The Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov celebrate the Year of Czech Music in 2024

Learn more about the performance lineup here!

By: Jun. 05, 2024
The Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov celebrate the Year of Czech Music in 2024
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The Czech Philharmonic, under Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov, commemorates the centennial of the Year of Czech Music in 2024 with a variety of programs around the world, with performances at major world concert halls featuring renowned guest soloists. The Year of Czech Music was created to honor the significance of Czech composers and their output and is held once a decade on years ending in 4. The first Year of Czech Music, in 1924, honored the centennial of Bedrich Smetana.

Of the yearlong celebration, Semyon Bychkov said: “However complex today’s world is, there is always a place for music that speaks directly to the human heart. This is precisely what the best Czech compositions offer: the capacity to transcend boundaries and ennoble with beauty, revealing human creativity to be an essential gift.”

Czech Philharmonic’s 2024-25 season 

The Czech Philharmonic opens its 129th season at home in Prague, September 25 & 26, 2024, with Bychkov conducting the Dvořák Piano Concerto with soloist and 2024–25 Artist-in-Residence Daniil Trifonov in his first-ever performance of the work. The season-opening concert program also includes Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The September 25 concert will be broadcast live by Medici. 

New York residency at Carnegie Hall

As part of Carnegie Hall’s season focus on the Year of Czech Music, Bychkov conducts the Czech Philharmonic in three programs, December 3–5, 2024. Each features a concerto by Dvořák — the Piano Concerto, with Trifonov reprising his performance of the work; the Violin Concerto, performed by Gil Shaham who performed the concerto with the Czech Phil led by Bychkov in Tokyo last fall; and the Cello Concerto, performed by Yo-Yo Ma — as well as works by Janáček, Smetana, and Mahler. These concerts mark the Czech Philharmonic’s first appearances at Carnegie Hall since 2018, when they presented two programs there as part of Bychkov’s first season as Chief Conductor and Music Director. 

Carnegie Hall’s spotlight on the Year of Czech Music continues on December 6, 2024, when members of the Czech Philharmonic join the Prague Philharmonic Choir, conductor Lukáš Vasilek, and tenor Pavel Černoch for an all-Czech program of choral works at Zankel Hall; and on December 7, the Pavel Haas Quartet performs works by Suk, Smetana, and Janáček at Weill Hall.

Prior to the concerts at Carnegie Hall, Bohemian National Hall in New York City hosts a chamber concert on December 2, 2024, featuring four members of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestral Academy, four students from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and four members of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA, joined by members of the Czech Philharmonic. Each quartet performs a movement of a string quartet composed in their home country before joining together for Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings. Jiří Vodička, concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic, leads the program.

Smetana’s Má vlast and Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 7, 8, and 9 on Pentatone

The orchestra’s celebration of the Year of Czech Music is already well underway with two new Pentatone recordings of Czech music: Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) released on the occasion of the composer’s bicentenary in March 2024, and Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 7, 8 and 9 to be released in September 2024. These recordings provide an ideal showcase for the close relationship that the Czech Philharmonic and Bychkov have honed since he became Chief Conductor and Music Director in 2018.

The recording of Má vlast has been well received by critics, with Gramophone writing, “There are precious few orchestras in the world with a sound and an identity as distinctly their own as the Czech Philharmonic. We can all identify with both that title [My Homeland] and its sentiments, not least Semyon Bychkov, whose great skill and sleight of hand here is to let his players tell their story… It’s Bychkov’s ability to relate phrasing to sound that is at the heart of his success here.” 

BBC Music Magazine gave the recording 5 stars and wrote, “Bychkov’s attention to detail never stifles the music’s spontaneity… an enriching Má vlast up there with the other indisputably great performances,” while The Times said, “Bychkov’s musicians deliver idiomatic rhythms, incisive string playing, and equally pungent brass wind and brass, all caught in the warm acoustic of the Rudolfinum - the orchestra’s home base for 60 years. Everything too appears freshly considered and deeply felt.” 

The Czech Philharmonic performs selections from Má vlast at its Carnegie Hall concert on December 3, 2024; the work also dominates the orchestra’s programming in May 2025, with performances in Prague, Hannover, Baden-Baden, and Nuremberg.

In September 2023, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic launched the season with a Dvořák festival performing the composer’s three concertos paired with the 7th, 8th, and 9th Symphonies in critically acclaimed concerts at the Rudolfinum in Prague and on tour in Asia. Pentatone will release the three symphonies together on one recording in September 2024.

BachTrack praised the concerts last fall, particularly highlighting the performances of Dvořák’s 7th, 8th, and 9th Symphonies, saying: “One could hardly ask for a better introduction to Dvořák. This is some of his most essential and well-regarded orchestral and concertante music. The passion and formal weight of the Seventh Symphony is contrasted by the ease and grace of the Eighth, and the populism, drama and tunefulness of the Ninth. For the orchestra this is deeply familiar music, their home idiom, and better performances of this music are unlikely to be found anywhere else.”

The Czech publication Aktualne said: “The Czech Philharmonic now played one of Dvořák’s finest symphonies [Symphony No. 8] with true passion, with a wide dynamic range and such drama that one wonders if the composer himself was aware of it. Semyon Bychkov deserves admiration for what he has uncovered in the score. With the precision and warmth that has always been this ensemble’s forte, he made an excellent continuation of how one of the Philharmonic’s former Chief Conductors, Václav Talich, interpreted Dvořák’s music.”

The Czech Philharmonic shares a meaningful history with Dvořák, who conducted his own 9th Symphony as part of the orchestra’s inaugural performance on January 4, 1896, and went on to conduct another four programs until 1900. 

The orchestra has a legacy of recording Dvořák’s symphonies. In 1938, Václav Talich conducted the first-ever recording of Dvořák’s 6th and 7th Symphonies with the Czech Philharmonic. Talich Recorded the 8th and 9th Symphonies with the orchestra as well. In its history, the Czech Philharmonic has recorded numerous Dvořák’s symphonies, including with conductors such as Václav Neumann, Jiří Bělohlávek, Zdeněk Mácal, George Szell, Karel Šejna, Zdeněk Košler, Zdeněk Chalabala, František Vajnar, Vladimir Ashkenazy, among others. 

Spring 2024 European Tour

Touring has long been an integral part of the Orchestra’s work, and earlier this spring, the Czech Philharmonic recently toured Europe in Spring 2024, with stops at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, and the Philharmonie de Paris, the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, and the Isarphilharmonie in Munich, among others, from March 4 to March 23, 2024. 

Bachtrack wrote of the March 22 concert in Paris that “[The] conviction of the conductor, clearly shared by the musicians, is contagious…the members of the Czech phalanx show an admirable ensemble of cohesion and panache, complicity and fervor.” Of the March 17 concert in Munich, Süddeutsche Zeitung commented, “The gently shimmering strings, the soft woodwinds, the round horns are unmistakably Bohemian in character.” Scherzo’s review of the orchestra’s first concert in Madrid on March 5 commented that “[Bychkov’s] is always a discourse of enormous consistency and enviable magnetism, built on a meticulous attention to the smallest details, a masterful elaboration of transitions, and a truly exquisite care for sound quality, including an orchestral balance of rare perfection.”


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