An unusual season opening for Salonen and San Francisco Symphony

Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, June 17, 2021 © Kristen Loken

In Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first opening night concert as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, he has opted for an unusual selection of works in a program which features the music of John Adams, Alberto Ginastera, Wayne Shorter and Silvestre Revueltas. The guest artists are dancers of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet and jazz stars Esperanza Spalding, Leo Genovese and Terri Lyne Carrington.

The first work of the Re-Opening Night Concert at Davies Symphony Hall is John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox which the Bay Area composer wrote in 1995 on commission from the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England, and the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon, and which he dedicated to conductor Kent Nagano, a longtime friend and supporter of Adams’ music. The piece was inspired by Russian author Nicholas Slonimsky’s The Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns – a compendium which Adams says “has had a singular impact on my music since the Chamber Symphony of 1992”. “Earbox,” he goes on to say, “might be a word worthy of Slonimsky himself, a coiner who never tired of minting his own”.

Adji Cissoko of Alonzo King LINES Ballet © RJ Muna

The music which Alberto Ginastera wrote during the earlier years of his career tended to reflect the more ‘folkloric’ characteristics of South American music, and his ballet Estancia – written in 1941 on commission from Lincoln Kirstein’s America Ballet Caravan – was inspired by the 1870s poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández. The ballet was never performed, but a suite of four dances from the score – telling of various episodes in a day in the life of a gaucho – became a standalone concert piece, first performed at the Teatro Coloacuten in Buenos Aires in 1943. In this week’s concert, dancers of the LINES Ballet perform Ginastera’s Estancia to original choreography by Alonzo King.

Wayne Shorter debuted his new orchestral-vocal piece Gaia with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in February of this year. Named after the Greek goddess of the Earth, Gaia was written, on commission from Herb Alpert’s organisation, specifically for the LA Phil. The libretto – written by fellow Grammy Award-winner and jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding – urges us not to take our surroundings or our planet for granted. “It’s not enough to be comfortable” Shorter says. “We have to reach beyond. That’s what this piece is saying.” Esperanza Spalding, on vocals and bass, appears with pianist Leo Genovese, percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington and the San Francisco Symphony.

Esperanza Spalding © Holly Andres

Silvestre Revueltas’ Noche de encantamiento is the final movement of a concert suite, arranged by fellow Mexican José Ives Limantour, from Revueltas’ film score to Chano Urueta’s 1939 film La noche de los Mayas (The Night of the Mayas). This movement is a compelling, dramatic, percussive piece of music, which assumes ritualistic, trance-like qualities – not too dissimilar from The Rite of Spring, scored by Stravinsky, to whom Revueltas has been likened.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Re-Opening Night concert on Friday, October 1st at 7.00 pm. From 6.00 pm, the audience will be treated to a complimentary glass of sparkling wine prior to the performance, and invited to attend the outdoor After-Party, featuring live music entertainment.

Esa-Pekka Salonen with the San Francsico Symphony – © Brandon Pato

Re-Opening Night will be recorded live for transmission on PBS. The program, Great Performances: San Francisco Symphony Reopening Night, will be broadcast on Friday, November 19 at 9.00 pm on PBS (check local listings), on this link and also available on the PBS Video app.

For tickets and further information on this performance, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

This concert will be repeated at Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, October 2nd – for further information and tickets, visit this page of the San Francisco Symphony website.

The traditional All San Francisco Concert – an essential part of the San Francisco Symphony’s opening week celebrations – takes place at Davies Symphony Hall this evening, September 30th. This concert is dedicated to, and presented for, the people involved with the Bay Area’s nonprofits, social services groups and community organizations, in recognition of, and gratitude for, the work these groups do to serve and enrich the lives of Bay Area citizens.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony programme notes

Slonimsky’s Earbox

Estancia Suite


Noche de encantamiento

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Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic open new season with Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony

Semyon Bychkov & the Czech Philharmonic © Petra Hajska

The Czech Philharmonic, under Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov, opens its 126th season this week with a performance of the Shostakovich Symphony No 7 in C Major, Op 60 – Leningrad.

