Gomyo plays Shostakovich with Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic

Karen Gomyo – courtesy Askonas Holt

Violinist Karen Gomyo plays the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1 with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, under Music Director and Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov, in a programme which includes a new work by Bryce Dessner and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

Bryce Dessner © Anne Mie Dreves

The programme opens with the Czech premiere of Bryce Dessner’s orchestral composition Mari, which is dedicated to Maestro Bychkov, by whom the work was commissioned. Dessner, an American composer and guitarist who has a wide repertoire which ranges from rock to chamber, symphonic and film music, is described by NPR as “… a man who slips in and out of musical guises with disarming ease…” producing “…. gorgeous and full-hearted music”. He wrote Mari – named after the Basque goddess of the forests – during a stay on the Basque coast of France last year. The work had its world premiere in Zurich in June of this year, with Maestro Bychkov leading the Tonhalle Orchestra, and a performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London is scheduled for the early part of 2022.

Karen Gomyo © Askonas Holt

Karen Gomyo, praised by the Chicago Tribune as “…. a first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity”, makes her debut with the Czech Philharmonic in this performance of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. An established artist in North America, she has appeared with orchestras in the United States and Canada, and more recently in Australasia, Singapore, Tokyo, and across Europe. Ms Gomyo’s premiere performances include Matthias Pintscher’s Concerto No 2 Mar’eh with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington conducted by the composer, Pēteris Vasks’ Vox Amoris with the Lapland Chamber Orchestra led by John Storgårds, and Samuel Adams’ new Chamber Concerto with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – a work written for her and commissioned by the CSO’s ‘Music Now’ series for their 20th anniversary.

Semyon Bychkov – Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic
© Petr Kadlec

Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his extremely challenging First Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 77 (99) in the years 1947 to 1948 – a time during which the composer was undergoing the harshest criticism of the then Stalinist government, for creating works which were considered too modern. Dedicated to violinist David Oistrakh, the concerto was, in the words of the composer, “in its character essentially more of a symphony for solo violin and orchestra”. Oistrakh himself likened its performance to that of a great Shakespearean role, putting “…. a great emotional and intellectual strain on the performer ….”, adding that it “…. offers enormous opportunities not only to demonstrate the violinist’s virtuosity, but above all to express the deepest feelings, thoughts and moods.” Shostakovich kept the concerto under wraps until seven years after he wrote it, and after Stalin’s death, Oistrakh premiered the work on 29th October 1955, with the Leningrad Philharmonic, led by Yevgeny Mravinsky.

Semyon Bychkov & the Czech Philharmonic © Petra Hajska

The final work on the programme is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op 45, written in 1940, by which time he was living in the United States. Although he never deviated from his Russian roots, nor lost his love for his home country and its traditions, he found himself unable to live with the regime established after Russia’s socialist revolution of 1917. Even though many of his compositions were written during the first half of the 20th century, he was greatly influenced by Tchaikovsky, and his works reflected the late Romantic style of the 19th century, as does this gorgeous set of Symphonic Dances, in which his love for Russia is evident, particularly in the first movement. This work – the last of his major compositions – was dedicated to conductor Eugene Ormandy who premiered it with the Philadelphia Orchestra on 3rd January, 1941.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in works by Bryce Dessner, Shostakovich – violin soloist Karen Gomyo – and Rachmaninoff in the Dvořák Hall, at the Rudolfinum in Prague from 15th to 17th December.
Tickets may be booked online via the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra website.

Information sourced from:
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes
Artists’ websites
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1

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