Semyon Bychkov (conductor)

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Semyon Bychkov during a performance

Semyon Mayevich Bychkov (Russian: Семён Маевич Бычков, Russian pronunciation: [sʲɪˈmʲɵn ˈmaɪvʲɪtɕ bɨtɕˈkof]; born November 30, 1952) is a Soviet-born conductor.


Childhood and studies in Russia[edit]

Bychkov was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) to Jewish parents. His younger brother was Yakov Kreizberg, also a conductor. Bychkov studied at the Glinka Choir School for ten years before moving to the Leningrad Conservatory where he was a student of Ilya Musin.[1] While at the Conservatory, Bychkov played volleyball for the Leningrad Dynamos.[1] In 1973 he won the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition, but was denied the usual prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic by the authorities after he applied for an exit visa.[2] His family had suffered from official antisemitism[1] and after expressing views critical of the Soviet regime he decided to leave the country in 1974, going first to Vienna with only $100 in funds.[2]

Studies and career in the United States[edit]

In 1975,[1] at age 22, he left Vienna and emigrated to the United States.[2] Bychkov attended and graduated the Mannes School of Music then becoming the director of the Mannes College Orchestra.[1] From 1980 to 1985, Semyon Bychkov served as music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and through his Mannes connection with fellow alumnus Julius Rudel became principal guest conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Again through his connection with Rudel, Bychkov made his debut conducting Carmen at the New York City Opera on September 30, 1981[3] (the run of 6 performances were his only appearances with that company). On 4 July 1983, he became a United States citizen.[4] In 1985, he became music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and held that post until 1989. During his time in Grand Rapids and Buffalo, Bychkov came to international attention. Following a series of high-profile cancellations in 1984 and 1985 that resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.[5][6] He was subsequently signed to a 10-year recording contract with Philips Classics Records, and made his debut recording conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.[4][7][8]

Career in Europe[edit]

From 1989 to 1998, Bychkov was music director of the Orchestre de Paris. He became Principal Guest Conductor of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990, principal guest conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1992, chief conductor of Dresden's Semperoper in 1998 and chief conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in 1997.[9] He remained in Cologne until 2010, during which time he made a series of recordings including Brahms' Symphonies No. 1–4, Shostakovich's Symphonies Nos. 4, 7, 8, 10 and 11, Mahler's Symphony No. 3, Rachmaninov's The Bells and Symphonic Dances, Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben and Eine Alpensinfonie, Verdi's Requiem, as well as Strauss' Elektra, Daphne and Wagner's Lohengrin which won BBC Music Magazine's Record of the Year 2010.

Bychkov made his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2003 with a new production of Elektra, and returned later that year to conduct Boris Godunov. In 2012, he assumed the newly created Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a post specially created for him. He holds the Otto Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

In 2013, Bychkov first guest-conducted the Czech Philharmonic. With the orchestra, Bychkov is director of its Tchaikovsky Project. In October 2017, the Czech Philharmonic announced the appointment of Bychkov as its next chief conductor and music director, effective with the 2018-2019 season.[10] In September 2022, the Czech Philharmonic announced the extension of Bychkov's contract through 2028.[11]

Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards in 2015.[1][12] He became an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music (Hon RAM) in 2015[13] and received from the same institution an Honorary Doctorate of the University of London (Hon DMus) in 2022.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Bychkov is married to the pianist Marielle Labèque, his second wife, and they live together on the Côte Basque French Basque country.[15]

Selected discography[edit]

Album Ensemble/Soloists Label Date
WAGNER - Lohengrin Johan Botha, Adrianne Pieczonka, Petra Lang, Kwangchul Youn, Falk Struckmann, Eike Wilm Schulte, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, NDR Chor, Prager Kammerchor, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE 2010 DISC OF THE YEAR PROFIL, EDITION GÜNTER HÄNSSLER PH 09004 2009
RICHARD STRAUSS - Ein Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche[16] WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne PROFIL, EDITION GÜNTER HÄNSSLER PH 09065 2009
VERDI - Messa da Requiem[17] Violeta Urmana, Olga Borodina, Ramón Vargas, Ferruccio Furlanetto, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, NDR Chor, Chor des Teatro Regio Turin, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne PROFIL, EDITION GÜNTER HÄNSSLER PH08036 2008
RACHMANINOV - The Bells, Symphonic Dances Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Evgeny Akimov, Vladimir Vaneev

WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, Lege Artis Chamber Choir, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne

RICHARD STRAUSS - Elektra[18] Felicity Palmer, Deborah Polaski, Anne Schwanewilms, Graham Clark, Franz Grundheber

WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne

SHOSTAKOVICH - Symphony No. 10, GLANERT - Theatrum bestiarum WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne AVIE AV 2137 2007
Mahler: Symphony No. 4 The Czech Philharmonic, Chen Reiss Pentatone 2022
Mahler: Symphony No. 5 The Czech Philharmonic Pentatone 2022


  1. ^ a b c d e f Duchen, Jessica (25 March 2010). "Interview: Semyon Bychkov". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Wroe, Nicholas (22 November 2012). "Semyon Bychkov: beating time". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  3. ^ Donal Henahan, "City Opera: Patricia Miller as Carmen," New York Times (Oct. 2, 1981).
  4. ^ a b Anne Midgette (22 January 2004). "For a Russian Masterpiece, A Russian-Born Maestro". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  5. ^ "Kubelik Out Of Concerts". New York Times. 1984-02-29. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  6. ^ James Barron (1986-02-23). "The Music World Is Watching Him". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  7. ^ Royal Academy of Music website: Klemperer Chair of Conducting Studies
  8. ^ Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov, Philips, Gramophone Magazine Online, March 1987[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Terry Grimley (1 January 2009). "Semyon Bychkov: Eclectic Dreams". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  10. ^ Martin Cullingford (2017-10-16). "Semyon Bychkov to take top job at Czech Philharmonic". Gramophone. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  11. ^ "Šéfdirigent Semjon Byčkov prodlužuje smlouvu s Českou filharmonií" (Press release). Czech Philharmonic. 28 September 2022. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  12. ^ "News - New Staff Members" (Press release). Royal Academy of Music. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
  13. ^ "Honours". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  14. ^ "Royal Academy of Music Graduation Ceremony 2022". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 2022-09-07.
  15. ^ Fox, Sue. "Relative Values: Semyon Bychkov, conductor, and his wife, Marielle Labèque, pianist". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  16. ^ BBC Music Magazine online - Review: Strauss - Eine Alpensinfonie & Till Eulenspiegels [1]
  17. ^ BBC Music Magazine online - Review: Verdi, Requiem
  18. ^ BBC Music Magazine - Review: Elektra

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Conductor, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne
Succeeded by