Valery Gergiev

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Gergiev at the 2010 Time 100 Gala

Valery Abisalovich Gergiev PAR (Russian: Валерий Абисалович Гергиев; Russian pronunciation: [vɐˈlʲeɾʲɪj ɐbʲɪˈsaləvʲɪt͡ɕ ˈɡʲerɡʲɪəf]; Ossetian: Гергиты Абисалы фырт Валери, Gergity Abisaly Fyrt Valeri; born 2 May 1953) is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.

Early life[edit]

Gergiev, born in Moscow, is the son of Tamara Tatarkanovna and Abisal Zaurbekovich.[1] He and his siblings were raised in Vladikavkaz in their native North Ossetia in the Caucasus. He had his first piano lessons in secondary school before going on to study at the Leningrad Conservatory from 1972 to 1977. His principal conducting teacher was Ilya Musin (Илья Мусин), one of the greatest conductor-makers in Russian musical history. His sister, Larissa Gergieva, is a pianist and director of the Mariinsky's singers' academy.[2]


In 1978, he became assistant conductor at the Kirov Opera, now the Mariinsky Opera, under Yuri Temirkanov, where he made his debut conducting Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace. He was chief conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 to 1985 – the year he made his debut in the United Kingdom, along with pianist Evgeny Kissin and violinists Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin at the Lichfield Festival.

Gergiev in Brussels in 2007.

In 1991, for the first time, Gergiev conducted a western European opera company with the Bavarian State Opera in a performance of Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov in Munich. In the same year, he made his American début, performing War and Peace with the San Francisco Opera. Since then, he has conducted both operatic and orchestral repertoire across the world. He also participates in numerous music festivals, including the White Nights in St. Petersburg.

He became chief conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky in 1988, and overall director of the company, appointed by the Russian government, in 1996. In addition to his artistic work with the Mariinsky, Gergiev has worked in fundraising for such projects as the recently built 1100-seat Mariinsky Hall, and intends to renovate the Mariinsky Theatre completely by 2010.[3]

From 1995 to 2008, Gergiev was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1997, he became principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. His contract there ran until the 2007–2008 season, and his premieres included a new version of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, revised and reorchestrated by Igor Buketoff in a manner faithful to Mussorgsky's intentions (unlike the Rimsky-Korsakov revision mostly used for many years until the 1960s or 1970s).

In 2002, he was featured in one scene in the film Russian Ark, directed by Alexander Sokurov and filmed at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In 2003, he initiated and conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre the first complete cycle of Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung to be staged in Russia for over 90 years. The production's design and concept reflects many aspects of Ossetian culture. Gergiev conducted this production in Cardiff in 2006 at the Wales Millennium Centre, in Costa Mesa, California in October 2006 in the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and in July 2007 in Lincoln Center, New York City to great acclaim and completely sold-out houses.

In 1988, Gergiev guest-conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for the first time. In his next appearance with the LSO in 2004, he conducted the seven symphonies of Sergei Prokofiev.[4] This engagement led to his appointment in 2005 as the Orchestra's fifteenth principal conductor, succeeding Sir Colin Davis effective 1 January 2007.[5] Gergiev's initial contract with the LSO was for 3 years.[6] His first official concert as principal conductor of the LSO was on 23 January 2007; this was originally scheduled for 13 January, but was postponed due to Gergiev's illness.[7] In January 2013 he let it be known that he would be stepping down from the LSO position at the end of his contract at the end of 2015.[8]

In October 2007, he took part in a Christmas project featured in the 100th anniversary issue of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. A concert by Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra featuring piano virtuoso Lola Astanova became a part of a $1.59 million fantasy gift. The super-concert was said to be hosted by the Emmy-winning American television personality Regis Philbin.[9]

In June 2011, Gergiev assumed a reformist role as chairman of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. He replaced academic judges with notable performers and introduced an openness to the process, arranging for all performances to be streamed live and free on the internet and for the judges to speak their minds in public as and whenever they wished. Journalist Norman Lebrecht told Gergiev that he "had changed the music world forever" in doing so, by "introducing perestroika to the Tchaikovsky Competition.... No self-respecting contest will ever take place again behind closed doors."[10]

Gergiev's conducting style is considered by many to be abrasive yet passionate.[11] He is thought of as a "driven" conductor who is at his best in highly dramatic works. He "has been criticised for skimping on rehearsal and detail."[12] He often conducts using a toothpick for a baton. He said his favorite composer was Sergei Prokofiev in his DVD recording of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite.

