Bychkov leads Trifonov and Ott in opening of Czech Philharmonic’s new season

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic © Petra Hajska

This week the Czech Philharmonic celebrates the opening performances of its 125th season. Led by Chief Conductor and Music Director, Semyon Bychkov, the concerts – dedicated to the memory of Czech conductor, violinist and violist Václav Neumann – feature guest artists Daniil Trifonov and trumpeter Selina Ott in the Shostakovich Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, and Dvořák’s Symphony No 8 – the composer himself having conducted the Czech Philharmonic during its early years.

Václav Neumann – whose centennial falls on 29th September – is described by Semyon Bychkov as “one of the great musical directors of the Czech Philharmonic”, who was held in high regard, and with much affection, by members of the orchestra. A great champion of Czech music – and regarded as a specialist of the music of Dvořák – Neumann held this role for a total of 25 years, in three separate tenures, between 1948 and 1993.

Daniil Trifonov – piano virtuoso and composer – is, according to The Times of London, “without question the most astounding pianist of our age”. The LA Times describes him as “an astonishing pianist”, and the New York Times says: “Few artists have burst onto the classical music scene in recent years with the incandescence of the pianist Daniil Trifonof”. Since winning the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, Russian-born Mr Trifonov has added to his list of honours the 2016 Gramophone Award for Artist of the Year, a Grammy for the Best Instrumental Solo Album of 2018, and in 2019 was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year. Much in demand by many of the world’s major orchestras, he has recently completed a season-long tenure as 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic, during which he performed in the New York premiere of his own Piano Quintet.

Joining Daniil Trifonov for this performance is young Austrian trumpeter Selina Ott, herself an award-winning artist. An eight-time winner of the Austrian prima la musica prize at regional and national level, Ms Ott took first prize at the 2017 Lions Music Prize, and in 2018, at the age of 20, won the ARD Interntional Music Competition in Munich – the first woman to do so in the seventy-year history of the competition. As well as appearing with the Czech Philharmonic, she has been invited to perform with leading orchestras such as the WDR Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, and at international festivals such as the Bachfest Leipzig, Rheingau Musik Festival, Festival Emergents Barcelona and Musikfest Bremen. 

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his first piano concerto – scored for the unusual combination of string orchestra and trumpet – for himself to play. Melodic, jazzy, light-hearted, somewhat irreverent, and at times introspective, this infectiously pleasing work offers a fascinating insight into the character of the composer. The concerto was premiered on the 15th of October, 1933, at the Leningrad Philharmonic Bolshoi Hall, with the composer as piano soloist, Alexander Schmidt on trumpet, and Fritz Stiedry conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra.

Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony was written during the summer and early autumn of 1889, mainly at his summer residence in Vysoka, an environment in which he was most at ease. The symphony is reflective of the composer’s appreciation of nature as well as his love for Czech and Slavonic folk music. Performed for the first time in Prague’s Rudolfinum on 2 February 1890, by the National Theatre Orchestra, the symphony was conducted by the composer. Dvořák also led the performance of the symphony’s British premiere in London, on 24th April of the same year, at a concert hosted by the Philharmonic Society in St. James’s Hall. At both premieres the symphony was a resounding success, in the eyes of both the public and the critics.

Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov
© Petr Hadlec

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in performances of the Shostakovich Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, and the Symphony No 8 by Dvořák, in the Dvořák Hall at the Rudolfinum in Prague on 23rd and 24th September. Tickets may be booked online. For further information visit the Czech Philharmonic website.

The concert on the 24th of September will be broadcasted by Mezzo Live HD and ČT art.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Dmitri Shostakovich – Piano Concerto No 1

Antonin Dvořák – Symphony No 8

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English National Opera presents drive-in performance of ‘La bohème’

Full marks to English National Opera for ingenuity! The company is about to stage Drive & Live – a World Premiere performance of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème as an open-air drive-in experience at London’s Alexandra Palace – proof yet again of what can be achieved when creativity meets a challenge.

This 90-minute version of one of the world’s best-loved operas, set – on this occasion – in the modern day bohemia of London, is staged by British Director P J Harris, who has won high critical acclaim for productions such as Vespers of 1610 for Garsington Opera, Salome for Opera North, and Riders to the Sea/Cupboard Love and The Cunning Little Vixen for Byre Opera.

The role of Mimi is sung by Award-winning Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw – “The outstanding soprano of her generation” according to the Telegraph – alternating in the role with soprano Nardus Williams. A graduate of Houston Grand Opera Studio, Ms Romaniw has previously appeared as Mimi for ENO, and also sung Cio-Cio San in Madam Butterfly and Mary Kelly in Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel for the company. An accomplished concert performer, she also made her BBC Proms debut in 2019 singing Rachmaninov’s The Bells with BBCNOW.

British soprano Nardus Williams has been praised by Opera Today for her “superbly controlled, sensuous soprano which has sheen and shimmer as well as real focus of tone”. She is currently an ENO Harewood Artist, and most recently appeared for the company as Micaëla in Carmen.

