The history of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra began with the decree of Alexander III dated 16 July 1882, which initiated the creation of the Court Choir.
Transformed into the Court Orchestra at the beginning of the XX century, for the first time in Russia, the orchestra performed the symphonic poems “Ein Heidenleben“ and “Also sprach Zarathustra“ by Richard 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, given the hall of the former Noble Assembly at its disposal, opened the country’s first Philharmonia. The unprecedented in scale activities of the orchestra drew a new and sometimes far removed from 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”, and in 1926 – Shostakovich’s First Symphony.
In 1934, the orchestra – the first in the country – was awarded the title Honoured Ensemble of Russia. 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 its 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 devoted the Eighth Symphony. The conductor and the orchestra performed five Shostakovich’s symphonies for the first time. In fact, a tradition of an original interpretation of famous scores was born. Music of the twentieth century as a whole assumed a significant role in the orchestra’s repertoire. Alternating as the second conductor of the orchestra were K.Sanderling, A.Jansons and M.Jansons; at the podium were L.Stokowski, L.Maazel, Z.Mehta, K.Masur, E.Svetlanov, G.Rozhdestvensky and 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, E.Virsaladze, N.Petrov, G.Sokolov, V.Tretyakov, L. Kogan, N.Gutman, V.Krainev, V.Spivakov, and A.Lyubimov.
Since 1988, Yuri Temirkanov has headed the orchestra. The repertoire of the orchestra is constantly being updated with new, including modern works. Over the last few years they have included the Russian premieres of: “Il canto sospeso” by Nono, the First Symphony “The Triumph of Heaven” and the fantasy “Wunderbare Leiden” by Borisova-Ollas, Nocturne “Sur le meme accord” by Dutilleux, and Concerto for piano and orchestra “Century Rolls” by Adams, as well as others.
Just during the 2016/2017 season, the orchestra’s busy touring activities included concerts at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and Musikverein, the Kennedy Center and the San Carlo Theatre, the Berlin, Munich and Hamburg Philharmonias, the Dublin Concert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in London, Brucknerhaus in Linz, the City Hall of Leeds and the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The orchestra took part in such festivals as: “Stars at Lake Baikal” in Irkutsk, the VIII Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival in Moscow and the IX Mstislav Rostropovich International Festival in Baku, the summer festivals in Ravenna and Ljubljana, the music festivals “Schleswig-Holstein” and “Grafenegg”. During this season, the orchestra has planned tours in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and France.
The orchestra’s St Petersburg poster shows there is an evening dedicated to Rodion Shchedrin, commemorating the composer’s 85th anniversary and monographic concerts with the music of Shostakovich and Beethoven, Verdi’s Requiem and violin concertos by Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, Hindemith’s symphony “Mathis der Maler” and Respighi’s “Vetrate di chiesa” (within the framework of the joint cycle of the Grand Hall of the Philharmonia and the State Hermitage), rarely performed Prokofiev’s cantatas “To the 20th Anniversary of October” and “Seven of Them”, as well as Janaček’s “Glagolitic Mass”, Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra and “Hypothetically Murdered” by Shostakovich.
Behind the orchestral podium there will be such invited conductors as: Ch.Dutoit and M.Venzago (Switzerland), I.Metzmacher and M.Jurowski (Germany), A.Wit and J.Kaspszyk (Poland) and I.Marin (Austria), J.-C.Casadesus (France), V.Sinaisky, J.Nelson (USA), J.Hirokami (Japan) and J.Domarkas (Lithuania). Performing with the orchestra will be: N.Lugansky, V.Rudenko, M.Kultyshev, J.Rachlin, S.Khachatryan, S.Shoji, S.Dogadin, A.Rudin, A.Buzlov, A.Ramm, F.Meli, R.Vargas and many others.
Yuri Temirkanov, Artistic Director and Conductor
Since 1988 Yuri Temirkanov has been the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he regularly undertakes major international tours and recordings.
Born in the Caucasus city of Nal’chik, Yuri Temirkanov began his musical studies at the age of nine. When he was thirteen, he attended the Leningrad School for Talented Children where he continued his studies in violin and viola. Upon graduation, he attended the Leningrad Conservatory where he completed his studies in viola and later returned to study conducting, graduating in 1965. After winning the prestigious All-Soviet National Conducting Competition in 1966, Yuri Temirkanov was invited by Kirill Kondrashin to tour Europe and the United States with legendary violinist David Oistrakh and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yuri Temirkanov made his debut with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the Leningrad Philharmonic) in early 1967 and was then invited to join the orchestra as Assistant Conductor to Yevgeny Mravinsky. In 1968, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra where he remained until his appointment as Music Director of the Kirov Opera and Ballet (now the Mariinsky Theatre) in 1976. He remained in this position until 1988 and his productions of Eugene Onegin and Queen of Spades have become legendary in the theatre’s history.
Maestro Temirkanov has appeared with leading European orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome and La Scala, Milan and others.
After making his London debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1977, he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor, and then in 1992 named Principal Conductor, a position he held until 1998. From 1992 to 1997 he was also the Principal Guest Conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and from 1998 to 2008 Principal Guest Conductor of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. A regular visitor to the USA, he conducts the major orchestras of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He was the Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 2000 till 2006, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre until 2009. In 2010 – 2012, he was Music Director of Teatro Regio di Parma.
His numerous recordings include collaborations with the St Petersburg Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestras, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he recorded the complete Stravinsky ballets and Tchaikovsky symphonies.
For twelve days over the Christmas holiday, Maestro Temirkanov hosts the annual International Winter Festival Arts Square in St Petersburg, Russia. Unique in its concept, the festival gathers artists of the highest caliber, confirming the status of St. Petersburg as one of the cultural capitals of Europe. The 15th festival in December 2014 featured Jonas Kaufmann, Ian Bostridge, Olga Peretyatko and Christian Blackshaw, among others.
Maestro Temirkanov has received many distinguished awards in Russia. He has been awarded the Order “For Merit for the Country” of all the four degrees (1998, 2003, 2008, 2013). In 2003 and 2007, he received the Abbiati Prize for Best Conductor, and in 2003 was named Conductor of the Year in Italy. Recently, he was made an Honorary Academician of Santa Cecilia. In 2012 he was awarded “The Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy”, in 2014 the Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Prize, and in 2015 the “Order of the Rising Sun” (Japan) and “Una vita nella musica” Prize (Italy). In November 2015, Yuri Temirkanov was made the Honorary Conductor of the Academia Santa Cecilia Choir and Orchestra.