St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the oldest symphony orchestra in Russia, in the season 2022/2023 continues to celebrate 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 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. Kodály, 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. 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” (, 2019).

The orchestra's extensive touring activities during last seasons have included concerts at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (where the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is the only Russian resident orchestra) 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” by Adams, as well as Giya Kancheli’s “Letters to Friends”, and the Widmann’s Babylon-Suite.

The highlights of the past season include historic programs within the cycles dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Philharmonia; performances of Brahms’ complete symphonies under the baton of E. Inbal and Mahler’s 3rd Symphony under the baton of Z. Mehta (with E. Manistina soloing); concerts dedicated to the anniversaries of Scriabin’s and Schubert’s births; collaboration with such musicians as Ch. Dutoit, A. Lazarev, H. Graf, E. Virsaladze, N. Lugansky, B. Berezovsky, and A. Ghindin.

In December 2021 the orchestra participated in the XXI International Winter Festival Arts Square, which was also dedicated to the Philharmonia’s anniversary. Within the forum the orchestra has performed with N. Alexeev, E. Inbal, A. Schiff, I. Marin, R. Buchbinder, S. Shoji, G. Capuçon, J. Lezhneva, A. Kantorow, and S. Krylov.

On 9 August 2022 under the leadership of N. Alexeev the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra participated in the Memory Score, a music and history project dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the siege premiere of Shostakovich’s Seventh symphony.

This season the orchestra’s traditional subscription cycles, such as “Yuri Temirkanov and His Orchestra” and “Russia’s First Symphony Orchestra”, are dedicated to the orchestra’s 140th Anniversary. The season’s playbill includes Shostakovich’s Fifth symphony (the premiere’s 85th Anniversary); symphonies by Mozart, Brahms, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev, Sibelius, and Borodin; piano concertos by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Ravel, Grieg, and Scriabin; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (with the jazz cadenza by double bass and percussion); violin concertos by Prokofiev, Bruch, and Dvorak; ballet music by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Glazunov, and Milhaud; Mozart’s Requiem, Ibert’s Bacchanale, Dutilleux’ Metaboles, Satie’s Gymnopédies, and V. Jurowski’s Russian Artists suite.

In the year of 150th anniversary of S. Rachmaninov’s birth the works of the Russian Maestro figure prominently in the orchestra’s playbill. An entire subscription concert cycle “Rachmaninov. Diary Pages” is dedicated to his music, as well as monographic concerts under the baton of N. Alexeev; his piano concertos, The Bells, the symphonic poems The Isle of the Dead, The Rock, Caprice bohémien, the First and Second symphonies will also be performed. In December 2022 St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra participates in the International Winter Festival Arts Square. The list of guest conductors includes A. Lazarev, P. Bubelnikov, V. Polyansky, D. Botinis, F. Korobov, A. Rudin, and V. Uryupin.

Among the soloists are N. Lugansky, D. Matsuev, E. Leonskaja,V. Rudenko, D. Shishkin, J. Stancul, A. Korobeinikov, V. Repin, S. Dogadin, N. Hakhnazaryan, A. Knyazev, and H. Gerzmava.

In the 2022/2023 Season the orchestra continues its touring activities: in September 2022 it toured to Sochi; it is also scheduled to tour in China in April–May 2023.

St. Petersburg Philharmonia Title Partner
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