Marking his fourth year in charge of the Orchestra, Maestro Bychkov has chosen to launch the new season with the symphony which Shostakovich wrote during the siege of Leningrad by German forces during World War II, and which he dedicated to the people of that city, who had suffered so much. The symphony has a special significance for Semyon Bychkov – Leningrad is the city of his birth, and his mother was a survivor of the 900-day siege which claimed an estimated three-quarters of a million civilian lives.

Applause for Maestro Bychkov & the Czech Philharmonic © Petr Kadlec

It is thought that Dmitri Shostakovich started writing his Seventh Symphony before the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and remained in Leningrad at the start of the siege in September of that year. In October he was sent to Kuybyshev in the Volga, for his own safety, and finished the symphony there, where it had its first informal performance at a gathering of the composer’s colleagues, on March 5th, 1942. In a somewhat dramatic sequence of events, Shostakovich had the score microfilmed, and it was smuggled to Iran, driven to Egypt and flown via South America to the United States where it was given its American premiere by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony.

In the summer of 1942, the inhabitants of the city of Leningrad were starving, having lived under siege and bombardment by German forces for nearly a year. Conductor Karl Eliasberg was given instructions to start rehearsing the symphony with the Leningrad Radio Orchestra, but many of the orchestra’s players had succumbed to starvation. A call for help was put out over the city, and any soldier who was able to play an instrument sufficiently well to last the length of the performance, was released from military duty to participate in rehearsals and the performance.

The Czech Philharmonic led by Semyon Bychkov © Petra Hajska

With empty chairs in the orchestra to denote musicians who had died, the Leningrad premiere of the symphony was performed on August 9th, 1942, by “…. players who were victims of bombings and hunger and starvation and they were barely able to hold their instruments to play,” says Bychkov. The concert was broadcast on speakers throughout the city, and to the German troops as well. A German General was later quoted as saying: “When it finished I realised that never ever shall we be able to enter Leningrad. It is not a city that can be conquered.” The siege continued until January 1944 when the Soviet army penetrated the encirclement of Leningrad.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in two performances of the Shostakovich Symphony No 7 on September 29th and 30th in Prague’s Rudolfinum, at 6.30 pm BST and 7.30 pm CET. The first performance will be broadcast on Czech TV (and will be available for 7 days afterwards on Czech TV’s iVysilani web player). International subscribers to takt1 can watch the live stream of the second performance on September 30th.

Other highlights of the 126th Czech Philharmonic season include appearances by conductors Alain Altinoglu, Manfred Honeck, Michael Tilson Thomas and Franz Welser-Möst. Pianist Yuja Wang will be Artist-in-Residence, and the season will also feature world premieres of new commissions by Bryce Dessner, Julian Anderson and Slavomír Hořínka. The season brochure can be downloaded via this link.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Mark Wigglesworth

BBC News

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Yamada & Monte-Carlo Philharmonic open new season with Beethoven

Kazuki Yamada with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra © J C Vinaj

Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a rousing opening to the 2021-22 season with music by Beethoven – his Overture to Leonore No 2, Opus 72a, and his Symphony No 9 (Choral) Opus 125.

The soloists in the final movement of the symphony – the Ode to Joy – are soprano Genia Kühmeier, mezzo-soprano Sophie Rennert, tenor Werner Güra and baritone Johannes Weisser. They are accompanied by the London Symphony Chorus – Director Simon Halsey.

The programme opens with Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore No 2, one of at least four overtures which he wrote for an opera originally entitled Leonore. The opera premiered in Vienna in November 1805, but the following year became known as Fidelio, a name given it by the administration at Theatre an der Wien.

Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 – part symphony and part oratorio – is widely regarded as his greatest composition. In 1812, he was apparently determined to include in a grand symphony his setting of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy which the German poet, playwright, and historian wrote in the summer of 1785. It took Beethoven 10 years to complete the work, and it wasn’t premiered until May 7, 1824, in Vienna, by which time Beethoven was completely deaf. He apparently appeared onstage as the general director or the performance, but the kapellmeister Michael Umlauf, baton in hand, led the orchestra, taking tempo cues from the composer – who never heard his Ode to Joy other than in his head.

