Semyon Bychov Ends Tenure as Music Director of Czech Philharmonic

By Francisco Salazar

Semyon Bychov is set to end his tenure as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic during the 2027-28 season.

In a statement, “It’s been a remarkable season in every conceivable way, even if it is still continuing with enormous projects yet to come. I will come back to it later, but first I would like to talk to you about some of the very special events that we have planned for the next season.”

Bychov added, “I t is still the Year of Czech Music and so it will conclude with the release of the Dvorak’s last three symphonies and three tone poems. As you know our recording of Má vlast was released 6 weeks ago and received a rare unanimity of approval. In that same spirit of Czech music, we will conclude the year 2024 with three concerts at Carnegie Hall (a very rare privilege only given to the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras) and 2 concerts in Toronto: Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with our own choir, Mahler’s 5th Symphony, three poems of Má vlast and all 3 concertos of Dvořák will become a celebration of Czech musical culture and its legacy. These concerts will be followed later by the residences in London, Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brugges. They will be focused on the music of Mahler, Shostakovich, and Mozart.”

He added, “Here in Prague, we will combine (not in the same performance!) two enormous masterpieces which are so related spiritually: Bach’s B minor Mass and Mahler’s 8th Symphony. Mahler’s performances will bring us to the completion of the recording cycle of his symphonies, which will have taken 7 years to realize. And now allow me to come back to the most recent tours of Korea, Japan, and Europe. I do not recall receiving such positive intensity and unanimity of response for every single performance as we received on this tour. Audiences loved our Dvořák. They clearly felt the orchestra’s identification with his music, its performing tradition, and the joyful personality it exudes both on and off stage. People clearly experienced that Dvořák’s music was shared with them with an authenticity of spirit so unique, that it could only be conveyed by the Czech Philharmonic. You cannot imagine how much joy and pride I felt in my colleagues living for every note, every phrase in every moment of every performance. There was not a single concert that I would call substandard. Not even once did the fatigue associated with the difficulties and challenges of travel affect the performance.”

Bychov concluded by announcing that he would be leaving the orchestra feeling he had completed his mission. He said, “Watching it, while also being part of it, brought me to a conclusion that the dream that I had when I started leading this orchestra 6 years ago – the dream of the Czech Philharmonic being part of the tiny group that make up the world’s orchestral elite and, making sure that the world knew it and recognized it – this dream has been realised. When I was first asked by the musicians to become their next music director, following the untimely death of the beloved Jiří Bělohlávek, they also asked me to become their Daddy. And what is every Daddy’s mission? To help his children grow up well, secure, and independent, so that eventually they become free. Like birds getting their wings to fly. This is what has been happening, and much faster than any one of us ever anticipated. This is what made me come to the happy conclusion that my mission has been accomplished. When that became clear, it was only natural that, in 2028, after 10 years of leading this orchestra, the time will have come for me to step back as its chief conductor and music director.”

Since becoming the Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2018 he has recorded the Mahler cycle for PENTATONE and has led numerous performances of the works of  Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Strauss, Schumann, and Beethoven. He has also commissioned 14 new works, nine from Czech composers and five commissions from international composers.