Katia & Marielle Labèque (photo: Mila)

Semyon Bychkov and Katia & Marielle Labèque

In this concert, conductor Semyon Bychkov and the famous piano duo Katia and Marielle Labèque make the case for a wonderful rarity: Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos which captivates with its sparkling virtuosity and a warm, orchestral sound reminiscent of Brahms. The other works of the evening were also inspired by Brahms: Antonín Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony and Detlev Glanert’s orchestral piece Weites Land.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Katia Labèque piano

Marielle Labèque piano

Detlev Glanert

Weites Land for orchestra

Max Bruch

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, op. 88a

Katia Labèque piano, Marielle Labèque piano

Antonín Dvořák

Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 70

Dates and Tickets

Thu, 27 Sep 2018, 20:00

Philharmonie | Introduction: 19:00

Serie H

Fri, 28 Sep 2018, 20:00

Philharmonie | Introduction: 19:00

Serie M


When he was 69, Max Bruch was asked how posterity would judge the composers of his generation. Bruch’s modest and prophetic answer was: “Brahms has been dead for ten years but he is still being talked about maliciously, even among the best of music connoisseurs and critics. However, I predict that he will become more and more esteemed over time, while most of my works will gradually be forgotten. In fifty years, his splendour will shine bright as the towering composer of all time, while I will be mainly remembered only for my G minor Violin Concerto.” The unprecedented success of this work during the composer’s lifetime had long been an irritation to Bruch: “Every fortnight someone arrives and wants to play me the first concerto,” the composer once said. “Iʼve grown rude and said to them, ʻI can’t listen to this concerto any more – do you suppose I’ve only written one concerto? Just go and play the other concertos that are equally as good, if not better!ʼ ”

Katia and Marielle Labèque, for decades a dazzling star double-act on the international music scene, have taken the composer at his word and included Bruch’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestras in their repertoire. A pioneering act that makes a composer’s voice heard whose music was banned by the National Socialists around 85 years ago and has been marginalised in the concert hall ever since. The programme design of Semyon Bychkov, the husband of Marielle Labèque, does not intend to provide a direct comparison with the music of Johannes Brahms, who Bruch ungrudgingly admired. The fact that Bruch could nevertheless hold his own with his contemporaries who today are far more famous, becomes directly tangible in the second part of the concert with a performance of Antonín Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, premiered in London in 1885. With this work, the Czech composer, who could claim Brahms as a supporter, wanted at the time to “move the world”.

These Berliner Philharmoniker concerts not only invite audiences to rediscover the music of Dvořák and discover a work by Bruch for the very first time, but also the sound language of composer Detlev Glanert, born in 1960. His composition Weites Land, with which Semyon Bychkov opens the programme, has a direct relationship to Brahms, as this orchestral fantasy from 2013 is based on the beginning of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony.


Semyon Bychkov, who started his new position as music director and chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic this season, was born in Leningrad in 1952. He was a pupil of Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatoire and in 1973, he won First Prize at the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. Since leaving Russia in 1975 and moving to the USA, he has enjoyed a career taking him from New York’s Mannes College of Music to engagements for international opera productions (eg. in Milano, Paris, Vienna, London, New York, at the Salzburg Festival and Maggio Musicale in Florence), as well as concerts with some of the greatest orchestras in the world. Bychkov was appointed Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris (1989–98), Principal Guest Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic (1989–94) and of Maggio Musicale in Florence (1992–98). From the season 1997 until 2010, he was Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchesters Köln, a position he also held at the Dresden Semperoper from 1998 to 2003. He appears annually at the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Known for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has also worked closely with many contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. In recent years he has premiered works by Julian Anderson, Detlev Glanert, Thomas Larcher and Renée Staar. In the opera, Semyon Bychkov is widely recognised for his interpretation of Strauss, Wagner and Verdi. He recently conducted Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Royal Opera House and Wagner’s Parsifal at the Vienna Staatsoper. Semyon Bychkov was named 2015’s Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards. Since his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1985, stepping in for Riccardo Muti at short notice, Semyon Bychkov has returned several times for guest conducting engagements. His most recent visit was in May 2017, when he conducted works by Shostakovich and Strauss.

The sisters Katia and Marielle Labèque were born in the French Basque country and received piano lessons as children from their Italian mother, the well-known piano teacher and musician Ada Cecchi. Soon after studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, the two sisters started their careers as a piano duo. They perform regularly with orchestras such as the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Filarmonia della Scala, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Vienna Philharmonic and major US orchestras. With these orchestras, they have worked together with conductors such as Semyon Bychkov, Gustavo Dudamel, John Eliot Gardiner, Paavo Järvi, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Michael Tilson Thomas. In the 2017/2018 season, they had a residency with the Dresden Philharmonic. Their wide-ranging repertoire reaches back to the 18th century, with Katia and Marielle Labèque also performing on fortepianos with Baroque ensembles such as Il Giardino Armonico and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. However, the piano duo have also worked closely with contemporary composers such as Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Philip Glass and Olivier Messiaen. The two pianists have been guest performers with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1987 – in June 2005, for example, under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle at the end-of-season concert at the Waldbühne playing works by Poulenc and Saint-Saëns. Most recently, they performed in Nazareno by Osvaldo Golijov at a late-night concert in December 2013.

Katia & Marielle Labèque (photo: Mila)

Semyon Bychkov (photo: Musacchio & Ianniello)