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  • WDCH
  • Mar. 14, 2008
  • Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad” Featured on the Program


    Conductor Semyon Bychkov and pianist Stephen Hough make their Walt Disney Concert Hall debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Thursday and Friday, March 13 and 14, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m. The program features Rachmaninoff's virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Shostakovich's wartime Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad.”

    Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, an effervescent set of 24 variations based on Paganini’s famous Caprice in A minor, received instant audience acclaim at its November 1934 premiere with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The piece is arranged in concerto-like fashion with the first 11 variations serving as the opening movement, and the actual theme is introduced after the opening variation, making the piece appear more a free fantasia than a traditional theme-and-variations work. Variations 12 through 18 shift toward a more traditional slow movement, fully showcasing Rachmaninoff’s characteristically lush orchestration. The closing section is marked by a gradual move to larger and louder orchestration and the piano shifts gears into frenetic, passionate motion. The work closes with a deceptively joyous recapitulation of the Dies irae, initially heard in the seventh variation, followed by a nimble, elegant piano flourish that quickly fades into silence.

    Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad,” filled with equivocation, perfectly embodies the two sides of the composer’s personality – the public, careful man always aware of life under the Stalin regime and the private tragic, yet defiant man. The first three movements of the piece were composed during the summer of 1941 in the midst of the besieged city and completed after Shostakovich and his family were evacuated to Kuibyshev, the provisional Russian capital. The first movement opens with a sweeping resolute theme that plays an important role in the Symphony. Per the composer’s telling, the “invasion theme,” a protracted orchestral crescendo over an insistent rhythmic pattern, represents both the German invasion of Russia as well as the enemies of humanity. The second movement, the work’s scherzo, features extended wind solos and an unsettling rhythmic pattern in the strings and the central section includes strident sonorities and tone. The Adagio opens with a determined, chorale-like theme played by winds and has an overtly tragic tone representing the grief over the victims of the Stalinist purges during the siege. The finale brings the listener back to the “invasion” section of the first movement in its unfolding and symbolically defies those invading Russia from the outside and the inside.

    Bychkov's career since leaving St. Petersburg in 1975 has taken him across the globe, conducting some of the greatest orchestras in the United States, Europe and the former Soviet Union. Now living in France, he is Chief Conductor of WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln. Bychkov was appointed music director of l'Orchestre de Paris in 1989; principal guest conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in 1990; principal guest conductor of Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1992; and chief conductor of the Dresden Semperoper in 1997.

    Hough, since winning first prize in the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1983, has performed with most of the major American and European orchestras, regularly plays recitals in the major halls all over the world, and is a frequent guest at many international festivals. His live recordings of the complete works for piano and orchestra of Rachmaninoff for Hyperion won Gramophone’s 2004 Editor’s Choice Award.

    Upbeat Live pre-concert events take place in BP Hall one hour prior to each concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and are free to all ticket holders. Christopher Russell, on the faculty at CSU Fullerton and Azusa Pacific University, and Director of Instrumental Music at Orange County High School of the Arts, hosts.

    A series of high-profile substitutions in 1984 first brought conductor SEMYON BYCHKOV's name to international attention, but concerts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the New York and Berlin Philharmonics, followed by an exclusive recording contract with Philips Classics confirmed his credentials. In addition to frequent performances in WDR Sinfonieorchester’s home city of Cologne, Bychkov has increased the Orchestra’s touring commitments and embarked on a series of recordings which are a testament to the depth of their continually developing relationship. Concerts with the Orchestra are regularly broadcast on radio and television throughout Germany and to mark the 50th anniversary of WDR, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 was broadcast live on prime-time television. Over the last nine years, Bychkov has toured regularly with the Orchestra, traveling annually in Germany and Spain, as well as visiting the United States, Japan, South America, Austria, the former Soviet Union, France, Italy, Hungary and the UK, and recently making their inaugural tour of China. Adding to the body of symphonic works that Bychkov and the Orchestra have released with Avie - Strauss Ein Heldenleben and Metamorphosen; Mahler (Symphony No. 3); Shostakovich (Symphonies Nos. 4, 7, 8 and 11); and the complete cycle of Brahms’ Symphonies – Bychkov and WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln have realised two new Strauss opera recordings: Daphne with Renée Fleming in the title role (Decca) and Elektra with Deborah Polaski (Profil, Edition Günter Hänssler). The Brahms symphonies have also been released on DVD by Arthaus. In the 2007/08 season, Bychkov’s 10th as Chief Conductor of WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, he and the orchestra are marking their collaboration with performances – and a recording – of Verdi’s Requiem with soloists Violeta Urmana, Olga Borodina, Ramón Vargas and Ferruccio Furlanetto, as well as an extensive European tour. Between touring engagements, Bychkov appeared as guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. Also this season, Bychkov is conducting Verdi’s Otello at the Met and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde on tour in Japan for the Paris Opera. He is also conducting performances and a recording of Wagner’s Lohengrin with his own orchestra in Cologne. Symphonic engagements in the latter part of the season include performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sinfonieorchester des Bayerische Rundfunk, and Filharmonica della Scala, as well as frequent concerts in Cologne.

