Semyon Bychkov appointed Czech Philharmonic chief

Semyon Bychkov, photo: CTK

Semyon Bychkov has just been appointed as successor to the late Jiří Bělohlávek as principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Semyon Bychkov,  photo: CTK
The death of the great conductor Jiří Bělohlávek in May this year represented an enormous loss to Czech music. At the time of his passing, Bělohlávek was serving a second term as principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the country’s most august cultural institutions.

On Monday the Czech Philharmonic’s search for a replacement for Jiří Bělohlávek officially came to an end when conductor Semyon Bychkov signed a five-year contract to take the helm at the orchestra, whose home base is Prague’s Rudolfinum.

The appointment, which was agreed back in August, had earlier been corroborated by the ensemble’s director, David Mareček.

“I can confirm that it will be Semyon Bychkov – there’s no reason to deny that name.”

Mr. Bychkov was born in the then Leningrad but after facing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union moved to the United States in his early 20s.

Since then he has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras and appeared at a number of the greatest venues around the globe.

He already had a relationship with the Czech Philharmonic, serving as one of its guest conductors since last season and heading a project under which the orchestra has been recording all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies for the Decca Classics label.

Prior to a concert with the Czech Philharmonic in January last year, Mr. Bychkov described working with its musicians in an interview posted by the orchestra.

Czech Philharmonic,  photo: Petra Hajská / Czech Philharmonic
“It is a pleasure for me to come in the morning and say, Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Because I know that I will see faces that I like to see and I will hear a musicality from them which I like to hear. And then we can mix together my ideas about music and theirs.”

Semyon Bychkov, who is 64, said in the interview that classical music no longer occupies such a central role as it did in past centuries. But, he argued, it has lost none of it significance for that.

“In today’s world it is as important as at any time. And I have a feeling that it may be becoming even more important, because we are facing so much violence, so much pain, so much uncertainty, so many questions as to how do we live on this planet. Classical music addresses this in the way that only music can.”

Bychkov’s next appearances with the Czech Philharmonic will be at the Rudolfinum in early December. He will take the helm at the orchestra on a full-time basis – becoming the fourth non-Czech conductor to do so – from the start of the 2018–2019 season.