St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

The Distinguished Orchestra of Russia, St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the oldest symphony orchestra in Russia, in the 2022/2023 season celebrated the 140th anniversary of its foundation. History of the Orchestra which, according to foreign reviews, “is among the world’s elite and, without a doubt, historically the most important orchestra in Russia”, began with the decree of Alexander III on 16 July 1882, which initiated the creation of the Court Musicians 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 Heldenleben 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. Nikisch 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, H. 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 of Distinguished Orchestra 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. Kodály, W. Lutosławski, 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. From year to year, the results of the musicians’ collaboration receive enthusiastic press reviews. “The orchestra is a Russian national treasure, conductor Yuri Temirkanov one of the best in the world” (The Washington Post, 2014). “If the St Petersburg Philharmonic’s all-Russian first Prom was a hard act to follow, its second, also under chief conductor Yuri Temirkanov, brought yet another feast of idiomatic Russian playing” (The Guardian, 2015). “This is a unique orchestra with a special, “Leningrad” sound ...” (Codalario, 2016). “The performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony was “the culmination of that high, Petersburg sound culture, for which the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is famous. (...) A brilliant scherzo and a spectacular, technically perfect finale brought the audience into a total frenzy, which is completely natural: a grandiose sound fresco appeared before it, which hardly any other conductor or orchestra in the world could create” (Corriere della Sera, 2017). “No matter what was happening in Russia over the last thirty years, this orchestra has always remained in the top-ranking categories” (Seenandheard-international.com, 2019).

The orchestra's extensive touring activities during last seasons have included concerts at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and the Vienna Musikverein, the Berlin, Munich, Elbe, Luxembourg Philharmonics and Frankfurt Alte Oper, the Royal Festival Hall in London, The Usher Hall of Edinburgh, The Bridgewater Hall of Manchester and The City Hall of Leeds, The Victoria Hall in Geneva, Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona and the Santa Cecilia Hall in Rome, Tokyo Suntory Hall, Taipei National Concert Hall, Seoul Arts Center, Beijing National Performing Arts Center and the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.

In September 2019 the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Ion Marin, Vassily Sinaisky and Yuri Temirkanov gave concerts in Italy and Switzerland (soloists O. Mustonen and N. Freire), Bucharest and Paris (soloists V. Repin, B. Rana, B. Berezovsky), visited Estonia (conductor N. Alexeev, soloist S. Dogadin), in January 2020 – gave four concerts in Spain under the baton of maestro Temirkanov (soloists N. Lugansky, B. Abduraimov), participated in the MITO SettembreMusica and George Enescu festivals.

In January 2022 Yuri Temirkanov resigned as Principal Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, still remaining Artistic Director of both the orchestra and the St Petersburg Philharmonia – he has been occupying this position for more than two decades. Nikolay Alexeev, who has been collaborating with the Orchestra for over twenty years, has subsequently become the orchestra’s Principal Conductor.

The orchestra’s repertoire is constantly updated with new, including modern compositions – among them they have performed for the first time in Russia: the First Symphony The Triumph of Heaven and fantasy Wunderbare Leiden by Borisova-Ollas, the nocturne Sur le meme accord and La nuit etoilée by Dutilleux, and the Piano Concerto Century Rolls and Shaker Loops by Adams, Giya Kancheli’s Letters to Friends, Widmann’s Babylon-Suite, as well as Ligeti’s Ramifications for string orchestra and Concert românesc.

The orchestra opens the 2023/2024 concert season on September 25, the birthday of D.D. Shostakovich. Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (soloist D. Shishkin) and the Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the premiere) will be played under the direction of chief conductor N. Alexeev. Traditional subscription cycles – "Yuri Temirkanov’s Orchestra" and "First Symphony Orchestra of Russia" – in the new season are timed to coincide with the 85th anniversary of maestro Yuri Temirkanov. Only within the framework of these subscriptions, the poster of the orchestra includes symphonies of Haydn, Brahms, Dvorak, Bruckner, Mahler, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Verdi’s Requiem, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, piano concerts of Beethoven, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Violin concerto by Sibelius, symphonic fragments from Wagner's operas. The list of soloists features D. Matsuev, N. Lugansky, E. Virsaladze, I. Bessonov, H. Kazazyan, as well as the XVII International Tchaikovsky Competition III Prize winner I. Papoyan and the International Rachmaninoff Competition I Prize winner A. Klyuchko. In concerts of the new cycle dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Bruckner, the Distinguished Orchestra will perform the Third (Wagner), Seventh and Ninth symphonies of the composer. Two evenings will be dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Leningrad complete liberation from the fascists’ blockade.

The one-evening performance of two Brahms’ Piano concertos (soloist P. Laul), Schönberg's symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande (to the 150th anniversary of the composer), Beethoven’s Missa solemnis (to the 200th anniversary of the premiere), Bach's Johannes Passion (to the 300th anniversary of the premiere), Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Ligeti's Piano concerto (to the 100th anniversary of the composer) and Nono’s Epitaffio 2 auf Federico García Lorca flute and chamber orchestra concerto (marking the 100th anniversary of the composer) are among the bright repertoire events.

In December 2023, the Distinguished Orchestra will take part in the next Arts Square International Festival, this year it is dedicated to Yuri Temirkanov’s anniversary. In collaboration with the Bolshoi Theatre Choir the opening concert will be conducted by N. Alexeev featuring a performance of Shostakovich's Thirteenth Symphony and Schumann's Cello Concerto (bass A. Tikhomirov and cellist A. Ramm will perform as soloists). The festival will end with a gala concert for the anniversary of the Maestro, A. Rudin, N. Lugansky, E. Leonskaja (Austria), H. Gerzmava, V. Repin, Yu. Bashmet will take part in it.

The list of the guest conductors of the orchestra includes I. Marin (Austria), H. Graf (Austria), P. Bubelnikov, F. Korobov, A. Rudin, D. Botinis, L. Krämer (Germany), A. Chernushenko, V. Borisov and others. The soloists feature pianists D. Matsuev, N. Lugansky, E. Virsaladze, E. Leonskaja, B. Berezovsky, A. Gindin, I. Bessonov, D. Shishkin, M. Kultyshev, F. Kopachevsky, P. Raikerus, I. Papoyan; violinists V. Repin, H. Kazazyan, N. Borisoglebsky, I. Ioff; flutist S. Viland; cellist A. Ramm; singers H. Gerzmava, A. Tikhomirov, Yu. Vorobyov, A. Denisova, B. Stepanov, I. Vasiliev.

The orchestra continues its touring activities. In August 2023, performances were held in Sochi and Nalchik (conductor N. Alexeev), and in June 2023, after a three-year break, foreign tours of the Distinguished Orchestra took place. Under the direction of N. Alexeev, Rachmaninoff's music was played in seven large cities of China. The Tchaikovsky Competition winner pianist D. Kharitonov played solo part. For the current season, tours of the orchestra in China are planned again, as well as performances in Krasnoyarsk and Moscow.

Grand Hall:
191186, St. Petersburg, Mikhailovskaya st., 2
+7 (812) 240-01-80, +7 (812) 240-01-00
Small Hall:
191011, St. Petersburg, Nevsky av., 30
+7 (812) 240-01-70
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Saint-Petersburg Philharmonia