Social and political involvement[edit]

Valery Gergiev's requiem concert in Tskhinvali. 21 August 2008.

In April 2007, Gergiev was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the 10-year classical music outreach manifesto, "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st century", to increase the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving free entry to all British schoolchildren to a classical music concert.[13]

After the 2004 Beslan school massacre, Gergiev appealed on television for calm and against revenge. He conducted concerts to commemorate the victims of the massacre.[14]

During the 2008 South Ossetia war, Gergiev accused the Georgian government of massacring ethnic Ossetians, triggering the conflict with Russia.[15] He came to Tskhinvali and conducted a concert near the ruined building of the South Ossetian Parliament as tribute to the victims of the war.[16]

Gergiev has been, according to Alex Ross in The New Yorker, "a prominent supporter of the current Russian regime. Last year, in a television ad for Putin's third Presidential campaign, he said, 'One needs to be able to hold oneself presidentially, so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning.'"[17]

In December 2012, Gergiev sided with the Putin administration against the members of Russian band Pussy Riot and suggested that their motivation was commercial. He told the British newspaper The Independent, "I don't think this is anything to do with artistic freedom....Why go to the Cathedral of Christ to make a political statement? Why with screaming and dancing? You don’t need to go to a place that is considered sacred by many people." He also said, "I am told by too many people that those girls are potentially a very good business proposition. Suppose that someone created all this in order to produce another touring group earning millions and millions? Anna Netrebko (acclaimed Russian soprano) didn't need to do something like this."[18] In The New Yorker, Alex Ross decried Gergiev's allegation by noting that "One member [of Pussy Riot] has been on a hunger strike in a prison camp."[17]

In New York City in 2013, the LGBT activist group Queer Nation interrupted performances by orchestras conducted by Gergiev at the Metropolitan Opera[19] and Carnegie Hall.[20] The activists cited Gergiev's support for Vladimir Putin, whose government had recently enacted a law that bans the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, as the reason for their actions.[20] In London, anti-Gergiev demonstrations were led by the veteran activist, Peter Tatchell.[21]

In a public statement Gergiev replied, "It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people and many of them are indeed my friends."[22] This did not mollify all his critics; the novelist Philip Hensher tweeted: "Gergiev summarised: 'Some of my best friends are gay. I don't support institutional homophobia. I leave that up to my friend Putin.'"[23]

Writing in The Guardian, Mark Brown wrote, "Gergiev's case was not helped by comments he made to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on 10 September [2013]: 'In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia. But I have too busy a schedule to explore this matter in detail.'"[24]

On 26 December 2013, the city of Munich, of whose Munich Philharmonic Gergiev is slated to become Music Director in 2015, made public a letter from Gergiev assuring them that he fully supports the city's anti-discrimination law and adding, "In my entire professional career as an artist, I have always and everywhere adhered to these principles and will do so in the future...All other allegations hurt me very much." [25]

In March 2014 he voiced support for Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.[26][27]

Personal life[edit]

In 1999, Gergiev married the musician Natalya Dzebisova, who is 27 years his junior and also a native Ossetian. They have three children, two boys and a girl. From time to time he has been reported to be a friend of Vladimir Putin, and they have been said to be godfathers to each other's children.[28] But in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, he rejected the notion that he and Putin were each other's children's godfathers.[29] 


Gergiev has focused on recording Russian composers' works, both operatic and symphonic, including Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky and Rodion Shchedrin. Most of his recordings, on the Philips label, are with the Kirov Orchestra, but he has also recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic. A recent undertaking, the complete Prokofiev symphonies, is with the London Symphony Orchestra.[30] He is also in the process of recording the complete symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the London Symphony Orchestra; all are being recorded live in concert and will be issued on the London Symphony Orchestra Live label. In 2009, Gergiev and the Mariinsky launched a Mariinsky Live record label (being distributed by London Symphony Orchestra Live), with the first two recordings featuring music by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Gergiev's recording of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet with London Symphony Orchestra on LSO live in 2010 was the winner of the Orchestral category and the Disc of the Year of the 2011 BBC Music Magazine Awards.[31]



