Semyon Bychkov born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1952, was 20 when he won the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. Two years later, having been denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra he left the former Soviet Union where, from the age of five, he had been singled out for an extraordinarily privileged education in music. First studying piano, Bychkov was then selected to study at the Glinka Choir School and received his first conducting lesson aged 13. Four years later he enrolled at the Leningrad Conservatory where he studied conducting with the legendary Ilya Musin.
Semyon Bychkov Russian conductor born 1952
By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, he had enjoyed success in the US as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which had begun in France where he made his debuts with the Opera de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, had taken off when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 1989 he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997 Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; and, the following year Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Semyon Bychkov’s approach to music making combines innate musicality with the rigours of Russian pedagogy. With his time carefully balanced between the concert hall and the opera house, Bychkov conducts repertoire that spans four centuries.
In the opera-houses
In the opera house Bychkov is recognised for his interpretation of Strauss, Wagner and Verdi. Nonetheless while Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino his productions of Janáček’s Jenufa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La Bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov were awarded the prestigious Premio Abbiati. Most recently Semyon Bychkov conducted Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina at the Vienna Staatsoper. In 2015 he will conduct Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House – his recording of the work was chosen by Opera Magazine as one of the 30 ‘all-time great recordings’; and, in 2016, Wagner’s Parsifal at Madrid’s Teatro Real.
Bychkov’s symphonic engagements include annual tours with the Munich Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Vienna Philharmonic, as well as guest engagements with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino, Orchestre National de France, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In 1986, Bychkov signed with Philips and began a significant recording collaboration which produced an extensive discography with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. These were later followed by a series of benchmark recordings, the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997-2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne. The repertoire includes a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Strauss (Elektra, Daphne, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegel), Mahler (Symphony No. 3, Das Lied von der Erde), Shostakovich (Symphonies No. 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), Rachmaninov, Verdi (Requiem), Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Lohengrin was voted BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year in 2010.
Semyon Bychkov currently holds the Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, and the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms.