Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra)|
(also known as the Kirov
The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and Opera Company in the UK and Ireland
The Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra‘s Tour to the USA has home to a
Symphony Marathon begins in London to Mark 100 Years of Shostakovich
The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre enjoys a long and distinguished
history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia. Founded in the 18th century and housed in St. Petersburg’s famed
Mariinsky Theatre since 1860, the Orchestra entered its “golden age” in the
second half of the 19th century under the musical direction of Eduard Napravnik,
whose leadership for more than a half century (1863‐1916) secured its reputation as one of the
finest in Europe. Legendary artists who conducted the
Mariinsky Orchestra and praised its outstanding musicianship included
Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Nikisch and
The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre enjoys a long and
distinguished history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia.
Founded in the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great, it was known
before the revolution as the Russian Imperial Opera Orchestra. Housed in St.
Petersburg‘s famed Mariinsky Theatre (named after Maria, the wife of Czar
Alexander II) since 1860, the Orchestra entered its true "golden age" during the
second half of the 19th century under the music direction of Eduard Napravnik
(1839-1916). Napravnik single-handedly ruled the Imperial Theatre for more than
half a century (from 1863-1916) and under his leadership, the Mariinsky
Orchestra was recognized as one of the finest in Europe. He also trained a
generation of outstanding conductors, developing what came to be known as "the
Russian school of conducting."
The Mariinsky Theatre was also the birthplace of numerous operas
and ballets which are meanwhile regarded as masterpieces of the 19th and 20th
century. World premiere performances include Glinka‘s Life of a Tsar and Ruslan
and Liudmila, Borodin‘s Prince Igor, Musorgsky‘s Boris Godunov and
Khovanshchina, Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Maid of Pskov, The Snow Maiden and Legend of
the Invisible City of Kitezh, Tchaikovsky‘s The Queen of Spades, Iolanta, Swan
Lake, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, Prokofiev‘s The Duenna, as well as operas
by Shostakovich and ballets by Khachaturian.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was
closely associated with the Mariinsky Theatre, not only conducting the orchestra
but also premiering his Fifth Symphony there, as well as the fantasy overture
Hamlet and the Sixth Symphony. Sergey Rakhmaninov conducted the Orchestra on
numerous occasions, including premieres of his Spring Cantata and the symphonic
poem The Bells. The Orchestra also premiered the music of the young Igor
Stravinsky, such as his Scherzo Fantastique and the suite from The Firebird
Throughout its history, the Mariinsky Theatre has presented
works by Europe‘s leading opera composers. In 1862, Verdi‘s La Forza del Destino
was given its world premiere at the theatre in the presence of the composer.
Wagner was a favorite at the Mariinsky Theatre, where his operas were frequently
performed from the 19th through the beginning of the 20th century, including the
first Russian performances of the complete Ring cycle, Tristan und Isolde, Die
Meistersinger and Parsifal. The Ring cycle was conducted by Hans Richter, who
was the first to conduct the complete Ring in Bayreuth and at Covent Garden.
The Mariinsky Orchestra also gave the first Russian performances of Richard
Strauss‘ Elektra, Salome and Der Rosenkavalier, and Berg‘s Wozzeck in a
production that took place two years after its world premiere in Berlin and
twenty years before its premiere in Vienna.
By 1917 the orchestra‘s name had
changed to the Royal Imperial Theatre Orchestra, and was regarded as St.
Petersburg‘s leading symphony orchestra. Its repertoire - operatic and
orchestral - has traditionally included not only music of Russian composers, but
also of European composers. Numerous internationally famous musicians conducted
the Orchestra, among them Hans von Bulow, Felix Mottl, Felix Weingartner,
Alexander von Zemlinsky, Otto Nikisch, Willem Mengelberg, Otto Klemperer, Bruno
Walter and Erich Kleiber.
On two occasions, in 1847 and 1867, Hector Berlioz conducted
performances of his own works, including The Damnation of Faust, Romeo and
Juliet, Symphony Fantastique and Harold in Italy. Berlioz wrote in his memoirs
"Such an orchestra! Such precision! Such an ensemble!". And in a letter dated
December 1867, he stated: "I don‘t think Beethoven ever had a better performance
of his compositions!" In March and April 1863, Richard Wagner visited St.
Petersburg and led the Royal Imperial Theatre Orchestra in six programs of
Beethoven Symphonies and his own compositions, including the world‘s first
concert performance of Prelude und Liebestod. Gustav Mahler appeared with the
Orchestra in both 1902 and 1907, conducting five concerts, including a
performance of his Fifth Symphony. In 1912, Arnold Schoenberg conducted the
premiere of his symphonic poem Pelleas and Melisande.
Renamed the Kirov Opera during the Soviet era, the orchestra continued to
maintain its high artistic standards under the leadership of Evgeni Mravinsky
and Yuri Temirkanov. In 1988, Valery Gergiev was elected artistic director of
the opera company and in 1996 the Russian Government appointed him as Artistic
and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre. Soon after the city of Leningrad
was renamed St. Petersburg, the Kirov Theatre reverted to its original title of
the Mariinsky Theatre, home to the Kirov Opera, the Kirov Ballet, and the Kirov
Under the leadership of Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theatre
has forged important relationships with the worlds‘ greatest opera houses, among
them the Metropolitan Opera House, London‘s Royal Opera House, the San Francisco
Opera, the Theatre Chatelet in Paris La Scala in Milan just to name a few.
Besides extensive touring of the opera and the ballet company, the Kirov
Orchestra has performed throughout world and has become one of the outstanding
orchestras. The success of the orchestra‘s continual travelling has lead to the
reputation of, what a journalist called, "the world‘s first global orchestra".
In 1998, the orchestra made its debut tour of China, an historic first, with
a performance in the Great Hall in Beijing, broadcast to 50 million people, in
the presence of President Jiang Zemin. It was the first time in 40 years that a
Russian orchestra had been in China.
Under the baton of Valery Gergiev, the
orchestra has recorded exclusively for Phillips Classics since 1989. Releases
include the complete operas Khovanshchina, War and Peace, Sadko, Prince Igor,
The Queen of Spades, Ruslan and Lyudmila, Iolanta, Fiery Angel (winner of the
1996 Gramophone "Opera of the Year‘ award), La forza del destino, Boris Godunov
(1869 and 1872 version), Mazeppa, Betrothal in the Monastery, Love for Three
Oranges and Semyen Kotko. In addition the orchestra recorded the complete
ballets Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
In July 2000,
the orchestra and chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre recorded Verdi‘s Requiem and
other releases of orchestral music include Shostakovich‘s Symphony No 8,
Rakhmaninov‘s Symphony No2, Stravinsky‘s Firebird¦and The Rite of Spring,
Skriabin‘s Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus as well as the complete Piano Concerti