Mahler’s Fourth Symphony has been on Semyon Bychkov’s radar for some time, as recent performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestra demonstrate. This collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic is a thing of sweetly scented, gossamer beauty that weaves the interplay of childhood innocence and adult experience into something altogether sublime.
That this is the first instalment in a projected Mahler symphony cycle from Bychkov, a conductor with an unimpeachable feel for exquisitely proportioned, emotionally acute interpretations, bodes more than well for what is to follow. It carries itself with the invigorating sense that he ‘gets’ Mahler in all his contrary multitudes and is hungry for more.
It’s second time around for the Czech orchestra following its still admired Supraphon cycle with Václav Neumann in the 1980s. Here, Bychkov refuses the bombast that others mistake for directness, choosing instead to err on the side of poetry. In that, he is well served by his Czech forces who relish connecting with a composer born in its Bohemian heartland and who imbibed the lilting lyricism of its folksong tradition as a child.
And yet also present,...