Alongside his role at the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, Kazuki Yamada has also been appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, as of April 2023. Among other roles, he is Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Music Director and Chairman of The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo and Music Director of Yokohama Sinfonietta. Maestro Yamada has led major orchestras such as the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, MDR-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre de Paris, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and the Czech Philharmonic. He is also known for his operatic work, such as Berlioz’sThe Damnation of Faust and Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila in Monte-Carlo, and a semi-staged production of Arthur Honneger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake with both the Orchestre de Paris and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic.

Soprano Genia Kühmeier is a frequent guest on the stages of some of the world’s finest opera houses – the Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, the Theater an der Wien, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Ms Kühmeier recently appeared in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, in his Mass in C Minor with the symphony orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, and his Missa Solemnis at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Other recent appearances include those in Mozart’s Requiem at La Scala, Bach’s St John Passion at the Konzerthaus Vienna, and Brahms’ A German Requiem at the Salzburg Pentecost Festival.

Austrian mezzo-soprano Sophie Rennert – described by The Arts Desk as “A mezzo of many colours, subtlety, dramatic intelligence and a crucially brilliant top” – has appeared in engagements which include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Gothenburg, Mozart’s Requiem with the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid, and the Missa Solemnis in Birmingham. Her operatic performances include the role of Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Salzburg Landestheater, Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, and the Flower Maiden in Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival.

In addition to appearances at Semperoper Dresden and Staatsoper Berlin, tenor Werner Güra received high praise for his roles as Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Ferrando in Così fan tutte and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, Opéra de Lille, La Monnaie in Brussels, and the Opéra National de Paris. In the vocal-symphonic and oratorio repertoire, he has appeared in opera houses such as the Konzerthaus and Musikverein Wien, Royal Festival Hall, Covent Garden, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Berlin and Philharmonie Paris.

Concert and oratorio singer, baritone Johannes Weisser has a repertoire which ranges from the early 17th century music of Monteverdi to more contemporary works such of those by Kurt Weill and Benjamin Britten. Mr Weisser’s recent operatic engagements include the title role in Eugene Onegin, Germont in La Traviata, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Don Pizarro in Fidelio and Schaunard in La bohème.

One of the world’s foremost concert choirs and one of classical music’s leading recording ensembles, the London Symphony Chorus is internationally renowned, with several of its 140 critically acclaimed recordings having received honours such as Grammy Awards, the Edison Preis and the Grande Prix du Disque, as well as recognition by the BBC Music and Gramaphone magazines.

Chorus Director Simon Halsey also holds positions across the UK and Europe, including Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Artistic Director of Orfeó Català Choirs, Artistic Adviser of Palau de la Música Barcelona, Artistic Director of Berliner Philharmoniker Youth Choral Programme, Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir, Artistic Advisor of Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir and Conductor Laureate of Rundfunkchor Berlin.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists and the London Symphony Chorus in the Opening Concert of the Grande Saison 21/22 on Sunday 26th September at 18h00. To reserve tickets, follow the link on the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra website.

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes

Beethoven Symphony No 9 – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Leonore Overture No 2

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English National Ballet premieres Akram Khan’s ‘Creature’

English National Ballet presents the long-anticipated world premiere of its new ballet, Akram Khan’s Creature.

The ballet, described as “an unearthly tale of exploitation and human frontiers” takes its inspiration from the stage play Woyzeck by 19th century German dramatist Georg Büchner, which provided the libretto for Alban Berg’s 1925 opera Wozzeck.

The action takes place in a dilapidated former research station in the Artic, and tells of the ordeal of the Creature who is the subject of a scientific experiment being carried out by the Doctor, to establish how well he deals mentally and physically with extreme cold, isolation and homesickness. This experiment is seen as necessary to prepare for mankind’s proposed colonisation of the ‘final frontiers’ on earth and beyond. This bleak existence is tempered only by the presence of the Creature’s keeper, Marie, and his friend, Andres.

