The history of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra according to foreign press, «comprises the global elite and claims to be the most historically significant orchestra in Russia” – started with Alexander’s III decree to initiate the creation of the Court Music Choir on July 16, 1882. Later transformed into the Court Orchestra, the orchestra first performed Richard Strauss’ symphonic poems “A Hero’s life” and “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, Mahler’s First Symphony and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy” and Stravinsky’s First Symphony. The orchestra was led by A. Nikish, R. Strauss and A. Glazunov, who dedicated the “Solemn Overture” to the orchestra. In 1917, the Court Orchestra became the State Orchestra and was directed by S. Koussevitsky. In 1921, the former hall of the Noble Assembly came into possession of the orchestra, thus opening the first Philharmonic nationwide. The unprecedented Philharmonic’s activity in its scale attracted new audience. The outstanding national artists of the orchestra went through the true conductor’s experience. A number of Western legendary conductors partnered with the orchestra: B. Walter, F. Weingartner, H. Abendroth, O. Fried, E. Kleiber, P. Monteux, and O. Klemperer, while B. Horowitz and S. Prokofiev performed solo. The orchestra mastered an extensive modern repertoire, which included the premiere of Prokofiev’s “Classical symphony” in 1918 and Shostakovich’s “First Symphony” in 1926.
In 1934 the orchestra was awarded the title «Distinguished Orchestra of the Republic» for the first time in the country. The semi centennial Mravinsky’s epoch began in 1938 – the age of meticulous work, which earned the orchestra a place among the most famous orchestras in the world. The first foreign tour of the orchestra took place in 1946 – also the first one in the history of Russian symphonic performances. Regular tours worldwide and performances at the most prestigious European festivals followed the first trip. Mravinsky’s and Shostakovich’s artistic alliance was so unique that the composer dedicated his Eight’s Symphony to it. Shostakovich’s five symphonies were performed by the conductor and the Philharmonic orchestra for the first time. It was then that the authentic tradition of interpreting famous musical scores was born. 20th century music plays a pivotal role in the orchestra’s program. K. Sanderling, A. Janssons, M. Janssons would alternate serving as assistant conductors, while being led by L. Stokovskiy, M. Maazel, Z. Mehta, K. Masur, E. Svetlanov, G. Rozhdenstvenskiy and composers such as B. Britten, A. Kolland, Z. Kodai, V. Lutoslavskiy, L.Berio, K. Penderecki; soloists V. Cliburn, G. Guld, A. Benedetti Michelangeli, I. Stern, S. Richter, E. Gilels, D. Oistrakh, E. Virsaladze, N. Petrov, G. Sokolov, V.Tretyakov, L. Kogan, N. Gutman, V. Krainer, V. Spivakov, A. Lyubimov.
Since 1988, the orchestra began to be headed by Yuri Temirkanov. From year to year, the fruit of musicians’ labor receive great reviews from the press. “Who says that Russian orchestras are not the same anymore? The concert of the Distinguished orchestra of Russia with the Russian program … became one of the most magnificent concerts that took place in Scotland for many years, including the Edinburgh festival” (the Scotsman, 2014). “If the first performance of the Distinguished orchestra of Russia on BBC Proms was outstanding, the second part, also led by Yuri Temirkanov, was the feast of the typical Russian sounding…” (The Guardian, 2015). “This unique orchestra with a special, ‘Leningrad’ sound… ” (Codalario, 2016). ” Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony performance was the culmination of that high, St. Petersburg culture of sound that the Distinguished orchestra of Russia is famous for. ( … ) The brilliant scherzo and the spectacular, technically ingenious finale led the audience into a final frenzy, as expected: the grandiose sound fresco, which could be hardly reproduced by any other conductor or orchestra of the world, appeared before the audience” (Corriere della Sera, 2017).
The orchestra’s rigorous touring schedule over the past two seasons alone have included concerts at Paris’ Theatre du Champs Elysées (where the Distinguished Orchestra of Russia is the only Russian resident orchestra) and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein, the Washington Kennedy center and the San Carlo’s Neapolitan Theatre, the Berlin, Munich and Hamburg Philharmonics, the Dublin Concert hall and London’s Royal Festival Hall, Linz’s Brucknerhouse, Leeds City Hall, Geneva’s Victoria hall, Madrid’s National Theater and the Moscow Conservatory’s Great hall, as well as in Israel, where Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony was performed under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov for the first time. The orchestra took part in the Baikal festival in Irkutsk, Mstislav Rostropovich International festivals in Moscow and Baku, summer festivals in Ravenna and Ljubljana, Lucerne festival, music festivals in Schleswig-Holstein and Grafenegg.
The repertoire of the orchestra is constantly being updated with new, including modern works – a few of them were performed for the first time in Russia: Nono’s “Il Canto Sospeso”, Borisova-Ollas’ First Symphony “The Triumph of Heaven” and Fantasy “Wunderbare Leiden”, Dutilleux’s Nocturne “Sur le même accord” and Adams’ “Century Rolls”, concert for piano and orchestra.
Among the brightest St. Petersburg programs of the last season are Rodion Shchedrin’s recital, Verdi’s Requiem and Janáček’s Glagolitic mass, Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.
The 2018/2019 season’s repertoire includes such works as Shostakovich’s Eighth and Thirteenth Symphonies, Oratorio’s “Ivan the Terrible”, Prokofiev’s Third and Fifth Symphonies, Bartók’s and Lutosławski’s concertos for orchestra, Poulenc’s Double Piano Concerto, Charles Ives’ “Holidays” Symphony, Berg’s Three pieces for orchestra Op.6, Schnittke’s Fourth Violin Concerto, “Alladin” Suite and Nielsen’s “Helios” Overture. Giya Kancheli’s “Letters to friends” world premiere will take place, and within the framework of the “Art Dialogues” subscription, held in conjunction with the State Hermitage, Dutilleux’s “Starry night” (inspired by Van Gogh’s painting), Walton’s Cello Concerto and Tishchenko’s Dante’s Fifth Symphony Paradise will be performed. There will be concerts with the participation of the orchestra, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of its Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Yuri Temirkanov. Among them is a series from the traditional First Subscription, entirely dedicated to the anniversary of the Maestro, as well as the “Arts Square” International winter festival concerts.
Among the conductors of the season are S. Dutoit , the principal guest conductor of the Distinguished Orchestra, E. Inbal, T. Daucher, I. Marin, G. Graf, M. Venzago, V. Sinaisky, A. Boreiko, A. Titov, F. Korobov. Among the soloists – pianists E. Virsaladze, E. Leone, N. Lugansky, B. Berezovsky, D. Kozhukhin, L. Geniušas, I. Levit, E.S. Ott, B. Abduraimov, N. Mndoyants; violinists S. Krylov, S. Dogadin, E. Chknavoryan; G. Capuçon cello, B. Andrianov, N. Hakhnazaryan; jazz vocalist N. Katamadze.
The orchestra is scheduled to tour in Switzerland, China, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Japan, South Korea, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Irkutsk and Moscow.