. . . [a] tremendous new chapter in Bychkov's project . . . consistently impressive . . . the "Manfred" Symphony suits Bychkov's operatic tendencies perfectly . . . and the Czech orchestra responds with playing of tremendous character . . . the first movement sets the standard for all the vivid woodwind playing that follows . . . the sound is never coarse or overbearing . . .
. . . a superb performance in excellent sound . . . [Bychkov is] a musical maverick of real genius . . . the sweep of the music is irresistible . . . "Manfred" is a bumpy ride but an exhilarating and treasurable one.
. . . a must-hear . . . [this new recording finds] the Czech Philharmonic on inspired form. Upper strings have a Hollywood sheen and there's some sublime brass playing. The first movement's coda is sensational . . . This disc is worth buying for those two minutes alone. Interplay between strings and winds in the scherzo is miraculous . . . The redemptive organ entry near the symphony's close is wonderful . . . Bychkov's conviction is infectious -- an enjoyable disc.
. . . a dedicated performance . . . [the sound production] captures the exquisite bass tones and high trumpet work vividly . . . " Manfred" makes its dramatic effect with a dedicated ensemble who have come to admire this composer.
In the very first bars of this performance we experience what will be one of its hallmarks: the sheer depth of tone of the Czech Philharmonic. The lower strings provide the firmest of foundations for the ensemble but, in truth, all sections sound magnificent. Bychkov handles the opening paragraphs marvellously, giving lots of space and weight to the music as Manfred's despair is illustrated. When Tchaikovsky increases the pace (4:50) Bychkov really whips up a storm . . . [the] concluding pages of the movement are tremendously dramatic. The Decca recording shows the orchestra in all its splendour: there's a massive tam-tam stroke at the climax and the final chords are punched out over thunderous drum rolls. Phew! . . . [2nd movement]: The trio section has a wonderful rolling tune and in this performance it's delectably spun (from 2:59). Bychkov and his players bring balletic grace to this episode . . . You need to fasten your seat belts for the finale because Tchaikovsky takes us with Manfred to a bacchanal in the palace of Arimanes, the Prince of the underworld. Bychkov's performance is high octane but superbly controlled . . . [the fugue] passage is hugely exciting, and the playing is real edge-of-the-seat stuff . . . This is an extremely distinguished and very exciting account of Manfred. In fact, I think it's the best that has so far come my way . . . a thrilling and eloquent performance of this great programme symphony and I urge all Tchaikovsky admirers to hear it.
In the substantial opening movement, "Lento lugubre", Bychkov progressively develops an undertow of dark foreboding that gradually imbues the writing. A spellbinding tension runs through the movement as the tormented soul "Manfred is wandering alone through the Alps". The moving Astarte section, containing passion and longing, aptly reflects Manfred's tender portrait of his sister. In the final section, at 15:32, Bychkov obtains significant power and an unsettling tension . . . [2nd movement]: There is a reassuring affection to the glowing writing of the Waterfall vision that Bychkov conducts with clarity of understanding, creating a quite magical and colourful effect. In Bychkov's hands the music has a buoyant Mendelssohnian quality and the sound world of the composer's ballets, especially "The Nutcracker", is never far away. Under Bychkov's unswerving direction the mainly bucolic mood of the slow third movement where "Manfred meets mountain people" effortlessly evokes a scene of verdant Bernese alpine valleys from flower strewn pastures, to ice cold streams to gleaming mountain peaks. The impressive playing of the Czech Philharmonic feels accomplished and assured, communicating an appealing sense of the joy of nature . . . [Finale]: This is music of potent energy and drama in a gripping performance from Bychkov and his Czech players . . . The Czech strings excel with unity, weight and intensity, and the glowing brass and vibrant woodwind sections are detailed and expressive. Recorded live in 2017 at Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum at Prague, the sound team provide excellent clarity, presence and pleasing balance . . . Without hesitation I can place this majestic new Decca recording from Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic comfortably alongside the finest available accounts in the catalogue.
. . . this recording is superbly convincing and Bychkov gets a superb sense of romantic sweep and narrative drama from the orchestra . . . [the opening movement] is full of sweep and drama. The orchestra makes a flexible sound, fluid and powerful and there is a strong sense of narrative drama to Bychkov's pacing of the piece . . . [in the second movement] there is a real dazzle to the playing in the opening section. Later lyrical sections have a lovely delicacy and transparency to them, but there is passion too, the two weaving in and out of each other . . . [Bychkov makes the third] movement really graceful, yet still with a richly romantic feel to the drama. Finally we have Manfred's appearance at an infernal orgy, followed by the appearance of Astarte and her pardoning him. Bychkov makes this vividly dramatic, creating a terrific sense of drama and vigour in the movement. Like many others, I am not convinced by Tchaikovsky's decision to write the bacchanale/orgy as a fugue, but Bychkov makes us believe in the moment. The sound is superb, and this is a recording which really cries out to be played loudly when the neighbours are out. Bychkov's achievement with the Czech Philharmonic is that they bring out all of Tchaikovsky's seductive textures without losing a sense of propulsive drama.
In this performance, magnificently delivered by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and captured in clear yet opulent sound, Bychkov's attention to inner detail effectively enhances the work's emotional intensity . . . [Bychkov's cogent interpretation welds the] sequence of thematic reminiscences and tempo changes into a much more credible entity than is usual. Particularly illuminating is his approach to the much-maligned fugue which is shorn of its customary academic propriety, and instead manifests a kind of hell-for-leather drive akin to Berlioz.
. . . [Bychkov's new "Manfred" is] passionate and the music is played with great fervour . . . the Czech Philharmonic is in fine fettle, and it responds to the virtuoso demands of Tchaikovsky's score with panache. The recording is bright, airy, and quite detailed, with crisp biting brass and sonorous lower strings.
Bychkov étire la matière sonore, souligne tout ce qu'a de profondément noire et ténébreux, la lave orchestrale. Une immersion dans les tréfonds d'une psyché atteinte, défaite et détruite . . . [il] trouve les accents et les couleurs idoines, éclairant de l'intérieur, dans l'ombre, cette lente et inéluctable déréliction . . . . la direction de Bychkov séduit, captive, touche par sa sensibilité sans affectation . . . Semyon Bychkov se hisse à la hauteur de tous les enjeux. Ce projet Tchaikovski qui s'amorce ainsi chez DECCA, s'avère de plus en plus passionnant. Révélant, la gravité et la haute spiritualité, l'exigence morale aussi qui soustend tout l'oeuvre symphonique de Piotr Illyitch. A suivre.
Dirigée avec des tempi amples mais sans excès de rapidité ni de lenteur, l'oeuvre débute par un Lento funèbre sans surplus de pathos et pourtant bien traité dans la puissance de ses thèmes aux cordes . . . Le second mouvement Vivace con spirito présente une belle dynamique . . . ainsi qu'une gestion des équilibres parfaite . . . tandis que la prise de son rend impeccablement la qualité de l'acoustique de la magnifique salle du Rudolfinum de Prague . . . Même constat dans un Andante con moto fluide avec un retour à un rythme énergique et là encore une superbe maitrise des plans sonores . . . Ce beau coffret laisse présager d'une intégrale intéressante autant qu'intelligente . . .