Semyon Bychkov

Bychkov conducts SFS in Shostakovich

39ALBychkov2-creditThomasBrill* Notes * 
Semyon Bychkov (pictured left, photograph by Thomas Brill) conducts San Francisco Symphony in Schubert's Unfinished and Shostakovich's 11th this week. The Schubert that started last night's proceedings was elegant. The pianissimo of the strings with oboe and clarinet in the first movement was simply beautiful. The sound was verdant and fresh. In the second movement, the brass was slightly cloudy at two points, but the woodwinds were excellent.

The Shostakovich that came after intermission required many more musicians than the Schubert. Bychkov kept a fine tension in the musical line, the slow parts were not lax, but contrasted with the faster sections of the piece. The quiet moments of the music were exquisite. The volume of the end of the second and fourth movements was rather deafening, and it was clear why some orchestra members wore earplugs. The trumpets played quite well, as did the English horn.

* Tattling * 
There were many cellular phone rings in the second half of the performance. It seemed whenever there was a gorgeous pianissimo was being played on stage, there was some electronic noise happening in the audience.

Bychkov conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker

Vienna-phil * Notes * 
The Vienna Philharmonic's latest tour with Semyon Bychkov started in Cologne, has 5 stops in California, and ends in Toronto. Last night's performance at Cal Performances in Berkeley was the first of three different concerts here.

The evening began with Schubert's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major. The sound was fastidious yet with much warmth and sweetness. The tempi changes were clear, and each of the movements were rendered transparently. The two parts of the first movement were distinct and had so much energy, the audience could be contained from clapping. The first three variations of the Andante lilted, while the fourth and fifth ones were more restrained, then the coda lilted yet again. The Menuetto danced, and the Presto vivace was robust.

After an intermission we heard Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. The playing was taut and ominious. The brass sounded lucid, the strings shimmered. This was followed by Béla Bartók's Suite from A csodálatos mandarin. The dense, chaotic work was played colorfully, but with control. The fugue was particularly brilliant.

* Tattling * 
The people around me were rather chatty before the performance and during the intermission. The man to my right got a lecture about the Vienna Philharmonic and the program notes were even read to him. He did listen to the performance in rapt silence. The person behind me happened to be a physics student writing for the Daily Cal, said writer was interograted extensively by a woman seated in H 6 of the orchestra. Everyone managed to be quiet during the music, except H 6's companion, who felt it necessary to exclaim during Bartók. He took my hushing of him well, and did not speak again.