New York, New York (September 7, 2016) — Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic launch “The Tchaikovsky Project,” a recording cycle on Decca Classics that will encompass Tchaikovsky’s complete symphonies and piano concertos, as well as other selected orchestral works.
The first recording in the cycle, to be released on October 14, features the composer’s Sixth Symphony (“Pathétique”) and Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture.
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The recording cycle is part of Mr. Bychkov’s international, multi-season Tchaikovsky project, Beloved Friend, which also includes concert series in New York and London in 2016–17 and residencies in Paris and Vienna planned for future seasons. Through this recording cycle and project, Mr. Bychkov reconnects with the classic Russian repertoire of his formative years, remarking that “I’ve loved Tchaikovsky’s music ever since I can remember. Like all first loves, this one never died.”
The Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, composed between 1869 and 1880, is especially meaningful to Mr. Bychkov, having captivated him at an early stage in his musical development. He relates in the recording’s notes:
One day in Russia, when I was about twelve, I attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet. I was crazy about the piece and had just bought a second-hand score. When we came home, it was quite late, and everyone was sleeping, but I was desperate to look at the score again. We lived in a communal apartment, which meant that my whole family was in just one room, and we had to share a common kitchen and bathroom with other families. So the only place I could turn on the light without waking anyone was the kitchen. And so, for half the night, I sat at the kitchen table, conducting Romeo and Juliet. I really believed I was conducting it. What can I say? My love for the piece hasn’t changed since then.
Mr. Bychkov also offers insight into the “Pathétique” Symphony, which Tchaikovsky composed in 1893, the year of his death. Mr. Bychkov describes the work as “a musical autobiography of Tchaikovsky’s short life,” which expresses “the entire life cycle within one continuous arch, with laconic austerity and inevitability.” Tracing the structure of the symphony, Mr. Bychkov sees the first movement as a condensed version of this cycle, the middle movements as “episodes of expectation and disappointment, the struggle between creation and destruction,” and the final movement as symbolic of defeat, if not for the enigmatic final coda, which ends “in protest, not resignation.”
This recording marks Mr. Bychkov’s first with the Czech Philharmonic, as well as the launch of Decca’s first Tchaikovsky cycle in nearly 40 years (and the first in high-definition 96K/24-bit sound). With a 122-year history encompassing premieres by Dvořák and Mahler, the Czech Philharmonic has long been a point of contact between Slavic and Western European musical traditions, making it “a perfect partner for Tchaikovsky’s music,” according to Mr. Bychkov. For this recording, the artists enjoyed an unusually long 15-day collaboration period that included seven rehearsals, two concerts, and 12 recording sessions in Prague at Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum on August 17–19 & September 24–26, 2015 with executive producer Alexander Van Ingen, recording producer Holger Urbach, and recording engineer Stephan Reh. As Mr. Bychkov says, “If we are to offer new recordings of these great works, we have no right not to invest everything in them.”
The recording is Mr. Bychkov’s seventh featuring the works of Tchaikovsky. He has previously recorded the composer’s music with the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His 1993 recording of Eugene Onegin with the Orchestre de Paris won numerous awards and was named one of Opera Magazine’s 30 “all-time great recordings.”
This recording cycle and the 2016–17 concert series in London and New York commence Mr. Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky project, Beloved Friend, through which he explores the music of Tchaikovsky and composers who influenced or were influenced by him. The project takes its name from the sobriquet Tchaikovsky used in letters to his patron, Baroness Nadezhda von Meck. In January and February 2017, Mr. Bychkov curates and conducts the New York Philharmonic’s three-week festival Beloved Friend: Tchaikovsky and His World, which includes a selection of Tchaikovsky’s concertos and symphonies, among other works by him, Glinka, Taneyev, and Rachmaninov.
One of the world’s most esteemed conductors, Semyon Bychkov has achieved international recognition for an approach to music making that combines innate musicality with the rigors of Russian music pedagogy. He has conducted virtually all of the major orchestras in the U.S. and Europe and previously served as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, and Orchestre de Paris, and Chief Conductor of both the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and the Dresden Semperoper. Mr. Bychkov currently holds the Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he appears annually at the BBC Proms. In 2015, the International Opera Awards named him “Conductor of the Year.”
Founded in 1896, the Czech Philharmonic is an internationally acclaimed orchestra of 124 musicians that was voted among the top 20 orchestras in the world by Gramophone. The orchestra’s recordings have won numerous awards, including ten Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros, five Grand Prix du disque de l’Académie française, and several Cannes Classical Awards, as well as a Grammy Award nomination in 2005.
The Tchaikovsky Project: Volume 1
Semyon Bychkov, Conductor
Decca Classics 483 0656 D H
Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Symphony No.6 in B minor, op.74 “Pathétique”
1. I. Adagio — Allegro non troppo (17:58)
2. II. Allegro con grazia (8:12)
3. III. Allegro molto vivace (9:07)
4. IV. Adagio lamentoso (9:19)
5. Romeo and Juliet — Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare (19:17)
Total timing: 73: 53
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