Valery Gergiev Launches His Tenure at London Symphony

Classic Arts News   Valery Gergiev Launches His Tenure at London Symphony
 
Tonight the indefatigable Valery Gergiev begins in earnest his latest job: he leads his first concert as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. The sold-out performance at the Barbican Hall features Prokofiev's Scythian Suite and three works by Stravinsky: King of the Stars, the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments and The Firebird.

Gergiev succeeds Colin Davis, whose dozen years as the LSO's principal conductor are widely considered to have been an artistic golden age for the orchestra. As of the first of this year, the 79-year-old Davis becomes president of this self-governing ensemble; happily, he will continue to conduct, leading ten weeks of concerts this year.

For his part, Gergiev is to conduct 12 weeks of concerts in London for each year of his three-year term, as well as some performances on tour.

This is in addition to the notoriously restless Russian's other jobs: principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera; director of the Stars of the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg, the Moscow Easter Festival, and the Mikkeli International Festival in Finland; and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, a post from which he steps down at the end of next season. Not to forget, of course, the work for which Gergiev is most famous: as artistic director, chief fundraiser, political factotum and general miracle worker of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg — with whose orchestra, ballet and opera company (still marketed in the U.S. under their Soviet-era name, the Kirov) he regularly tours the world.

Observers in London and elsewhere naturally wonder if Gergiev will be able to give to the LSO the time and attention that an orchestra needs from its chief conductor — particularly as he has has always frankly admitted that the Mariinsky is his first and last love. Yet, as Jessica Duchen observed in London's The Independent last week, "He gets results ... some of the tempi are wild ... but his interpretations often make a near-mystical experience out of a concert. [...] Boring concerts entice nobody back, however funky the marketing. But bring in a Gergiev, and tickets fly out."


Recommended Reading: