frequently with Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Vienna and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. He conducts in all the major opera houses including Milan's Teatro alla Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden Semperoper, Vienna Staatsoper, and Teatro Real Madrid, and is an annual guest at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He holds honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the core repertoire, Mr. Bychkov has worked closely with contemporary composers including Berio, Dutilleux, and Kagel. In recent seasons he has worked closely with Julian Anderson, Richard Dubignon, Detlev Glanert, Thomas Larcher, and Renée Staar. Following early concerts with the Czech Philharmonic in 2013, Mr. Bychkov devised The Tchaikovsky Project, a series of concerts, residencies, and studio recordings exploring Tchaikovsky, recording the results for Decca. The project, which included a festival at the New York Philharmonic in 2017, culminates in 2019 with residencies in Prague, Vienna, and Paris and the release of the complete recordings. In 2015 Semyon Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards. Mr. Bychkov made his Philharmonic debut in March 1984 leading works by Beethoven, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff; most recently, he led Beloved Friend - Tchaikovsky and His World: A Philharmonic Festival, in January-February 2017.
Mastering an extensive repertoire, pianist Bertrand Chamayou is a regular performer in venues such as Paris's Théâtre des Champs Elysées, New York's Lincoln Center, Munich Herkulessaal, and London's Wigmore Hall. He has appeared at major festivals including the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lucerne Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn, and Klavier-Festival Ruhr. In the 2017-18 season he makes his debuts with the New York Philharmonic led by Semyon Bychkov, Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra, Berlin Staatskapelle, and the Bamberg, Atlanta, Quebec, and Detroit symphony orchestras. Other highlights include his return to the National Orchestra of Belgium, Spanish National Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and Orchestre national de France. He will appear as soloist on tour in South America with the Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse. Mr. Chamayou regularly performs chamber music with partners including Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Quatuor Ebène, Antoine Tamestit, and Sol Gabetta. The pianist opened the season at London's International Piano Series and performs in recitals at Wigmore Hall, Kissinger Sommer, Lakeside Arts Center Nottingham, Salzburg's Easter Festival, Lincoln Center's Great Performers, and in Monte Carlo, Vilnius, and Essen. Bertrand Chamayou has made a number of successful recordings, including a Naïve CD of music by César Franck that was awarded several accolades including Gramophone's Editor's Choice. In 2011 he celebrated Liszt's 200th birthday with a recording of the complete Années de Pèlerinage (Naïve), which he performed in several venues throughout the world. The album received rave reviews worldwide, including Gramophone Choice. The only artist to win France's prestigious Victoires de la Musique on four occasions, he has an exclusive recording contract with Warner / Erato and was awarded the 2016 ECHO Klassik for his recording of Ravel's complete works for solo piano. These performances mark Bertrand Chamayou's New York Philharmonic debut.
Roomful of Teeth is a Grammy Award-winning vocal project dedicated to reimagining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from vocal traditions the world over, the eight-voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an ongoing commissioning process, forges a new repertoire without borders. Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth gathers annually at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Massachusetts, where they have studied with some of the world's top performers and teachers in Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, Broadway belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P'ansori, Georgian singing, Sardinian cantu a tenore,Hindustani music, Persian classical singing, and death metal singing. Collaborators include Rinde Eckert, Fred Hersch, Glenn Kotche, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), Nick Zammuto (of The Books), Toby Twining, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Ted Hearne, Silk Road Ensemble, and Ambrose Akinmusire. These performances mark Roomful of Teeth's New York Philharmonic debut.
Repertoire, May 17-19 and 22, 2018
In the summer of 1880, Johannes Brahms (1833-97) composed two contrasting concert overtures: the Academic Festival Overture, his acknowledgement of the honorary doctorate conferred on him the previous year, and then its dramatic counterpart, the Tragic Overture. Brahms described the two to his fellow composer and friend Carl Reinecke: "one weeps while the other laughs." He had originally sketched the turbulent material that would eventually form the basis of the Tragic Overture ten years earlier. The work contrasts the darkness of human struggle with a hopeful feeling of victory over tragedy. The Tragic Overture was premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic in December 1880. Theodore Thomas led the New York Philharmonic's first performance, in November 1888; its most recent performance by the Orchestra was on the CALIFORNIA 2016 tour, led by then Music Director Alan Gilbert.
