BY CHRISTINE LASEK
Daily Arts Writer
Published March 5, 2002
Tonight, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra will bring the music of Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich to Hill Auditorium. This will be one of the final concerts before Hill closes its doors for renovations.
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in Russia. It was formed on the foundations of the "Imperial Music Choir" in 1882. Until the early 20th century it mainly served private, aristocratic circles, but was changed in 1917 into a state orchestra and it gave its first public concert that year. The Philharmonic was the first Soviet orchestra to tour abroad and through these tours and its recordings, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic has become famous throughout the world.
Since its founding, the Philharmonic has had several principal conductors. Between 1938 and 1988, Evegny Mravinsky held this post. The Orchestra continued to give concerts throughout the course of World War II, even when Leningrad was being evacuated. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has helped to further the careers of Soviet and Russian composers, including premiering Shostakovich"s "1st Symphony" in 1927, which brought international attention to the 19-year-old composer. The orchestra was also active in introducing important foreign composers and conductors to Russia, including Leopold Stokowski, Charles Munch, Andre Cluytens, Zoltan Kodaly and Benjamin Britten.
In 1988, Yuri Temirkanov was named music director and principal conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, a place he still occupies. He is one of the best known and highly regarded Russian conductors in the United States. Temirkanov won exceptional critical acclaim in 1986, when he was the first Soviet Conductor to visit the United States following the renewal of the Soviet/American Cultural Exchange Agreement. He has returned to America several times as a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. He has also conducted all the leading orchestras in Europe.
Young Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will be performing along with the Philharmonic as the soloist in Rachmaninoff"s "Piano Concerto No 1." Andsnes made his American debut in 1989 with recitals in New York and Washington, D.C. and his orchestral debut the following year with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival. He has returned frequently to play along with the major American orchestras and has also toured all over the world. Along with touring, Andsnes is also co-artistic director of the Risor Chamber Music Festival in Norway, an event that every year draws esteemed classical performers to Norway.
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has a staunch American following. Some of the most prominent enthusiasts are the American Friends of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (AFSPP). A non-profit organization, the AFSPP was established in 1999 and is dedicated to raising funds in order to secure the continuance of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.