The Mariinsky Orchestra

Orchestra

Biography



“Gergiev carries a disproportionately large portion of the contemporary music world on his shoulders. Under his command, the Mariinsky Theatre has emerged as one of the world’s most respected (and recorded) opera companies.”
The New Yorker (1998)

“As the star conductor he undoubtedly is, Gergiev is one of those conjurors of sounds who can draw the audience to them in such a way that it feels the earth move.”
Bцblinger Bote (2000)

“We all admire Valery Gergiev for his truly inspirational performances which, together with his unbelievable energy, passion for the music and wonderful amicable qualities have taken him to great heights of performing in the world of music.”
The Guardian (2005)


has turned the Mariinsky Theatre with its centuries-old traditions into the world’s most dynamic opera and ballet company, nurturing an endless stream of brilliant singers and dancers. The maestro fully deserves his rating by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world today.
The Times (2010)


Valery Gergiev graduated from the Leningrad State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in symphony conducting under Professor Ilya Musin. At the age of twenty-three he won the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin and, while still a student at the Conservatoire, was invited to join the Kirov Theatre (now the Mariinsky). At the age of thirty-five, Valery Gergiev was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Company, and since 1996 he has been Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre.
At the Mariinsky Theatre Gergiev has overseen the emergence of a plethora of world-class singers. Under his direction, the theatre’s opera and ballet repertoire has expanded significantly. Today it encompasses a broad range of works from 18th to 20th century classical masterpieces to works by contemporary composers.
Highlights include performances of every opera by Prokofiev and Shostakovich at the Mariinsky Theatre, as well as the return of Wagner’s operas Lohengrin, Parsifal, Der Fliegende Hollдnder and Tristan und Isolde to the St Petersburg stage. For the first time in the history of Russian theatre, Gergiev staged a production of Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in the original German (2003), the Western European premiere of which in Baden-Baden (2004) was feted by the German media as a truly historic event in world music. In June 2005 Der Ring des Nibelungen was performed to great acclaim in Moscow, and later in South Korea and Japan. In the 2006 - 2007 season, Wagner’s tetralogy was performed in the USA, Great Britain and Spain. In 2009 Gergiev oversaw an international production of Berlioz’ operatic duologue Les Troyens, which resulted in a series of concert performances of this work by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Chorus and soloists in Russia, Israel and the USA.

Gergiev has established and directs such international festivals as the Gergiev Festival (the Netherlands), the Moscow Easter Festival and the Stars of the White Nights festival (St Petersburg), which Austria’s respected Festspiele Magazin listed as one of the world’s ten greatest festivals.

Thanks to Valery Gergiev’s efforts, the Concert Hall was built in 2006, which has significantly broadened the repertoire possibilities of the company and the orchestra. This stunning theatre and concert complex is remarkable for its outstanding acoustics. At the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre there are not only performances of operas and philharmonic programmes, but also recordings of works for the Mariinsky label, established on the initiative of Valery Gergiev in 2009. The Mariinsky label has already released sixteen discs that have received great public and critical acclaim. In 2010 a recording of the opera The Nose ? the label’s first project ? received a MIDEM Classical Award.

The maestro devotes much attention to programmes for children and young people and he has revived the practice of offering subscriptions for this audience group as well as gratis concerts for students.

Valery Gergiev is also well-known for his active role in the protection of humanistic ideals. The maestro initiated the worldwide series of charitable concerts Beslan: Music for Life that were held in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Rome and Moscow. In August 2008 the maestro conducted a requiem concert in front of the ruined Government House of South Ossetia in Tskhinval.

Since 2007 Valery Gergiev has been Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and he also collaborates with the Metropolitan Opera, the Wiener Philharmoniker, the orchestra of La Scala and the New York and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras. He is a member of the Council for Culture and Art of the President of the Russian Federation and headed the Organisational Committee of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition.

In February 2010 the Academic Council of the St Petersburg State University elected Valery Gergiev Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

For his services to music and to society, Valery Gergiev has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes. These include the title of People’s Artist of Russia (1996), the State Prize of Russia (1994 and 1999), Government awards of Germany (Bundestverdienstkreuz, first class, “For Services”), Italy (Grand’ufficiale dell’Ordine al merito), France (L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), the Netherlands (Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion), Japan (Order of the Rising Sun), Poland (Gloria Artis Gold Medal), the honorary title UNESCO Artist of the World and the Polar Music Prize of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music. In December 2008 the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev was included in a list of the world’s top twenty ensembles published by Gramophone magazine. Of the three Russian orchestras included in the list, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra was ranked highest. In 2009 Great Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Society named Valery Gergiev “Conductor of the Year”. One of the maestro’s most recent awards was Europe’s Glashüte Original Music Festival Prize (2010) which he received for his support of talented young musicians. In 2011 Valery Gergiev was made Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival. In November 2011 respected French magazine Classica named him “Artist of the Year.”



The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre enjoys a long and distinguished history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia. Founded in the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great, it was known before the revolution as the Russian Imperial Opera Orchestra. Housed in St Petersburg?s famed Mariinsky Theatre (named after Maria, the wife of Czar Alexander II) since 1860, the Orchestra entered its true "golden age" during the second half of the 19th century under the music direction of Eduard Napravnik (1839?1916). Napravnik single-handedly ruled the Imperial Theatre for more than half a century (from 1863?1916) and under his leadership, the Mariinsky Orchestra was recognized as one of the finest in Europe. He also trained a generation of outstanding conductors, developing what came to be known as "the Russian school of conducting."
The Mariinsky Theatre was also the birthplace of numerous operas and ballets which are meanwhile regarded as masterpieces of the 19th and 20th century. World premiere performances include Glinka's A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Lyudmila, Borodin's Prince Igor, Musorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov, The Snow Maiden and Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, Iolanta, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty, Prokofiev's The Duenna, as well as operas by Shostakovich and ballets by Khachaturian.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was closely associated with the Mariinsky Theatre, not only conducting the orchestra but also premiering his Fifth Symphony there, as well as the fantasy overture Hamlet and the Sixth Symphony. Sergey Rakhmaninov conducted the Orchestra on numerous occasions, including premieres of his Spring Cantata and the symphonic poem The Bells. The Orchestra also premiered the music of the young Igor Stravinsky, such as his Scherzo Fantastique and the suite from The Firebird ballet.
Throughout its history, the Mariinsky Theatre has presented works by Europe's leading opera composers. In 1862, Verdi's La forza del destino was given its world premiere at the theatre in the presence of the composer. Wagner was a favorite at the Mariinsky Theatre, where his operas were frequently performed from the 19th through the beginning of the 20th century, including the first Russian performances of the complete Ring cycle, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger and Parsifal.
The Mariinsky Orchestra also gave the first Russian performances of Richard Strauss' Elektra, Salome and Der Rosenkavalier, and Berg's Wozzeck in a production that took place two years after its world premiere in Berlin and twenty years before its premiere in Vienna.
By 1917 the orchestra's name had changed to the Royal Imperial Theatre Orchestra, and was regarded as St Petersburg's leading symphony orchestra. Its repertoire ? operatic and orchestral ? has traditionally included not only music of Russian composers, but also of European composers. Numerous internationally famous musicians conducted the Orchestra, among them Hans von Bulow, Felix Mottl, Felix Weingartner, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Otto Nikisch, Willem Mengelberg, Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter and Erich Kleiber.
On two occasions, in 1847 and 1867, Hector Berlioz conducted performances of his own works, including The Damnation of Faust, Romeo and Juliet, Symphony Fantastique and Harold in Italy. Berlioz wrote in his memoirs "Such an orchestra! Such precision! Such an ensemble!". And in a letter dated December 1867, he stated: "I don't think Beethoven ever had a better performance of his compositions!" In March and April 1863, Richard Wagner visited St Petersburg and led the Royal Imperial Theatre Orchestra in six programs of Beethoven Symphonies and his own compositions, including the world's first concert performance of Prelude und Liebestod. Gustav Mahler appeared with the Orchestra in both 1902 and 1907, conducting five concerts, including a performance of his Fifth Symphony. In 1912, Arnold Schoenberg conducted the premiere of his symphonic poem Pelleas and Melisande.
Renamed the Kirov Opera during the Soviet era, the orchestra continued to maintain its high artistic standards under the leadership of Yevgeny Mravinsky and Yuri Temirkanov. In 1988, Valery Gergiev was elected artistic director of the opera company and in 1996 the Russian Government appointed him as Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre. Soon after the city of Leningrad was renamed St Petersburg, the Kirov Theatre reverted to its original title of the Mariinsky Theatre, home to the Kirov Opera, the Kirov Ballet, and the Kirov Orchestra.
Under the leadership of Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theatre has forged important relationships with the world greatest opera houses, among them the Metropolitan Opera House, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the San Francisco Opera, the Théâtre Châtelet in Paris, La Scala in Milan just to name a few. Besides extensive touring of the opera and the ballet company, the Mariinsky Orchestra has performed throughout world and has become one of the outstanding orchestras. The success of the orchestra's continual traveling has lead to the reputation of, what a journalist called, "the world's first global orchestra".

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