Dvořák’s energetic Eighth Symphony is the perfect match for Semyon Bychkov and the Concertgebouworkest. As is Shostakovich’s playful First Piano Concerto, with a brilliant role for Kirill Gerstein and principal trumpet player Miroslav Petkov.
Of all the symphonies Dvořák wrote, the Eighth is his most energetic and upbeat. Here he casts off his melancholy side and abandons himself to his love of Czech folk music. Conductor Semyon Bychkov has made frequent guest appearances with the Concertgebouworkest. Here he once again showcases his familiarity with the Slavic repertoire. In addition to Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, the programme features an equally sunny work by Dmitry Shostakovich.
Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto is an unusual piece in which the tormented music of his symphonies cedes to exuberant playfulness. Shostakovich also quotes all sorts of other composers and incorporates bristly folk tunes. Yet none of this detracts from the astonishing virtuosity of the work. It is actually a double concerto, since the piano is constantly opposed by a solo trumpet. Indeed, their pointed dialogues make it one of the most amusing Russian concertos ever written.
Miloslav Kabeláč was a prominent twentieth-century disciple of his compatriot Dvořák. His evocative masterpiece The Mystery of Time was performed once before by the Concertgebouworkest – in 1969. It’s high time listeners got to know the work again!