Artistic Director, choreographer and dancer Akram Khan is regarded as one of the most respected dance artists of today, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including an MBE for services to dance in 2005, the Laurence Olivier Award, the Bessie Award (New York Dance and Performance Award), the prestigious ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) Distinguished Artist Award, the Fred and Adele Astaire Award, the Herald Archangel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival, the South Bank Sky Arts Award and eight Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. He is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells and of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London, and Curve, Leicester.

Creature is Khan’s third collaboration with English National Ballet, and follows the success of Dust (performed as part of Lest We Forget in 2014), and Giselle, his first ever full-length ballet. His works – which have been performed both in the UK and abroad – include XENOS, Until the Lions, Kaash, iTMOi (in the mind of igor), DESH, Vertical Road, Gnosis and zero degrees. “The outcast, the stranger, have been a common theme in my work”, he says. “In Creature, I am looking further into the areas related to the sense of abandonment, rage and loss.”

Included in Khan’s creative team for Creature is Tim Yip, best known for his Academy Award for Best Art Direction for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Composer and sound designer for the ballet is London-based Italian musician and producer Vincenzo Lamagna who also collaborated with Khan on Giselle for ENB. Lighting design is by Michael Hulls who has worked exclusively in dance over the last 20 years and is known as a “choreographer of light”, and dramaturgy is by Ruth Little who has worked with the Akram Khan company since 2010.

English National Ballet presents Akram Khan’s Creature at Sadler’s Wells from 23rd September to 3rd October. The English National Ballet Philharmonic will be conducted by Gavin Sutherland and Gerry Cornelius. Further information and booking details can be found on the ENB website. [

The postponed international premiere of Creature will take place at Chicago’s Joan W and Irving B Harris Theater from 24-26 February 2022.

Information sourced from:

English National Ballet programme notes

Georg Büchner – Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Kris Bowers in spectacular opening to new SFJAZZ season

Kris Bowers – courtesy SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ gets the new season off to a spectacular start next week with Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Kris Bowers who takes to the stage of the Miner Auditorium for what promises to be a hugely memorable opening night on September 23rd.

Most recently fêted for his scores for Bridgerton and The United Stages vs. Billie Holiday, Los Angeles-based pianist and composer Kris Bowers has a unique style which combines jazz, R&B, classical standards and cinematic music, with the alternative and experimental music of his youth. His inspiration has been drawn from artists as diverse as Steve Reich, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder, Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock, and Jimi Hendrix, as well as jazz legends such as Ahmad Jamal, Wynton Kelly and Oscar Peterson.

A graduate of the Juilliard school, Kris Bowers was the winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition, and following contributions to Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne in 2011, and acclaimed albums by trumpeter Etienne Charles and vocalist José James, Bowers’ debut album, Heroes+Misfits, opened at number one on the iTunes jazz chart in 2014. Among other accolades and achievements are his collaboration with choreographer Kyle Abraham on Absent Matter in 2015, and the commission by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company in 2016 to create a work for the contemporary ballet Untitled America. He won his Emmy in 2017 for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for The Snowy Day.

Kris Bowers has also written scores for When They See Us, Dear White People, Seeds of Time and Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, and in 2018 he was invited to write the score for Green Book – based on Don Shirley’s two-month tour of the American South in the early 1960s – directed by Emmy and Academy Award-winning Peter Farrelly, and starring Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali. Bowers was Ali’s on-screen hand-double, as well as his piano instructor in the months leading up to the filming.

For his season-opening performance, Kris Bowers will be using the SFJAZZ Center’s new immersive media system to demonstrate his virtuosity with his soundtrack scores and new film shorts. The performance takes place in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on Thursday, September 23rd. Further details are available on the SFJAZZ website.

Fridays Live

SFJAZZ has more good news for jazz enthusiasts! So successful have the Fridays at Five sessions proved, that – starting on September 24th at 7.30 pm (PT) – a new series launches. Entitled Fridays Live, it’ll feature live broadcasts from the SFJAZZ Center of that evening’s concert as well as never-before-seen performances from the SFJAZZ archives. Fridays Live will keep all of the same immersive elements as Fridays At Five, including real-time chats with artists and fans, multi-cam HD video, and state-of-the-art audio.

