St. Petersburg Philharmonic
The ST. PETERSBURG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA is Russia's oldest symphonic ensemble, tracing its origins to a group of music-loving aristocrats who founded Europe's first Philharmonic Society in 1802. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic we know today has earned near-legendary status as the pre-eminent exponent of the modern Russian symphonic tradition. With Music Director and Principal Conductor Yuri Temirkanov at the helm since 1988, the SPPO has conducted an ambitious schedule of worldwide touring and recording, building on the foundation laid by the great Yevgeny Mravinsky, the orchestra's conductor from 1938-1988. The Orchestra's most recent performances in the U.S. (a tour in 2004) were characterized as "breathtaking" (San Francisco Chronicle), "stunning" (Palm Beach Post), "simply profound" (Baltimore Sun), and, according to The New York Times, "Voluptuous, seductive, almost bursting out of its clothes, this Russian musical institution offers a nice alternative to the rail-thin, runway-model elegance of western symphony orchestras."
The orchestra celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2002. To mark this notable landmark in its history, they performed at a star-studded Gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London, which included soloists Evgeny Kissin and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. In the earliest days of its existence, the SPPO's energies were directed first, and exclusively, to the Russian aristocracy. After the revolution in 1917, these energies shifted to the working classes. Even in the first half of the 20th century, some of the greatest conductors of the time led the SPPO - Glazunov, Koussevitzky, Tcherepnin, Walter, Klemperer, Kleiber, and Knappertsbusch among them. The chief architect of SPPO's greatness during that time (when the orchestra was known as the Leningrad Philharmonic) was Yevgeny Mravinsky. Mravinsky established and maintained an extraordinary level of musical quality and integrity, which remains the hallmark of this superb ensemble to this day. Mravinsky had a special friendship with composer Dmitri Shostakovich that enabled the orchestra to become recognized as a champion and authoritative interpreter of his works. After World War II, the orchestra's reputation took on a global dimension. As the first Soviet ensemble to tour abroad, the orchestra performed throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States under the direction of such greats as Stokowski, Munch, Cluytens, Markevitch, Krips, Kodály, and Britten. Maestro Mravinsky also made numerous recordings with the orchestra, which eventually obtained distribution outside the USSR.
In 1991, the city of Leningrad reclaimed its original name and its orchestra became known as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. Under the leadership of Music Director and Principal Conductor Yuri Temirkanov, the ensemble now regularly tours Europe, the United States, and Japan. The SPPO is a favorite at such major summer festivals as Salzburg, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Rheingau, MDR, Lucerne, and the BBC Proms. The orchestra's performances in the concert hall and on record have established a reputation of unparalleled excellence throughout the world, leading The Guardian to declare in March 2003 that the St. Petersburg Philharmonic is "probably the world's greatest orchestra."
Recordings of the orchestra can be heard with Yuri Temirkanov conducting on Sony BMG Masterworks, with Mariss Jansons on EMI, and with Vladimir Ashkenazy on Decca.
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra's tour has been made possible in part by the AEGON/Transamerica Foundation; by Donald J. Shepard, Chairman and CEO, AEGON N.V.; and by American Friends of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.