Celebrating both his fifth season as chief conductor and music director of the Czech Philharmonic and his 70th birthday in 2022, Semyon Bychkov marked the occasion with three concerts in November that paired Beethoven’s Fifth with Shostakovich’s Fifth. The season opened in Prague with the official concert to mark the Czech Republic’s presidency of the European Union and continued with concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka as part of the Dvořák Prague International Music Festival. In February, Bychkov conducted Rusalka at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Bychkov’s inaugural season with the Czech Philharmonic was celebrated with an international tour that took the orchestra to London, New York and Washington. The following year saw the culmination of “The Tchaikovsky Project,” the release of a seven-CD box set devoted to Tchaikovsky’s symphonic repertoire and a series of international residencies. Bychkov also instigated the commissioning of 14 new works to be premièred by the orchestra over subsequent seasons. In September, the Czech Philharmonic announced the extension of Bychkov’s contract until 2028.
In the last two seasons, the focus of Bychkov’s work with the Czech Philharmonic has turned to the music of Gustav Mahler with performances of the symphonies at the Rudofinum, on tour and on disc. This season, the orchestra will tour featuring symphonies by Mahler at the Edinburgh International Festival, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Mahler Festival and in Paris, Luxembourg, Graz, Vienna, Budapest and Milan. Pentatone’s complete Mahler cycle with Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic was launched in 2022 with Mahler’s Symphony Nos. 4 and 5 and continues in April with the release of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2.
Recognized for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov also worked closely with many contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. More recent collaborations include those with Julian Anderson, Bryce Dessner, Detlev Glanert and Thomas Larcher, whose works he has premiered with the Czech Philharmonic, and with the Vienna, Berlin, New York and Munich philharmonics, Royal Concertgebow and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Bychkov has one foot firmly in the culture of the East and the other in the West. Born in St. Petersburg in 1952, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has lived in Europe since the mid-1980s. Singled out for a privileged musical education from age 5, Bychkov studied piano before winning his place at the Glinka Choir School, where at 13, he received his first lesson in conducting. He was 17 when he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory to study with the legendary Ilya Musin; within three years, he had won the influential Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. Denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic, Bychkov left the former Soviet Union.
By the time Bychkov returned to St. Petersburg in 1989 as the philharmonic’s principal guest conductor, he had enjoyed success as music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which began in France with Opéra de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, took off with invitations to conduct the New York and Berlin philharmonics and the Concertgebouw. In 1989, he was named music director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997, chief conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the following year, chief conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
In 2015, Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards. He received an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music in July 2022 and the award for Conductor of the Year from Musical America in October 2022.
Bychkov was one of the first musicians to express his position on the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, since then he has spoken in support of Ukraine in Prague’s Wenceslas Square; on radio and television in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States; written by invitation for The Economist and appeared as a guest on BBC World.
Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.