The St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

The history of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra – according to The Guardian’s definition, «one of the greatest and most exciting orchestras in the world» – began in 1882, when Alexander III had decreed the establishment of the Imperial Music Choir. Transformed into the Court Orchestra at the beginning of the 20th century, for the first time in Russia, the orchestra performed the symphonic poem «Ein Heldenleben» and «Thus spake Zarathustra» by R.Strauss, Mahler's First Symphony and Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, Scriabin's «Poem of Ecstasy», and Stravinsky’s First Symphony.

A.Nikish and R.Strauss conducted the orchestra as well as A.Glazunov, who dedicated the «Festival Overture» to the orchestra. In 1917, the Court Orchestra became the State Orchestra and was headed by S.Koussevitzky. In 1921, the orchestra was incorporated into the newly founded Petrograd Philharmonia, the first of its kind in the country. The unprecedented in scale activities of the orchestra drew a new and sometimes far from the classical music audience to its Grand Hall. Outstanding Russian musicians underwent a rigorous test of their conducting skills with the orchestra. Such legendary Western conductors as B.Walter, F.Weingartner, G.Abendroth, O.Fried, E.Kleiber, P.Monteux, and O.Klemperer; soloists V.Horowitz and S.Prokofiev, performed with the orchestra. The orchestra mastered a vast contemporary repertoire. In 1918, it presented the premiere of Prokofiev’s «Classical Symphony», in 1926 – Shostakovich’s First Symphony.

1938 ushered in a half-century of the «Age of Mravinsky» — years of hard work, which earned the orchestra a place among the most prominent orchestras of the world. In 1946, the orchestra embarked on its first foreign trip – and gave the first overseas performance in the country’s symphonic performance history. This was followed by regular tours around the world, performing at the most prestigious European festivals. A unique and creative alliance formed between D.Shostakovich and E.Mravinsky, to whom the composer dedicated the Eighth Symphony. The conductor and the orchestra performed five Shostakovich's symphonies for the first time. Alternating as the second conductor of the orchestra were K.Sanderling, A.Jansons and M.Jansons; at the podium were L.Stokowsky, L.Maazel, Z.Mehta, K.Mazur, E.Svetlanov, G.Rozhdestvensky; composers: B.Britten, A.Copland, Z.Kodaly, W.Lutoslawski, L.Berio, K.Penderecki, and soloists: V.Cliburn, G.Gould, A.Benedetti Michelangeli, I.Stern, S.Richter, E.Gilels, D.Oistrakh, L.Kogan, E.Virsaladze, G.Sokolov, V.Tretyakov, N.Gutman, and V.Spivakov.

Since 1988, Yuri Temirkanov has led the orchestra. Recently, the orchestra has been ranked in the top twenty orchestras in the world (according to Gramophone magazine), has participated in the most prestigious music festivals, added to its resume the season opening of Carnegie Hall and performed the premieres (world, Russian) of the works by Penderecki, Nono, Shchedrin, Tishchenko, and Slonimsky.

The plans for 2016/2017 Season include collaboration with such conductors as M.Janowski, M.Venzago, J. -C.Casadesus, I.Marin, V.Sinaisky, T.Sanderling, and soloists: D.Matsuev, R.Buchbinder, N.Lugansky, K.Gerstein, J.Fischer, S.Khachatryan, A.Kniazev, N.Kutcher, among others.

© International Rostropovich Festival “Mstislav Rostropovich Week”, 2010 — 2021