    STEPHEN HOUGH is widely regarded as one of the most important and distinctive pianists of his generation. From highly acclaimed performances of the central repertoire in recital, in recording, and with the world's greatest orchestras to an interest in contemporary and neglected 19th century works, he integrates the imagination and pianistic color of the past with the scholarship and intellectual rigor of the present, illuminating the very essence of the music he plays. He was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2001 in recognition of his achievements, joining prominent scientists, writers and others who have made unique contributions to contemporary life. And in December 2007, the Northwestern University School of Music announced that Hough was chosen to be the second recipient of the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance. Since winning first prize in the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1983, Hough has appeared with most of the major American and European orchestras and plays recitals regularly in the major halls and concert series around the world. He is also a guest at prestigious festivals throughout the world. During the 2007/08 season, Hough returns to the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Chicago, National, New World and Houston symphonies; tours the U.S. with the Russian National Orchestra lead by Vladimir Jurowski with performances in San Francisco, Seattle and Lincoln Center among others; and plays recitals in Carnegie's Zankel Hall and at Aspen and the International Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Highlights of his international appearances include performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Orchestra National, recitals in London and Paris and an extensive recital tour in Australia. Hough is a Hyperion recording artist and many in his catalogue of over 40 CDs have garnered international prizes. Recordings of concertos by Rachmaninoff, Saint-Säens, Hummel, Scharwenka and Sauer, Mompou's solo piano music and two Liszt's recitals have won multiple awards, from Gramophone Magazine (seven awards including 'Record of the Year' in 1996 and 2003), Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d'Or, Monde de la Musique, as well as several Grammy nominations. His 2005 live recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos with the Dallas Symphony and Andrew Litton became the fastest selling recording in Hyperion's history, while his 1987 recording of Hummel concertos is Chandos' best-selling disc to date. His most recent release is Stephen Hough's Spanish Album. As a testament to his strong commitment to performing and promoting contemporary music, Hough frequently works with composers such as George Tsontakis, Lowell Liebermann and James MacMillan, who have written, or will write, newly commissioned concertos for him. As a chamber musician, Hough has collaborated with many artists and friends including Steven Isserlis, Joshua Bell, Tabea Zimmermann and Michael Collins as well as with the Emerson, Takacs and Juilliard String Quartets and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. A resident of London, Hough is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester.

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, under Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, presents the finest in orchestral and chamber music, recitals, new music, jazz, world music and holiday concerts at two of the most remarkable places anywhere to experience music — Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition to a 30-week winter subscription season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the LA Phil presents a 12-week summer festival at the legendary Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the Association’s involvement with Los Angeles extends to educational programs, community concerts and children's programming, ever seeking to provide inspiration and delight to the broadest possible audience.


    THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2008, at 8 PM

    FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2008, at 8 PM

    SATURDAY, MARCH 15, 2008, at 2 PM

    WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL, 111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles


    SEMYON BYCHKOV, conductor

    STEPHEN HOUGH, piano

    RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

    SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad”

    Upbeat Live pre-concert events take place in Walt Disney Concert Hall’s BP Hall one hour prior to each concert, and are free to all ticket holders. Christopher Russell, on the faculty at CSU Fullerton and Azusa Pacific University, and Director of Instrumental Music at Orange County High School of the Arts, hosts.

    Tickets ($40 - $142) are on sale now online at, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office, or via credit card phone order at 323.850.2000. When available, choral bench seats ($15) are released for sale to selected Philharmonic, Colburn Celebrity Recital, and Baroque Variations performances two weeks prior to the concert. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full-time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 10 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For information, please call 323.850.2000.

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  • Contact:

    Adam Crane, 213.972.3422,; Photos: 213.972.3034