The Washington Post
“Russia’s oldest symphony orchestra surpassed all expectations…the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra spilled forth music in the purest form possible – straight from each score’s soul and into the hearts of listeners.”
The Baltimore Sun
“Something alchemic occurred Thursday night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Yuri Temirkanov took standard works of the Russian repertoire, poured them into his St. Petersburg Philharmonic, stirred them with his unselfconscious ideas about the nature of music making, and created sonic gold…As a demonstration of pure orchestral mettle, the performance would have been striking enough. As an expression of music’s visceral power, it was simply profound.”
The New York Times
“No acoustical properties in any hall can account for the string sound this orchestra makes, which seems to emanate out of the stage floorboards and throb with a dark, slightly opaque glow…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. Indeed, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic is quite a beauty…”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[Temirkanov] knows that the podium is the last refuge on earth for the gods, and when you’re a god you don’t have to prove it to anyone.”
The Chicago Tribune
“These splendid players share their musical DNA with this [all-Russian] repertory and they enjoy a close rapport with Yuri Temirkanov, their music director for the past 16 years. His courtly podium manner belies the Slavic intensity of feeling that flows like an electric current through his elegant hands to the musicians, and, through them, to the rapt audience.”
The Kansas City Star
“Temirkanov doesn’t beat time; he shapes and sculpts, encouraging here, nudging there, always alert to the smallest nuances of the score. As for the orchestra, it seems a thing alive..the orchestral rubato in the Symphony’s first movement was astonishing. Phrases swelled forth, accelerating minutely, then ebbing again within seconds, always in strict time. This is truly a ‘breathing’ orchestra. The St. Petersburg Orchestra’s string sound is rich, full and singing; the woodwind sound is sparkling and bright; and the brass…is powerful and incisive.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
“The strings pulsed with an almost unnatural plushness, the brass and woodwinds supported the tune with gracious subdued harmonies. It was breathtaking.”
Ann Arbor News
“The program began and ended with shimmer and radiance…the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov provided drama, brilliance, lyricism and a bracing antidote of steeliness.”
According to foreign critics, the history of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra – “part of the world elite and, no doubt, historically the most important of the Russian orchestras” – began with the decree of Alexander III dated 16 July 1882, which initiated the creation of the Court 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 “The Life of a Hero” and “Thus Spake Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, Mahler’s First Symphony and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy” and Stravinsky’s First Symphony. A.Nikish 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 Philharmonic. 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, G.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 “Honored Collective of the Republic.” 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.Stokowsky, 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. Every year, the fruits of the collaboration of these musicians have received rave press reviews. “Who says that Russian orchestras are not the same anymore? The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra with its Russian program … gave one of the most mind-blowing concerts held in Scotland for many years, including at the Edinburgh Festival” (The Scotsman, 2014). “It was a very ordinary Thursday evening in Vienna’s Musikverein. Or was it? …. How to describe the thrill caused by every chord of Shostakovich’s incredible Fifth Symphony, played by inspired guest performers? ” (Wiener Zeitung, 2015). “If the first evening of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms was unique, the second, also conducted by Yuri Temirkanov, became a celebration of characteristically Russian sound…” (The Guardian, 2015). “… We have heard it’s wonderful performance [Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony]… the Crescendo of the recurring theme of invasion, startling development, exquisite pianissimo in the first part, some little sarcastic tones in the Moderato, the integrity of the musical phrasing by the strings, the ultimate sharpness of the Adagio and the vivid resolution in the Finale literally chained us to our seats.” (Beckmesser, 2016). “This is a unique orchestra with a special, ‘Leningrad’ sound…” (Codalario, 2016).
The orchestra’s repertoire is constantly being updated with new works – among the most recent are the Russian premieres of Nono’s “Interrupted Song”, Penderecki’s “Polish Requiem” and the First Symphony by Borisova-Ollas. The orchestra’s busy touring schedule, only for the 2015/2016 Season included concerts at Milan’s La Scala and Rome’s Academy of Santa Cecilia, London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Paris Theatre des Champs Elysees, Madrid’s National Music Auditorium, Jurmala’s “Dzintari”, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and the Beijing Concert Hall in the Forbidden City, where the musicians performed as part of the the project – “Day of Russia in the World”.
Recent seasons have included tours in France, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, Spain and USA, as well as performances at the opening of the International Festival of Mstislav Rostropovich in Moscow. On the St. Petersburg poster – and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in the composer’s first edition, Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony in a modern version for piano and orchestra by A. Varenberg (World premiere) and Nocturne “Sur le même accord” by Dutilleux (Russian Premiere), the program “Paintings of Provence” (from the joint cycle of the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic and the State Hermitage), which received its name from the little-known to the Russian public composition by the Frenchwoman, Paule Maurice. Also featured will be “Passacaglia” by Webern, Berg’s “Seven Early Songs”, “Century Rolls” by Adams, Mijo’s suite “Scaramouche”, “Children’s Suite” by Ustvolskaya and Symphony № 21 from “Faust by Goethe” by Slonimsky. Conductors such as M.Janowski, T.Sanderling, J.-C.Casadesus, V.Sinaysky, I.Marin, A.Polianichko, J.Domarkas, P.Bubelnikov, A.Titov and F.Korobov will lead the orchestra; soloists J.Fisher, S.Khachatryan, A.Baranov, I.Gringolts, S.Dogadin, A.Knyazev, A.S.Ott, R.Buchbinder, D.Matsuev, B.Berezovsky, N.Lugansky, K.Gerstein, M.Kultyshev, V.Mishchuk , F.Kopachevsky, A.Zuev, N.Koutcher and O.Petrova.