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Although he was born in Moscow, Valery Gergiev was brought up in Vladikavkaz, in Ossetia, located in the Caucasus region of Russia. He entered the Vladikavkaz Music School (now the Valery Gergiev Music Academy) in 1961, soon showing great ability as a pianist, and between the years 1972 and 1977 was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied conducting under the legendary teacher Ilya Musin. Having won the All-Soviet Conducting Prize in 1976 and the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin the following year, Gergiev was immediately appointed as an assistant to the chief conductor of the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad, Yuri Temirkanov, and made his début there conducting Prokofiev’s War and Peace in 1978; this was followed by productions of Mazeppa, Prince Igor and Lohengrin. Between 1981 and 1985 Gergiev was chief conductor of the Armenian State Orchestra, and was subsequently a frequent conductor of many of the major orchestras of the Soviet Union.

Gergiev made his British début with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988, the year in which he was elected by the musicians of the Kirov Theatre to be their chief conductor and artistic director. Soon he began to establish an international profile for the opera and ballet companies of the Kirov, which reverted to its original name of Maryinsky in 1992 following the growth of perestroika and the decline of the Soviet state. He led the company on its first big tour to the West in 1989, when it appeared at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, and in the same year was appointed guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. His West European début in opera came in 1991 at the Bavarian State Opera, conducting the first performances of Johannes Schaaf ’s production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, and in the same year he made his American début, with War and Peace at the San Francisco Opera.

During the 1990s Gergiev was the driving force behind several international initiatives which saw the name and work of the Maryinsky Theatre travel across the globe. He founded the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg in 1993, the year in which he made both his Covent Garden début, with an incandescent reading of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and his début at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, with Verdi’s Otello. He also founded the Mikkeli Festival in Finland in 1994 and became chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 1995. In that year the Maryinsky Opera Company appeared with great success at the Edinburgh Festival, where Gergiev conducted the company in productions of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and Sadko, operas by Rimsky-Korsakov rarely seen in the West. The Russian government gave him overall responsibility for the Maryinsky Theatre and its companies in 1996, the year in which two further festivals were launched: the Peace for the Caucasus Festival, which highlighted the conflict between Georgia and Ossetia, and the Red Sea Festival at Eilat. In 1997 Gergiev made his début with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Salzburg Festival in Boris Godunov, and was appointed principal guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, a post which he retained until 2002.

In that year he received the Russian Presidential Prize for his outstanding contribution to arts and sciences and in March 2003 was awarded the title of UNESCO World Artist. In 2005 Gergiev was appointed as chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in succession to Sir Colin Davis, with effect from 2007. He has been awarded prestigious international honours, among them the Polar Music Prize of the Swedish Royal Music Academy 2005, the Herbert von Karajan Prize, the Order of the Rising Sun, Japan’s highest honour, and Valencia’s Silver Medal 2006.

Throughout his years of dedication to the Maryinsky Theatre, Gergiev’s main aim has always been to make the theatre’s opera company as well as its ballet company one of the best in the world. Under his leadership the repertoire has undergone unprecedented development. The theatre has staged many new productions including major works by Mozart, Mussorgsky, Verdi, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss and Tchaikovsky. The return of operas by Wagner (Der fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and Parsifal) to the St Petersburg stage has been a major highlight, with the performance of The Ring in German being a unique and unprecedented event in Russia.

Gergiev has recorded extensively for the Philips label, a relationship which has preserved his work with the Maryinsky Theatre: many of the theatre’s major projects have been set down in either audio or video or both. His strengths as a man of the theatre are evident in these recordings but his orchestral work is no less important. Notable releases of orchestral music in addition to those listed above include Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2; Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, coupled with Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy; the World War II symphonies of Shostakovich; Tchaikovsky and Verdi arias with Galina Gorchakova, and Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with Dmitri Hvorostovsky; and the Grieg and Chopin piano concertos with Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Gergiev’s recordings of choral and ballet music include Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker, Stravinsky’s Firebird, and Verdi’s Requiem. His support for contemporary music is illustrated by, for instance, his recordings of music by Sofia Gubaidulina and the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.

Gergiev’s extraordinary energy as a musical diplomat has not been accompanied by any diminution in his powers as an interpreter; rather, it has arguably strengthened these, by providing new and extensive opportunities to extend both repertoire and performance. The general improvement in standards at the Maryinsky Theatre has been unrivalled anywhere in the world: the theatre possesses a sense of ensemble accompanied by the highest musical standards that must be the envy of every other major international opera company. Gergiev’s own conducting is characterised by a febrile intensity and spontaneity that when completely successful results in performances of great power, concentration and energy. He is without question one of the foremost conductors of the twenty-first century.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).

Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
Role: Conductor 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
BERLIOZ, H.: Benvenuto Cellini (Salzburg Festival, 2007) (Blu-ray, HD) Naxos
Opera DVD
BERLIOZ, H.: Benvenuto Cellini (Salzburg Festival, 2007) (NTSC) Naxos
Opera DVD
BERLIOZ, H.: Troyens (Les) (Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia", 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) C Major
Opera DVD
BERLIOZ, H.: Troyens (Les) (Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia", 2009) (NTSC) C Major
Opera DVD
BRAHMS, J.: Deutsches Requiem (Ein) (Kringelborn, Kwiecien, Swedish Radio Choir, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Gergiev) (NTSC) BIS
Classical Concert
GALA MARIINSKY II (Gergiev, 2013) (Blu-ray, HD) Arthaus Musik
Classical Concert
GALA MARIINSKY II (Gergiev, 2013) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Classical Concert
LEGENDARY PERFORMANCES - PROKOFIEV, S.: War and Peace (Kirov Opera, 1991) (Blu-ray) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
LEGENDARY PERFORMANCES - PROKOFIEV, S.: War and Peace (Kirov Opera, 1991) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
MAHLER, G.: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 (Tilling, World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev) (Blu-ray, HD) C Major
Classical Concert
MAHLER, G.: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 (Tilling, World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev) (NTSC) C Major
Classical Concert
OPERA HIGHLIGHTS, Vol. 1 (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
OPERA HIGHLIGHTS, Vol. 2 (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
Orchestral Concert - PROKOFIEV, S. / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I. / ROSSINI, G. (Gergiev at the Abu Dhabi Festival) (World Orchestra for Peace) (NTSC) C Major
Classical Concert
PENDERECKI, K.: Tribute to Krzysztof Penderecki (A) (Mutter, Müller-Schott, Dutoit, Gergiev, Urbański) Accentus Music
Classical Concert
PROKOFIEV, S.: Fiery Angel (The) (Kirov Opera, 1993) (PAL) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
PROKOFIEV, S.: Fiery Angel (The) (Mariinsky Theatre, 1993) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
PROKOFIEV, S.: War and Peace (Kirov Opera, 1991) (PAL) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
PUCCINI / BERIO: Turandot (Salzburg Festival, 2002) (PAL) TDKDVD
Opera DVD
PUCCINI, G. / BERIO, L.: Turandot (Salzburg Festival, 2002) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
ROSSINI, G.: Viaggio a Reims (Il) (Chatelet, 2005) (NTSC) Opus Arte
Opera DVD
SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies and Concertos (Complete) (Gergiev) (4 Blu-ray Disc Box Set, HD) Arthaus Musik
Classical Concert
SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies and Concertos (Complete) (Gergiev) (8 DVD Box Set) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Classical Concert
SOLTI CENTENARY CONCERT (World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD, Classical Concert, Opera DVD, Classical Concert, Opera DVD, Classical Concert
STRAVINSKY, I.: Story of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (The) (Documentary, 1999) (Blu-ray) Arthaus Musik
Classical Documentary
STRAVINSKY, I.: Story of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (The) (Documentary, 1999) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Classical Documentary
UNESCO CONCERT FOR PEACE (THE) - STRAUSS, R. / PANUFNIK, R. / MAHLER, G. (World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev) (Blu-ray, HD) C Major
Classical Concert
UNESCO CONCERT FOR PEACE (THE) - STRAUSS, R. / PANUFNIK, R. / MAHLER, G. (World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev) (NTSC) C Major
Classical Concert
VERDI EDITION (THE) (17-DVD Box Set) (NTSC) Opus Arte
Opera DVD
VERDI, G.: Forza del destino (La) (Kirov Opera, 1998) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Opera DVD
WAGNER, R.: Parsifal - The Searchers of the Grail (Documentary, 1998) (Blu-ray) Arthaus Musik
Classical Documentary
WAGNER, R.: Parsifal - The Searchers of the Grail (Documentary, 1998) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
Classical Documentary
WAGNER: Parsifal - The Search for the Grail (PAL) Arthaus Musik
Classical Documentary

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