The Russian–American conductor Semyon Bychkov is a pre-eminent expert on Tchaikovsky, whom he calls a ‘childhood love’. This season he is leading the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the emotional Symphony No. 6. He is also conducting Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin and Richard Strauss’s lyrical Oboe Concerto, featuring Ivan Podyomov, the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s own principal oboist.
In 2016, Semyon Bychkov launched his ‘Tchaikovsky project’, a series of recordings and concerts dedicated to Russia’s greatest Romantic composer. Like last season, the project leads him back to the Concertgebouw Orchestra, this time to conduct the Symphony No. 6, popularly known as the ‘Pathétique’.
Tchaikovsky’s Sixth is his last and most dramatic symphony. The meaning behind the work was long shrouded in mystery. Did Tchaikovsky sense his end was nigh? This is music which depicts an entire human life: elation alternates with tragedy.
But first, music by two great masters of the orchestral repertoire is being performed. Strauss and Ravel enriched the orchestral palette with unique, new colours and timbres. Strauss also wrote a concerto for the oboe, an instrument that is not often assigned a solo role.