Semyon Bychkov, we hardly knew ye!
It's true. The hotshot young conductor who thrilled Michigan audiences when he was the music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony and the rising young conductor who thrilled world audiences when he was on the Philips label has faded from the scene along with most of the other young hotshots of his generation, consigned to the great cutout bin in the sky.
But now, after more than a decade, Bychkov is back. And, fittingly, he's back with Shostakovich. It was Bychkov's recording of the Fifth with the Berlin Philharmonic that first put him on the international map and now he's back with a recording of the Eighth with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln.
How is it? Fair to middling. With his breakneck tempos and gargantuan climaxes, Bychkov is as much a hotshot as ever. But without the Berlin Philharmonic backing him up, Bychkov sounds more shot than hot. Too often, Bychkov's tempos go off the rails and too often his climaxes collapse into bombast. It's not the that Köln orchestra can't play the music; it's that it can't quite follow Bychkov and the result is a fast and loud mediocrity. Avie's sound is really really really really loud.