This concert takes us from the West to Eastern Europe with works by Ravel, Brahms and Bartók, presented by conductor Semyon Bychkov and violist Tabea Zimmermann. All three of this evening’s works are conceptually most intriguing. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, for example, is characterised by a playful use of Baroque dance music with an underlying mood which, at the same time, is melancholic. Brahms’ Second Symphony, on the other hand, enchants with its cheerful mood – yet, below its idyllic surface, a highly complex texture is revealed, which is why the composer himself described the work as a “lovely monster”. Finally, there is Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto, where the virtuoso solo part brings to the centre of attention an instrument whose contribution to the whole is normally made from the body of the orchestra, a contribution which is not infrequently underestimated.
At the time of this concert, Semyon Bychkov had been appearing with the Berliner Philharmoniker for almost a quarter of a century. Eastern European works in particular had played a significant role in this partnership, plus German Classicism and Romanticism and the occasional French piece, including works by Poulenc and Berlioz. In this respect, it was quite a representative programme Bychkov conducted in this concert. In the Bartók concerto, the soloist was violist Tabea Zimmermann who made her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker with the same work in 1992. One critic wrote about this new performance: “She plays the concerto with a tender cantabile as if it were by Mozart, showing Bartók’s melodic voice but also some wonderful quiet moments.”