Gergiev carries a disproportionate share of the music world on his shoulders. He is something of a national hero in Russia for having kept alive the Mariinsky Theatre after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under his leadership, the Mariinsky has become one of the most celebrated – and recorded – opera companies in the world.
The New Yorker (1998)
As the star conductor he undoubtedly is, Gergiev is one of those conjurors of sounds who can draw the audience to them in such a way that it feels the earth move.
Böblinger Bote (2000)
We have all marvel Valery Gergiev at his truly inspirational music-making, which, alongside his totally unbelievable energy, passion for music, and great qualities of friendship and idealism, have forged him a unique place in the world of music"
The Guardian (2005)
<Gergiev> has turned the Mariinsky Theatre with its centuries-old traditions into the world’s most dynamic opera and ballet company, nurturing an endless stream of brilliant singers and dancers. The maestro fully deserves his rating by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world today.
The Times (2010)
The art of Valery Gergiev is in great demand throughout the world. The maestro is a remarkable representative of the St Petersburg performing school and a former pupil of the legendary Professor Ilya Musin. While still a student at the Leningrad Conservatoire, Gergiev won the incredibly prestigious Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition as well as the All-Union Conducting Competition in Moscow and was invited to join the Kirov (now the Mariinsky) Theatre, where at the age of thirty-five he was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Company, while since 1996 he has been Artistic and General Director of the theatre.
Today, the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev gives some seven hundred and sixty performances each season in Russia and abroad and is the most regularly touring company in the world. The geography of its tours includes over thirty countries. Currently the Mariinsky Theatre performs at three venues – the historic theatre, the Concert Hall and the Mariinsky-II which opened in May 2013. Thanks to that, the Mariinsky Theatre may today call itself a theatre nd concert complex that is unparalleled in Russia.
The arrival of Valery Gergiev at the helm marked the start of a period of renaissance and at times the careful restoration at the Mariinsky Theatre of the works by the great maestri of the past combined with intensive artistic development and a movement to new horizons. The maestro has overseen the emergence of a plethora of world-class singers, and under his management the theatre’s repertoire has become richer than it has ever been before. Today this repertoire features an incredibly broad range of works – from Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Musorgsky and Tchaikovsky to 20th century Russian and European classics such as operas by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Janáček, Richard Strauss and Britten. Gergiev pays particular attention to operas by contemporary Russian composers including such acclaimed maestri as Shchedrin, Karetnikov and Smelkov as well as to young musicians who have been given the opportunity to bring their ideas to life at one of the world’s greatest musical theatres.
One of the maestro’s most significant achievements has been a return to the performance of operas in the original language. For example, on the initiative and under the direction of Valery Gergiev the Mariinsky Theatre staged the first ever German language version of Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in the history of Russian theatre (2003), which received great acclaim not just in Russia but also when performed on tour in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Great Britain and the USA.
The orchestra’s repertoire has also become significantly richer and more varied. In addition to operas and ballets it now includes symphony music and works in other genres of philharmonic music. The maestro has conducted the orchestra in performances of every symphony by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Mahler and Beethoven and works by Stravinsky, Messiaen, Dutilleux, Shchedrin, Tishchenko, Gubaidulina and Kancheli among myriad other composers.
Thanks to Gergiev’s efforts, 2006 saw the opening of the Concert Hall, which significantly broadened the repertoire possibilities of the company and the orchestra. Essentially the most ideal concert venue in Russia because of its exceptional acoustic qualities, the Concert Hall has facilitated the production of recordings on the Mariinsky label which the maestro founded in 2009. To date the label has released over twenty-five discs that have received lavish praise from the press and public alike. Currently two of the label’s most important projects are recording all of Shostakovich’s symphonies and Wagner’s entire tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Maestro Gergiev has organised and directs several international music festivals including the Moscow Easter Festival, the Mikkeli Festival (Finland), the Rotterdam Festival (The Netherlands) and Samara’s To Mstislav Rostropovich festival. Gergiev directs and is at the heart of the annual Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg which he founded in 1993 and which was listed as one of the world’s ten greatest music festivals in 2009. Moreover, the maestro is also Artistic Director of other Mariinsky Theatre festivals including the New Horizons contemporary classical music festival, Maslenitsa, Brass Evenings at the Mariinsky and the Mariinsky ballet festival.
Gergiev is known for his active stance in the defence of humanitarian ideals. The maestro initiated a series of international charitable concerts entitled Beslan. Music in the Name of Peace which took place in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Rome and Moscow. In August 2008 Valery Gergiev conducted a requiem concert before the ruined building of Government House in South Ossetia (Tskhinval). On 14 March 2011 the maestro performed Verdi’s Requiem in memory of the victims of a tragedy in Japan, while one year later he took part in a charity concert in Tokyo. In September 2012 Mariinsky Theatre performers and Gergiev gave their support to victims of a flood in Kuban.
As one of the greatest conductors in the world, Gergiev collaborates with the finest orchestras. Since 2007 he has been Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra with which he appears at the Barbican Centre, the BBC Proms festival and the Edinburgh Festival in addition to touring throughout Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. He also works with the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna, New York and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras and the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, while from 2015 he is Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2014 the Children’s Chorus of Russia, founded on the initiative of Valery Gergiev on the basis of the All-Russian Choral Society, first performed a programme at the Mariinsky-II before taking part in the grand closing ceremony of the XXII Olympic Games in Sochi. In 2013 Valery Gergiev became Director of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, founded in New York on the initiative of Carnegie Hall. The orchestra’s first international tour took place with violinist Joshua Bell and featured concerts in Washington, Moscow, St Petersburg and London. Maestro Gergiev dedicates much to his attention to working with young musicians. He has appeared with the youth orchestras of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Verbier Festival and the Pacific Ocean Music Festival in Sapporo.
Gergiev’s artistic achievements have brought him numerous titles and awards. These include the title of People’s Artist of Russia (1996), the State Prize of Russia (1994 and 1999), government awards from Germany (Cross of the First Class “For Services”), Italy (Grand’ufficiale dell’Ordine al merito), France (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), the Netherlands (Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion), Japan (Order of the Rising Sun), the honorary title of UNESCO Artist of the World, the Swedish Royal Academy of Music’s Polar Music Prize and Europe’s Glashütte Original Music Festival Prize in 2010 for his support of talented young musicians. That same year, Gergiev was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the St Petersburg State University. He also joined the Council for Culture and the Arts of the Russian President and headed the organisational committee of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. In November 2011 France’s respected Classica magazine named him “Artist of the Year”. In 2012 he was awarded the titles of Honorary Doctor of the Moscow State University and Honorary Professor of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, while one year before that the maestro became Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival. On 1 May 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded maestro Gergiev the first title of Hero of Labour of Russia.