Semyon Bychkov leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program that includes a Bruch Concerto that was rescued from obscurity — and overzealous editing — in the 1970s. It’s for two piano soloists, played here by the Labèque Sisters, Katia and Marielle (who is married to Bychkov.) Also on the program is an overture by Taneyev, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, the ‘Little Russian.’
There’s more information at the San Francisco Symphony website.
The concerto had to wait a long time before it was performed the way it was written. “Two sisters, American pianists, asked Bruch to write it for them,” Bychkov says. “He did, they got the score, then they did a lot of re-editing, cutting things out. It’s pianistically very very difficult. And probably some of it was just technically very hard for them.” Those two sisters were the nieces of Adolph Sutro, the one-time mayor of San Francisco. They not only made those changes without telling Bruch, but they copyrighted their edits. They gave two performances of the edited version, in Philadelphia with Stokowski, and then with the New York Philharmonic, in the early years of the 20th Century. After the second sister died, the original score was discovered. “The piece was in fact not played, until I think 1970s, when it was finally performed. But it remains one of those pieces that most people don’t know it actually exists.” It doesn’t have the audience that Bruch’s violin concerto does, but has his stamp of genius. “It’s different from what one expects from a concerto because the pianos are very much integrated into the orchestral texture. It’s a rather symphonic piece with two pianos than a piano concerto with orchestra. There is a lot of beauty in the piece. It’s very… in a strange way, Schumannesque, Mendelssohnian, slightly Brahmsian.” Bychkov recorded the piece with the Labèque sisters in the 1970s, and was reminded of its merits when he stumbled across their recording on YouTube. They’ve played it in multiple cities this season.