If you miss the Fridays Live broadcast, or if you live in a distant time zone, you can catch the Saturday Encore at 10.00 am (PT) the following morning as part of your Membership. Or you can access it On-Demand in your own time (each program available for 90 days) for an additional fee (Members save 50%).

The first program of this new weekly series features tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain performing with star drummer Eric Harland, Uzbek dorya master Abbos Kosimov, and broken beat pioneer Mark de Clive-Lowe. The line-up for future concerts includes Claudia Villela, the SFJAZZ Collective, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Pink Martini.

All details for the live performance and the broadcast can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

Kris Bowers

Green Book

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Concertgebouworkest celebrates opening of new season on Dam Square

The Concertgebouworkest celebrates the opening of the 2021-22 season on Friday evening with an open-air concert on Amsterdam’s Dam Square. Daniel Harding leads the orchestra in a varied light programme, with violinist Leonidas Kavakos as guest artist.

This festive concert is truly a celebration, marking the Orchestra’s return to live performances, and bringing the city of Amsterdam back to life with a concert which will not only be heard in the streets around Dam Square, but broadcast live across the country and beyond on AVROTROS, and on NPO Radio 4.

The programme opens with Dutch composer Joey Roukens’ Chase, and includes concert favourites such as Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, Nicolò Paganini’s La campanella (from his Violin Concerto No 2), and Giuseppe Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino. These works are followed by Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane and George Gershwin’s hugely popular Tone Poem for Orchestra, An American in Paris – a fitting finale for an Air France pilot, as conductor Daniel Harding is.

Daniel Harding – courtesy Askonas Holt

Daniel Harding is no stranger to the Concertgebouworkest, having first led the Orchestra in 2004. He has since appeared not only in a number of performances at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, but in open-air concerts at SAIL Amsterdam and at the Lowlands Festival in 2015. He toured the USA with the Concertgebouworkest in 2019, led the Orchestra in concert streams in 2020, and again at the Lucerne Festival this year. Currently Music and Artistic Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding is also Conductor Laureate of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra – with whom he has worked for over 20 years – and Artistic Director of the Brazilian Anima Mundi Festival.

In addition to the Concertgebouworkest, Maestro Harding works regularly with orchestras such as the Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle and the London Symphony Orchestra. Also a renowned opera conductor, he has led highly successful productions at Teatro alla Scala Milan, Theater an der Wien, Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and at the Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Festivals. Daniel Harding was awarded a CBE for services to music in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021.

Leonidas Kavakos draws rave reviews wherever he performs. Het Parool refers to him as “…the most spectacular violinist of our time …”, Die Volkskrant describes him as “… the master violinist …. who gives a golden lustre to everything that he touches”. The New York Times writes of “The unrivaled elegance and beauty of Leonidas Kavakos’s sound”, and The Guardian of “…. the wonderful poise and instinctive elegance of Kavakos’s playing …”. Working with some of music’s finest orchestras and conductors, he has won high praise for his performances around the world.

Mr Kavakos has recently become known as an impressive conductor as well – having led ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Gürzenich Orchester, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and he has developed close ties as both violinist and conductor with both l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

Dam Square in Amsterdam – photo Marcia Stubbeman coutesy Wikimedia Commons

The most important square in Amsterdam, Dam Square dates back to the 13th century when a dam was built around the river Amstel to prevent the Zuiderzee from flooding the city. Today it is one of the main tourist sights of the city, with the grand 17th century Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace) being one of the main attractions. Others include the Hotel Krasnapolsky, Madame Tussauds, the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) which often houses important art exhibitions, and Beurs van Berlage, an old stock exchange building now used as a concert hall and an exhibition space. It is also home to the National Memorial statue built in 1956 in memory of Dutch soldiers and members of the Resistance who died in World War II.

