St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra




The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Russia's oldest symphonic ensemble, was founded in 1882 - when on the Order of Alexander III, the Court musicians’ choir was established, the prototype of today’s “Honoured Collective of the Russian Federation”. The Musicians' Choir was founded to perform in the imperial presence at receptions, official ceremonies, balls, plays and concerts at the Royal Court. The pinnacle of this type of activity was the participation of the choir in 1896 in the pageantry of Сoronation of Nicholas II.
In 1897 the Court Choir became the Court Orchestra and its musicians were transferred from the military department and given the same rights as other actors of Imperial theatres. In the early 20th century the orchestra was entitled to perform at commercial concerts for the general public. The series of concerts "Orchestral Collections of Musical News" saw the first Russian performances of Richard Strauss’ symphonic poems "Ein Heldenleben" and "Also sprach Zarathustra", Mahler’s First Symphony, Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony and Scriabin’s "Poem of Ecstasy". The concerts included performances by one composer, a series of concerts by subscription, and a "historical series" accompanied by a lecture or an introductory address. Among the conductors were world-renowned musicians: Richard Strauss, Arthur Nikisch, Alexander Glazunov and Serge Koussevitsky.

In 1917 the Orchestra became the State Orchestra and in accordance with the Decree of 1921 it was incorporated into the newly founded Petrograd Philharmonia, the first of its kind in the country. Shortly after, unprecedented tours began with a miriad of high profile western conductors including ,Otto Klemperer (the conductor also conducted subscription concerts), Bruno Walter and Felix Weingartner. As soloists, Vladimir Horowitz and Sergey Prokofiev (who played his piano concertos) performed with the orchestra. With them the foreign conductors brought more modern repertoire – Stravinsky, Schönberg, Berg, Hindemith, Honegger and Poulenc as well as music written by the contemporary Russian composers. In 1918 the orchestra performed for the first time the Classical Symphony by Prokofiev, under his baton. And in 1926 Shostakovich debuted with his First Symphony in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonia (conducted by Nikolay Malko).

In 1934 the Orchestra became the first ensemble in the country to receive the name “Honoured Collective of the Russian Federation”. Four years later Evgeny Mravinsky joined the orchestra and during his term of half a century, he created one of the best orchestras in the world. 1946 saw the first ever tour abroad in Soviet history for the orchestra. The alliance between Mravinsky and Shostakovich was unique in the musical world. Many symphonies of the composer, including the Eighth, dedicated to the conductor, were performed by Mravinsky for the first time. It began the tradition of creating a special interpretation of the great scores. In 1975 the name of Shostakovich was given to the Philharmonia. The orchestra acquainted the Leningrad concert-goers with the music of other Russian contemporary composers as well as Soviet premieres of works by Honneger, Hindemith, Bartók, Penderecki, Schönberg, Britten, Poulenc along with the works of old masters: Bach, Händel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Corelli, Telemann, Pergolesi.  Soon the most highly acclaimed conductors from all over the world were coming to conduct the orchestra in Leningrad.

In 1952 collaboration with G.Rozhdestvensky began. After the death of Mravinsky in 1988, the orchestra selected Yuri Temirkanov as its principal conductor. Recently Milanese “Corriere della Sera” wrote of the long collaboration: “Yuri Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra are something unique in world music panorama... Amazing musicians, everyone is a soloist, but in perfect ensemble and confluence with others”.

Highlights over recent years for the orchestra have included: performing the 7th “Leningrad” Symphony by Shostakovich at the United Nations at an event dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the WWII Victory; opening the Carnegie Hall season (the first ever by a Russia orchestra); participation in the Second Moscow World Orchestras Festival and opening of the First Rostropovich Week Moscow Festival; participation in Enescu Festival (Romania) and in MiTo (Italy).

The repertoire of the orchestra has been enriched by Russian premieres such as “Il canto sospeso” by Nono, “The Third and the Last Testament” by Obukhov, Fifth Symphony by Grechaninov, Polish Requiem by Penderecki (under the composer's baton) and Post-scriptum by V.Kissine; world premieres: “…al niente” by Kancheli, Symphonies by Segerstam, Slonimsky, Tishchenko; St Petersburg premieres: Seventh Symphony in E Major by Schubert, oratorio “L'enfance du Christ” by Berlioz, “Eine Messe des Lebens” by Delius, and the music of “Der Schneemann” by Korngold.

The orchestra and their chief conductor opened the previous season with a large-scale tour of Europe. They performed such festivals as Annecy-Classique (France), MiTo (Italy), as well as the Lucerne Festival and the Bruckner Festival. The orchestra also performed in the Alte Oper (Frankfurt). That season saw seven tours altogether across Russia and Europe, and further afield in Japan, the USA and Mexico.

Last season the orchestra also honoured Maestro Temirkanov who celebrated a double anniversary: 25 years of conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and he turned 75 years old.  To mark this special year, the St. Petersburg premiere of Desyatnikov’s “The Ride of the Winter 1949” and Russian premiere of Sheng’s compositions (conducted by the composer) were performed. The orchestra also performed Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Tchaikovsky’s fragments from Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky’s fragments from Boris Godunov, compositions of Schönberg, Janáček, Poulenc, Rota, Bernstein and Karłowicz. Collaborations with conductors and soloists including K. Nagano, M. Jansons, A. Wit, I. Marin, M. Jurowski, V. Sinaysky, N. Lugansky, D. Matsuev, E. Virsaladze, V. Repin, S. Shoji, Y. Bashmet, N. Gutman, M. Maisky, P. Burchuladze, and E. Glennie also featured in that anniversary season.


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.

After winning the prestigious All-Soviet National Conducting Competition in 1966, he was invited by Kiril Kondrashin to tour Europe and the USA 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. 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 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 and Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic with whom he recorded the complete Stravinsky ballets and Tchaikovsky symphonies.

For ten 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. The focal point of the 14th Festival was the celebration of Temirkanov’s 75th birthday and the 25th anniversary of his leadership of the St Petersburg Philharmonic. The grand opening, conducted by Mariss Jansons and Nikolai Alexeev, was in honor of the maestro, with a grand gala concert featuring Yuri Bashmet, Paata Burchuladze, Elisso Virsaladze, Natalia Gutman, Denis Matsuev, Vadim Repin, Sayaka Shoji and Viktoria Yastrebova.

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 Accademician of Santa Cecilia. In 2012 he was awarded “The Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy” and in 2015 the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan).