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

ArtsPreview home page

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