Enter your email address and click subscribe to receive new articles in your email inbox:

Bychkov, Chamayou Shine at CSO

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 18, 2015 - 3:13:25 PM in reviews_2015

Semyon Bychkov
A master stood before the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Saturday night at Music Hall, Semyon Bychkov, in a program that combined power, beauty and romance.
Works heard included Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No, 3 (“Polish”), Richard Strauss’ youthful Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s “Francesca da Rimini.”
Bertrand Chamayou
Guest artist in the Strauss was the young (34), French pianist Bertrand Chamayou.  Both made their CSO debuts.  In a kind of reversal of program order, the concert began with the Symphony, followed on the second half by the Burleske and “Francesca da Rimini,” which lent the program a powerful ending while centering on Strauss’ Burleske.
Just 20 minutes long and scored for full orchestra, the Burleske is a charming work with a prominent role for the tympani, handled with great skill and expression by CSO tympanist Patrick Schleker.    
Tchaikovsky’s third symphony is a more classic work than his other better known symphonies. Bychkov gave it a fine, clean reading, very Russian sounding, with a genial exposition that moved right along. It is full of themes and sometimes had a march-like aspect. The second movement was  waltz-like, with a contrasting section derived from the first movement. Low flutes, basses and oboe gave a solemn sound to the third movement whose theme recurs over and over again paired with a contrasting theme for strings and wind. One imagines Tchaikovsky flexing his melodic muscles here, ending with a tenser theme colored by vibrato,
The fourth movement  introduced new material, Though treated very differently, it remained all of a piece with what came before and a trombone solo featured prominently,
The finale, from which the Symphony gets the name “Polish,” is written in the style of a Polish folk dance or polacca.  It built to a big triumphant tutti given fugato treatment before returning to the principal theme. Soft violins and winds mark the return of the finale theme. There is more fugato and the orchestra delivered another big theme for a glorious final statement.
Tchaikovsky’s perennial “Francesca da Rimini” made an exciting finish for the concert, Tchaikovsky packed a lot of emotion and drama into this star-crossed-lovers’ tale. Bychkov opened with the big fate theme: trumpets and trombones, lamenting the lovers’ plight.  Principal clarinetist Johnathan Gunn turned in a touching tribute, washed by wonderful strings from which the music built to a big, brash, heartbreaking end. Response from the audience was immediate and enthusiastic.