The role of Rodolfo is shared by tenors David Butt Philip and David Junghoon Kim. David Butt Philip has previously appeared in this role for ENO, described by the Guardian as “an impressively complete performance”, noting his “warm, easy-sounding tenor voice”. Other ENO performances include Don José in Carmen, the Prince in Rusalka, Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly, and he has also appeared for the company in Britten’s War Requiem.

Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim has sung the role of Rodolfo in productions of La bohème in both Zurich and Stuttgart. He has previously appeared for ENO as Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, a performance described by the Arts Desk as “nuanced, subtle in piano, searingly intense at full pelt, making an absolute dream of the opera’s best-known aria, Quando le sere al placido”.

Also in the cast are baritone Roderick Williams, alternating with Matthew Durkan as Marcello, sopranos Soraya Mafi and Sydney Mancasola alternating as Musetta, bass William Thomas shares the role of Colline with Jonathan Lemalu, baritones Benson Wilson and Ross Ramgobin appear alternately as Schaunard, basses Trevor Eliot Bowes and Paul Sheehan alternate in the role of Benoit, and bass-baritone John Savournin and bass Barnaby Rea share the role of Alcindoro.

The award-winning ENO Orchestra and Chorus are led by Martyn Brabbins, Music Director of ENO, alternating with Martin Fitzpatrick, the company’s Head of Music.

With the cast and crew following the government’s latest guidelines on social distancing, the performers will be on a raised and covered stage, with large screens to the side, ensuring that the performance can be seen by all audience members. High quality stereo sound will be delivered both outside and inside your car.

When booking, you’ll choose your ticket based on the size of your vehicle so that capacity can be managed – categories and ticket prices are available on the ENO website.

If you don’t have a car, ENO is partnering with Uber, so that you can book an Uber Box static car, and also pre-book an Uber ride to and from Alexandra Palace.  Alternately, ENO has also partnered with Lime to offer free cycle hire.

For information on all options, visit the ENO website.

English National Opera presents Puccini’s La bohème from 19th to 27th September in Drive & Live – a unique drive-in production at Alexandra Palace, North London. For more information visit the ENO website.

San Francisco Symphony spotlights Bay Area cultures

In an innovative piece of programming, the San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of conductor Michael Morgan, presents CURRENTS – turning the spotlight on the music of four different cultures which contribute to the make-up of the multicultural Bay Area society – Chinese, jazz, hip hop and Mexican – and the relationship between these genres and classical music.

This four-part series of online videos and supporting podcasts has been curated by Michael Morgan – Music Director of the Oakland Symphony and Artistic Director of the Oakland Youth Orchestra – in collaboration with musicians of the San Francisco Symphony. The programs include observations and comments by participating musicians – guest artists as well as Symphony members.

Further information and exploration of the genres is provided by conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador at Symphony Nova Scotia, who has recently been appointed to the Board of Orchestras Canada and is chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility committee.

CURRENTS Episode I: Enter the Pipa – which has been available online since July 28th – explores the effect of Chinese musical culture on the Bay Area, not only in relation to those of Chinese or Asian descent, but to Americans as well. The program features award-winning pipa virtuoso Shenshen Zhang, together with San Francisco Symphony musicians Assistant Principal Cello Amos Yang, Associate Principal Viola Yun Jie Liu, and Assistant Principal Second Violin Jessie Fellows.

The featured pieces are from Bright Sheng’s Seven Tunes Heard in ChinaSeasons (Qinghai) and The Little Cabbage (Hebei) – in a new arrangement created for the Symphony, by the composer, for pipa, violin, viola and cello.

CURRENTS Episode II: Bay Area Blue Notes – available online since August 6th – focusses on jazz, with guest artists Tammy L Hall and Jason Hainsworth. It recalls the days when San Francisco’s Fillmore District was known as the “Harlem of the West” – during the 1940s and 50s. This era marked an important chapter not only in jazz history, but also in the Black American experience, with many clubs in the district hosting jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker.

San Francisco Symphony musicians appearing in this broadcast are Principal Bass Scott Pingel, Principal Timpani Edward Stephan and Mark Inouye, Principal Trumpet.

In this program, you’ll hear Mongo Santamaría’s Afro Blue, and Bronisław Kaper’s On Green Dolphin Street.

CURRENTS Episode III: From Scratch – just released – highlights the dynamic hip hop culture of Oakland. The title is derived from the creation – from scratch – of the musicians’ own movement, and their own sound. The program features guest artists Kev Choice (vocals, emcee with synth/laptop) and AÏMA the DRMR (vocals, emcee with synth/laptop).

From Scratch also features San Francisco Symphony musicians Paul Brancato (violin), Jonathan Vinocour (viola), cellist Barbara Bogatin, clarinettist Carey Bell, Jerry Simas on bass clarinet and trumpeter Aaron Schuman.

The pieces heard in From Scratch are Movements by Kev Choice, and Heady by AÏMA the DRMR – both arranged by Jack Perla.

The fourth and final episode of CURRENTS, ¡Viva México!, is a celebration of the multi-generational musical culture of the country. It’s scheduled for release on September 22nd, and features Los Cenzontles (guitar, vocals, percussion), with San Francisco Symphony musicians David Chernyavsky (violin), David Gaudry (viola) and Jill Brindel (cello).

Experience CURRENTS on, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Spotify.

Photographs courtesy San Francisco Symphony

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