All tickets for this special free Opening Night performance by Daniel Harding and the Concertgebouworkest have been reserved, but it is being broadcast live on Friday, September 10th at 8.30 pm, by AVROTROS on NPO 2 Extra, and on NPO Radio 4. It will also be broadcast at 10.30 pm on NPO 2 (following Nieuwsuur).

Information sourced from:

Concertgebouworkest programme notes

Artists’ websites

Dam Square

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Semyon Bychkov & Kirill Gerstein at the BBC Proms

Semyon Bychkov © Umberto Nicoletti

This Friday, Semyon Bychkov will be in London to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBCSO) in a programme comprising Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor – soloist Kirill Gerstein – and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 in A minor, Scottish.

Bychkov, one of the few foreign conductors appearing at the BBC Proms this year, has been closely associated with the BBCSO for the past 10 years, during which he has held the Günter Wand Conducting Chair. Also holding the Klemperer Chair at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Maestro Bychkov enters his fourth season as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic, opening the 2021/22 season in Prague with the Shostakovich Symphony No 7 Leningrad.

The Mahler symphonies will feature largely for Bychkov in this forthcoming season, starting with performances of the Mahler Symphony No 2, Resurrection, with Orchestre de Paris, followed by a series of Mahler symphonies in which he will lead the Czech Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic. He will also be recording the Mahler symphonies with the Czech Philharmonic this season. In addition to première performances of Thomas Larcher’s Piano Concerto – with Kirill Gerstein – Bryce Dessner’s Mari and Julian Anderson’s Prague Panoramas, Maestro Bychkov will tour a number of European cities with works from the Czech repertoire – by Smetana, Kabeláč, Smolka, Martinů and Janáček.

Kirill Gerstein Pianist 2018 Photo: Marco Borggreve

Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein’s wide-ranging repertoire includes works from Bach through to the contemporary composer Thomas Adès – who wrote his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra for Gerstein. Gerstein has worked with Semyon Bychkov since 2007. It was with Bychkov that he made his debut appearances with the Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras, and with the Royal Concertgebouw, and as part of Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky Project, Gerstein recorded the Russian master’s three piano concertos live in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic. He performed the Schumann Piano Concerto with Maestro Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic in April this year, and will join Bychkov again at the start of the new season when they appear with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, performing Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto.

In May 1841 – following a few abortive attempts at writing a piano concerto – Robert Schumann made a start on a one-movement, standalone piece – Concert Phantasie (his spelling) for Piano and Orchestra. This piece was performed on 13th August, 1841, in a private run-through, with Clara Schumann as soloist, by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Schumann’s attempts to publish it were not, however, successful, but in the summer of 1845, he revisited it, and started revising it as the first movement of a full-scale concerto. By the end of the year, he’d completed the full three-movement work, and it premiered in Dresden on 4th December, 1845, with Clara Schumann again as soloist, under the baton of Ferdinand Hiller, to whom the work was dedicated. The Piano Concerto in A minor Op 54 was not regarded as a virtuoso work, but it became one of the composer’s most popular pieces.

The programme opens with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, written in 1807. It is thought that Beethoven was inspired to write this overture by Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s play Coriolan which was based on one of Shakespeare’s less frequently performed tragedies, Coriolanus. The play deals with the contempt of Roman general, Coriolanus, for the plebeians of Rome, whom he considered to be greedy and corrupt.

North facing entrance of the Royal Albert Hall at dusk

Ending the programme is Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, known as the Scottish. It was inspired by a tour of Scotland that the composer undertook in 1829, and was dedicated to the young Queen Victoria. The actual writing of the symphony took place throughout the 1830s, and wasn’t completed until 13 years after his visit to Scotland. Therefore, although it’s known as Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony, it was actually the last of his five symphonies to be written. It was premiered in Leipzig in 1842, and performed for the first time in London in the same year, a performance which was attended by Queen Victoria herself.

Semyon Bychkov leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra and soloist Kirill Gerstein in a BBC Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, September 3rd, at 7.30 pm. For further information and booking details, visit the BBC Proms website.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic website

Artists’ websites

Schumann Piano Concerto

Coriolan Overture

Mendelssohn – Scottish Symphony

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