Musical legend has it that Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) completed his Piano Concerto No. 1, inspired by a trip to Italy, three days before its premiere in October 1831. He had begun sketching the work in November 1830 in Rome and composed the majority the month of its premiere. The concerto is dedicated to pianist Delphine van Schauroth, who was smitten with Mendelssohn at the time, and the composer was the soloist for the work's premiere at the Munich Odeon, which the King and Queen of Bavaria attended. He wrote in a letter to his father: "My concert took place yesterday and was much more brilliant and successful than I had expected.... My concerto met with a long and vivid reception. The orchestra accompanied well and the work itself was really quite wild.... The King led the applause; after my playing they tried to call me back and applauded, as it is usual here, but I was modest and did not appear again." The New York Philharmonic's first performance of the concerto was in January 1846, with soloist Henry C. Timm and conducted by New York Philharmonic founder Ureli Corelli Hill. Mitsuko Uchida joined conductor Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestra for its most recent presentation, in October 2000.
Following the Soviet regime's angry and ominous denunciation of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and his ballet The Limpid Stream, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) found himself in a dangerous situation. His next work would have to satisfy the cultural authorities if he was to avoid imprisonment, deportation, or death. That work was to be the Symphony No. 5 (1937), described publicly after its successful premiere as "a Soviet artist's practical, creative reply to just criticism" - a phrase that Shostakovich may well have planted in the press himself as part of the effort to rehabilitate his reputation. In this symphony he deliberately retreated from his earlier modernism, instead gravitating toward a more populist, politically acceptable idiom. The work is composed on a heroic scale with an expansive slow movement, lively scherzo rhythms, and an opening that recalls Beethoven. "The theme of my Symphony is the stabilization of a personality," he said. "In the center of this composition - conceived lyrically from the beginning to end - I saw a man with all his experiences. The finale resolves the tragically tense impulses of the earlier movements into the optimism and joy of living." But many listeners have also sensed in it, beneath the surface, a suppressed expression of the oppressive realities of its creation. The Philharmonic first performed the symphony in February 1942, led by Serge Koussevitzky, and most recently, in January 2015 led by Long Yu.
Repertoire, May 24-26, 2018
The New York Philharmonic commissioned Luciano Berio (1925-2003) to write Sinfonia in 1968. Over the course of five diverse movements for orchestra and eight solo voices, Sinfonia incorporates an unlikely array of allusions and sources, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Samuel Beckett, and anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. In the central movement, Berio takes the Scherzo from Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, on a stream-of-consciousness tour through a wide range of musical quotations from throughout the history of classical music, like "a river going through a constantly changing landscape," in the composer's words. The New York Philharmonic performed the World Premiere of the first version of Sinfonia in October 1968, conducted by the composer and featuring the Swingle Singers, and the New York Premiere of the expanded, five-movement version in October 1970, conducted by the work's dedicatee, then Music Director Leonard Bernstein. The most recent Philharmonic performance was in January 2008, with Synergy Vocals and conducted by Lorin Maazel.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) composed An Alpine Symphony between 1911 and 1915, a period when opera had replaced symphonic tone poems as his primary focus. The work, however, remains almost operatically grand in scope, describing in musical terms the ascent and descent of the Alps in a single day. It was a scene familiar to Strauss, who had a villa in the high-altitude town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he composed with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The piece also draws upon the work of Nietzsche's The Antichrist; Strauss was dealing with the death of his friend Mahler, and he initially began this work intending for the philosopher's ideas to take a more prominent role, but they ultimately served as inspiration rather than programmatic fodder. The composer led the Dresden Hofkapelle in the symphony's October 1915 premiere. The Philharmonic's first performance of the work was in October 1916, conducted by Josef Stransky; Lorin Maazel led its most recent presentation in October 2011.
Photo Credit: Chris Christodoulou