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Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: December 25, 1882 - as Imperial Music Choir - Leningrad / St. Petersburg - Russia
Renamed: 1917 - as State Philharmonic Orchestra of Petrograd
Renamed: Mid 1920's - as Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Renamed: 1991 - as Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra = St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (= SPPO), Russia's oldest symphonic ensemble, was founded in 1882. That was the year, when on the Order of Alexander III, the Court musical choir has been established, the prototype of today’s Honoured collective of the Russian Federation. Thus, in 2007, the orchestra is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The Musicians' Choir was founded to perform in the «royal presence» - at receptions and official ceremonies and at the 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 coronation ceremony 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 royal theatres. In early 20th century the orchestra was entitled to perform at commercial concerts for 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 Skryabin’s Poem of Ecstasy. The concerts included performances by one author, series of concerts by subscription, «historical series» accompanied by a lecture or an introductory address. Among the conductors were world renowned musicians like Richard Strauss (1912) and Arthur Nikisch, Alexander Glazunov and Serge Koussevitzky.

In 1917 the Orchestra became the State Orchestra and following the Decree of 1921 it was incorporated into the newly founded Petrograd Philharmonic, the first of its kind in the country. Shortly after, the unprecedented tours began of the whole pleiad of Western conductors. Their names enjoy the unquestioned authority in today’s musical world: Otto Klemperer (the conductor also conducted the subscribe concerts), Bruno Walter, Felix Weingartner. As soloists, Vladimir Horowitz and Sergey Prokofiev with his piano concertos perform with the orchestra. On the initiative of the foreign conductors, the orchestra begins to play the modern repertoire - Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc. There also sound the music of domestic composers. Back in 1918, directed by the author, the orchestra had performed for the first time, the Classical symphony of Prokofiev. And in 1926 Dmitri Shostakovich makes a debut with his First symphony in the Grand hall of Philharmonia (conducted by Nikolay Malko). Guest conductor appearances were made by Bruno Walter, Ernest Ansermet and Hans Knappertsbusch at this time. Around this time the orchestra was renamed the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1934 the orchestra was the first in the country to receive the title of the Honoured orchestra of the Republic. Four years later Yevgeny Mravinsky, the winner of the First Prize of the National Contest of Conductors, joined the orchestra and for the next 50 years he gradually transformed it into one of the best orchestras in the world. In respect to the performance of Tchaikovsky and D. Shostakovich symphonies, they start to call it «the model». The class of the virtuoso orchestra permitted its recognition (among the orchestras of Herbert von Karajan, Bruno Walter, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam) as best interpreter of W.A. Mozart music in the Viennese festival dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the composer. The unique for the musical world is also the creative alliance of Yevgeny Mravinsky and D. Shostakovich. Many symphonies of the composer had been performed by Yevgeny Mravinsky for the first time and they become the centerpieces of the repertoire, included in the program of foreign tours. On just how deep did D. Shostakovich appreciated this collaboration, speaks the very fact of dedication of the Eighth symphony to him. The orchestra also performed with other famous conductors: Leopold Stokowski, Igor Markevitch, Kurt Sanderling, Arvid Jansons, Mariss Jansons, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Evgeny Svetlanov.

In 1988 on the initiative of the orchestra, Yuri Temrikanov becomes the principal conductor of the most famous national orchestra. The history opens the «Temirkanov era», the period of collaboration with one of the most demanded conductors of our times. In 1991 the orchestra gained its current name after its home city returned to its original name of Saint Petersburg. Today it is an internationally recognized symphony orchestra. Only during the past several years the orchestra gave several first performances and opened the 2005-2006 Season at Carnegie Hall, which became the culmination of its performances in the most prestigious concert halls of the world. During the last season, for the first time after a long break the orchestra went on a large-scale concert tour around Russia. It performed in Siberia in the limits of 2nd International Music Festival «Stars at Baikal», which took place in Irkutsk in September 2006. Then the orchestra played in Surgut and Hanty-Mansiysk. In December of the same year St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra performed in Moscow; in June 2007 also in Moscow it closed the 2nd Festival of the World Symphony Orchestras.

This season of the Philharmonic Orchestra is especially rich with various events. The orchestra will continue celebrating its 125th anniversary: it will feature at the opening of the season and two subscription series («Yuri Temirkanov and his orchestra» and «The First Russian Symphony Orchestra»). The culmination of the anniversary celebrations will be the winter festival «Arts Square» which will open with orchestra performing with Evgeny Kissin. In the newly refurbished Philharmonic Hall the orchestra will give with Krzysztof Penderecki the first St.-Petersburg performance of his Polish requiem, will take part in the Rodion Shchedrin’s concert (where the composer will play his First piano concerto), will perform at the Marathon-Concert for the International Music Day and will celebrate the 125th anniversary of I. Stravinsky. The orchestra will also visit the USA with major concert tour including several performances in the Carnegie Hall. The St.-Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra will close the season with traditional festival «Music Collection» where it will play with Serge Baudo, Hans Graf, Freddy Kempf and Paata Burchuladze.

Chief Cnductors

Hermann Fliege (1882-1907)
Hugo Varlikh (1907-1917)
Serge Koussevitzky (1917-1920)
Alexander Khessin (1920)
Emil Cooper (1920-1923)
Valery Berdyaev (1924-1926)
Nikolai Malko (1926-1930)
Aleksandr Gauk (1930-1934)
Fritz Stiedry (1934-1937)
Yevgeny Mravinsky (1938-1988)
Yuri Temirkanov (1988-Present)


Source: St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra Website; Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2008)

Yevgeny Mravinsky: Short Biography | Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Mariss Jansons


Sinfonia in BWV 1045
Violin Concerto No. 2
BWV 1042 [w/ violinist Gidon Kremer]
Bach-Respighi: Sonata for violin & continuo in E minor, BWV 1023, arranged for orchestra

Recordings of Bach’s Instrumental Works




Kurt Sanderling


Orchestral Suite No. 1 BWV 1066

Links to other Sites

Saint Petersbutg Philharmonic Orchestra (Official Website)
Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Wikipedia)
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra - Biography (AMG)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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Last update: Monday, December 18, 2017 07:00