Valery Gergiev, Laureate Conductor SRSO
Valery Gergiev is general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, home to the Kirov Orchestra, Opera and Ballet. He has conducted many of the world’s major orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, and at Covent Garden. He is also principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Born in Moscow to Ossetian parents, he studied conducting with Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatory, winning the Herbert von Karajan Conductor’s competition in Berlin at the age of 23. His career at the Mariinsky (Kirov) began as assistant conductor to Yuri Termirkanov; he made his debut with the Kirov Opera in 1978, with War and Peace. In 1988, he was designated artistic director and principal conductor in 1988 and in 1996 the Russian government appointed him general director of the Mariinsky Theater.
His ’mission’ has been to make the Mariinsky companies into the best in the world. Today, he is considered to be one of the leading conductors, in demand at virtually all the world’s best orchestras and opera companies; but his main motivation always remains the same: to make people proud of St. Petersburg and of the Mariinsky. Maestro Gergiev has brought on a number of world-class singers to the Mariinsky Theater, but his greatest musical achievement has been to expand and rejuvenate the repertoire, particularly that of the Russian composers, making his mark as no other late 20th-century conductor has done. He is devoted to Prokofiev, whom he feels has ’been neglected’. Important operas by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as Stravinsky’s ballets, are now in the repertoire. He has followed these achievements by introducing into the Mariinsky’s repertoire previously neglected Western works. One of his greatest accomplishments was the 1997 staging of Parsifal, given in Russia for the first time in 80 years. In 2003 the Mariinsky presented the first ever complete Wagner ”Ring” cycle to be performed in Russia.
Maestro Gergiev’s artistic achievements have earned him numerous honors, among them the title of People’s Artist of Russia (1996), and the State Prize of Russia (1994, 1999). He was awarded the Golden Mask theatrical prize (Conductor of the Year), the Dmitry Shostakovich Prize and the Golden Soffit prize. In the year 2000, he received the highest government award of the Republic of Armenia, the Mesrop Mashtots Order. Valery Gergiev is the creator and artistic director of many international festivals, including three in Russia - St. Petersburg (Stars of the White Nights), Vladikavkaz (Peace for the Caucasus) and Moscow (Moscow Easter Festival) - as well as in Finland, Holland, Italy, Israel, and Great Britain.
An exclusive Decca (formerly Philips Classics) artist for more than a decade, Maestro Gergiev has recorded almost all the Mariinsky Theater’s major projects on either audio and/or video. In addition, he has made significant recordings of orchestral works with the Mariinsky Orchestra, as well as with the Vienna and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras.