The Czech Philharmonic has named Semyon Bychkov as its new Chief Conductor and Music Director. He will begin the role starting with the 2018-19 season - the post had previously been held by Jiří Bělohlávek until his death in June this year.
Following such a tragedy, Bychkov’s appointment offers both some continuity for the orchestra, as well as the promise of some excellent music-making ahead. He first conducted it in 2013, and is currently Artistic Director of The Tchaikovsky Project – an initiative launched last October with Decca to record all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini. It began with Symphony No 6 coupled with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture and was received very warmly indeed in Gramophone's pages).
Bychkov's commitment to the orchestra will include the opening concerts of the season, six subscription weeks and two weeks of studio recordings, as well as leading them on tour and at the major Czech festivals and concerts.
The Czech Philharmonic – profiled in the June issue of Gramophone – is rooted in its country’s culture: it gave its first concert in its current form in 1896 under Dvořák, and today is composed entirely of Czech players. Its first recording dates back to 1929 when then Chief Conductor Václav Talich conducted Smetana’s Má vlast.
The orchestra also announced today that Jakub Hrůša and Tomáš Netopil have been named as joint Principal Guest Conductors, also from the start of next season. Both conductors were former students of Bělohlávek.
Earlier this year, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic had paid tribute to Bělohlávek by conducting one of Bělohlávek’s favourite pieces, Valse Triste, in their first concert following his death. You can hear the moving performance here.