Maestro Semyon Bychkov breaks silence on Israel–Hamas war

Semyon Bychkov, chief conductor and artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic, who made his Korean debut on Tuesday, condemned Hamas' recent attack on Israel as an act of terrorism, breaking his silence on the ongoing Israel–Hamas war, during a press meeting in Seoul on Monday,

"I have stayed silent since that war started. Why my silence? Because it is very different from the one between the aggression of Russia against Ukraine," said Bychkov, who was born in Soviet Russia to a Jewish family, adding, "Anything that anyone says will always be understood in one way but not the complexity of this. One of the most important things is that we must have compassion and empathy for other people."

The 70-year-old, who also denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 in a public statement, called Hamas' attack on Israel an act of terrorism.

"Right now the emotion on both sites is so powerful that we are not able to separate what happened two weeks ago from what has been happening for such a long time and yet we must because what happened two weeks ago is not acceptable and that has to be dealt with right now," he said.

"But the history cannot go on like this. ... I am naturally in favor of a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians have their homeland, but both have to accept the existence of each other," he said. "And if one does not accept it, it cannot work. And this is why it has not been achieved until now."

When asked about the role of music in a war-torn situation like this, he said, "Music cannot change the road. If it could, it would have already."

"But what music does at the moment, when we are with great music, it does something to us inside at that moment and I always wish that that moment continues after the performance finishes," he added.

Following the Seoul performance, the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Bychkov will perform an all-Dvorak program at the Daegu Concert House on Wednesday.

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