Bumps and Bychkov at MPhil

Semyon Bychkov in 2013 in London

By ANDREW POWELL
Published: June 25, 2015

MUNICH — Nearing the end of a rough transitional season, the Munich Philharmonic sounded confident and poised Monday (June 22) in its Gasteig home. Semyon Bychkov’s authoritative presence may have helped. With wide gestures he propelled the musicians grandly through Brahms’s Third Symphony (1883), stressing contrasts and drama in the outer movements. Fine wind playing, not least from principal horn Jörg Brückner, complimented the score’s textures. Bychkov took a leisurely, weighty approach to both middle movements, observing their dynamic markings with obvious care. Ravel’s G-Major Piano Concerto (1931) after the break found everyone on less sure footing, however, despite this being the program’s third iteration. Jean-Yves Thibaudet gave a dull and woolly account of the solo part, and orchestra ensemble weakened. The concert remained in French mode for its conclusion, Debussy’s La Mer (1905), which this listener alas had to miss.


Lorin Maazel’s sudden resignation a year ago forced MPhil managers into a recasting of 2014–15, and some feeble programs. Then, midseason, came worse news. An irksome pact between Munich’s Bürgermeister Dieter Reiter and Bavaria’s Minister-Präsident Horst Seehofer nixed plans for a needed new concert hall to replace the Gasteig and instead envisioned a joyously slow disemboweling and inner rearrangement of it that would leave the MPhil homeless for years, starting in 2020. The pact sent Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Gerhaher and Mariss Jansons into public displays of betrayal, rage and frustration, respectively, but the managers could not whine so loudly because the city owns the orchestra. Finally, a week behind everyone else, including the testy Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, they emitted six splendid bureaucratic paragraphs saying absolutely nothing. Tomorrow the MPhil and Bychkov perform in the Pala de Andrè as guests of the Ravenna Festival. The season closes after that with concerts here led by Kent Nagano and Krzysztof Urbański. But in September more headaches loom when Valery Gergiev takes over as Chefdirigent. Systems are supposedly in place to prevent the skimpiness of preparation associated with the new boss; the political challenges will be tougher.

Photo © Chris Christodoulou

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