THE NEXT GENERATION
“The desire to share music with the younger generation of musicians has been with me ever since the 1970’s when I led the Mannes College of Music Orchestra in New York. As the new generation discover the repertoire and confront its challenges, the intensity of their feeling and the realisation of music’s value in life are extremely palpable. They have no preconceived idea of the traditions; they have no habits or reflexes. They are instinctive and receptive. They are a fertile soil to be planted and cultivated”.
Semyon Bychkov started working with student orchestras when he arrived in New York in 1976. The first programme that he conducted at Mannes consisted of Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Winds and Orchestra, and Beethoven Symphony No. 5. While at Mannes he conducted works including Mahler Fifth, Schubert Ninth and, Shostakovich Fifth. He has since worked with student orchestras from his alma mater – the St Petersburg State Conservatory – to the Juilliard and Cleveland Institute in the US, the Schleswig Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany and the Webern Symphonie Orchester in Austria. Since 2012, Bychkov has held the Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London and, last year began collaborating with the Czech Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
In a pre-concert reception the Principal of the RAM, Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, explained with some wonderment that Bychkov had schooled the players for eight days (six hours a day) for this occasion. An occasion is what it proved, for this was a remarkable Mahler Three… Few of us had heard this orchestra before, but there seemed little need to make allowances for youth and inexperience.
Semyon Bychkov’s first programme with the Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra in 2009 paired Stravinsky’s Symphony of Wind Instruments with Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht. He has since conducted numerous performances with the Orchestra including Mahler’s Symphonies Nos 2 and 3 at the Royal Festival Hall. In 2018 a performance to mark the centenary of Czech and Slovak Independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, brought players from the Royal Academy of Music together with the Czech Philharmonic to perform Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture. Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, it was the first time that the Academy students performed ‘side by side’ with a major international orchestra.
Following the collaboration, the Academy invited four principals from the Czech Philharmonic to London to share their love and knowledge of Czech music with students from the Royal Academy of Music. Over the course of three days the Czech Philharmonic’s Associate Artist & Concertmaster Josef Špaček, Principal Bassoonist Ondřej Roskovec, Principal Trombonist Robert Kozánek and Principal Oboist Jana Brožková lead a series of masterclasses, mock auditions and chamber concerts. Music by the most well-known Czech composers including Janáček, Martinů and Dvořák, were explored alongside works by lesser-known Czech composers – both early and contemporary – including as Rejcha, Mysliveček, Michna, Vejvanovský, Nedbal, Bulis, Zelenka, Odcházel, Bártek, Mácha and Kmoch.
Since its foundation in 1822, the Royal Academy of Music has been at the forefront of musical education and the ultimate training ground for some of the world’s most distinguished musicians. As well as the extraordinary British-based conductors who have worked with the Royal Academy of Music, composers Carl Maria von Weber conducted the Orchestra in 1826 and Richard Strauss in 1936.
Semyon Bychkov was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in 2016 and, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2022. To mark his 70th birthday, the Semyon Bychkov Educational Enhancement Fund was set up to support exchanges between students at the Academy and the Czech Philharmonic.
CZECH PHILHARMONIC YOUTH ORCHESTRA
Semyon Bychkov had a similarly open and collaborative approach with the Orchestra. Thanks to the combination of artistic and human qualities of the two Maestri and the number of rehearsals (twelve), the concert was exceptional not only because of the students but, also the conductors, because as Semyon Bychkov noted ‘both sides learn from one another’.
Semyon Bychkov first conducted the Czech Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in February 2021 in a programme of Wagner, Beethoven, and Verdi. Such was the rapport that he immediately invited them to join him on the platform for his 70th birthday concert the following year.
The Czech Philharmonic takes a keen interest in the development of the next generation of musicians and inaugurated its new Orchestral Academy at the start of the 2012/13 season. Designed for graduates of music performance programmes at the secondary and/or university level, the Academy provides an opportunity for musicians between the ages of 18 and 26 to enhance their education, and to gain valuable experience with the Czech Republic’s leading orchestra.
In addition to orchestral playing, the Academy’s also puts emphasis on chamber music and, students are encouraged to take part in concerts with the Czech Chamber Music Society and the Czech Philharmonic’s education programmes.
Throughout the Czech Philharmonic’s history, two features have remained at its core: its championing of Czech composers and its belief in music’s power to change lives. Václav Talich (Chief Conductor 1919-1941) pioneered concerts for workers, young people and voluntary organisations as early as the 1920’s. The philosophy continues today and is equally vibrant. A comprehensive education strategy engages with more than 400 schools bringing all ages to the Rudolfinum in Prague. An inspirational music and song programme led by singer Ida Kelarová for the extensive Romany communities within the Czech Republic and Slovakia has helped many socially excluded families to find a voice.
In addition to its partnership with the Royal Academy of Music, the Orchestra has also initiated a series of ongoing education exchanges with the Jiangsu Centre for the Performing Arts in Nanking, China.