AlbumOrchestraLabelDiscsRelease Year
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet (complete ballet)KirovPhilips21991
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet (complete ballet)LSOLSO Live22010
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet) (with Pavane pour une infante défunte and Boléro)LSOLSO Live12010
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (L'Oiseau de feu) (Complete ballet)KirovPhilips11998
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps) (with Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy)KirovPhilips12001
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Sleeping Beauty (complete ballet)KirovPhilips31993
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker (complete ballet)KirovPhilips11998
TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake (complete ballet) (Highlights available separately)MariinskyDecca22007


AlbumOrchestraLabelDiscsRelease Year
BARTÓK: Bluebeard's CastleLSOLSO Live12009
BORODIN: Prince IgorKirovPhilips31995
DONIZETTI: Lucia di LammermoorMariinskyMariinsky Live22011
GLINKA: Ruslan and LudmilaKirovPhilips31997
MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov (1869 & 1872 version)KirovPhilips51999
MUSSORGSKY: KhovanshchinaKirovPhilips31992
PROKOFIEV: The Love for Three OrangesKirovPhilips22001
PROKOFIEV: Semyon KotkoKirovPhilips22000
PROKOFIEV: The GamblerKirovPhilips21999
PROKOFIEV: The Fiery AngelKirovPhilips21995
PROKOFIEV: War and PeaceKirovPhilips31993
PROKOFIEV: Betrothal in a MonasteryKirovPhilips31998
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: SadkoKirovPhilips31994
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Maid of PskovKirovPhilips21997
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Legend of the Invisible City of KitezhKirovPhilips31999
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Kashchey the ImmortalKirovPhilips11999
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Tsar's BrideKirovPhilips21999
SHOSTAKOVICH: The NoseMariinskyMariinsky Live22009
STRAVINSKY: Oedipus rex (Comes with Ballet Les noces)MariinskyMariinsky Live12010
TCHAIKOVSKY: Pique DameKirovPhilips31993
TCHAIKOVSKY: MazeppaKirovPhilips31998
TCHAIKOVSKY: IolantaKirovPhilips21998
VERDI: La Forza del Destino (1862 original version)KirovPhilips31997
WAGNER: ParsifalMariinskyMariinsky Live42010

Orchestral works[edit]

AlbumOrchestraLabelDiscsRelease Year
BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique, La Mort de Cléopâtre (Soprano: Olga Borodina)VPOPhilips12003
BORODIN: Symphonies No. 1 & 2RPhOPolygram11991
DEBUSSY: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, La Mer, JeuxLSOLSO Live12011
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1LSOLSO Live12008
MAHLER: Symphony Nos. 2 & 10 (Adagio)LSOLSO Live22009
MAHLER:Symphony No. 3LSOLSO Live22008
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4LSOLSO Live12010
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5LSOLSO Live12011
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6LSOLSO Live12008
MAHLER: Symphony No. 7LSOLSO Live12008
MAHLER: Symphony No. 8LSOLSO Live12009
MAHLER: Symphony No. 9LSOLSO Live12011
MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an ExhibitionVPOPhilips12002
PROKOFIEV: Scythian Suite, Alexander NevskyKirovPhilips12003
PROKOFIEV: Completes Symphonies (No. 1–7) (No. 4: 1930 + 1947 Versions)LSOPhilips42006
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2KirovPhilips11994
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2LSOLSO Live12010
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade,

BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia, BALAKIREV: Islamey

SHOSTAKOVICH: The War Symphonies (No. 4–9)

Each one available separately

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 1 & 15MariinskyMariinsky Live12009
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 2 & 11MariinskyMariinsky Live12010
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 3 & 10MariinskyMariinsky Live12011
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 4, 5 & 6MariinskyMariinsky Live22014
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad"MariinskyMariinsky Live12012
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8MariinskyMariinsky Live12013
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird – SCRIABIN: PrometheusKirovPhilips11998
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring – SCRIABIN: The Poem of EcstasyKirovPhilips12001
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphonies No. 4, 5, 6Each one available separatelyVPOPhilips32005
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5VPOPhilips11999
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6, Francesca da Rimini, Romeo and JulietKirovPhilips12000
TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture and othersKirovPhilips11994
TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture, Moscow Cantata, Marche Slave, Coronation March, Danish OvertureMariinskyMariinsky Live12009

Orchestral works with soloists[edit]

BRAHMS & KORNGOLD: Violin ConcertosNikolaj ZnaiderVPORCA Red Seal12009
Lang Lang: Liszt, My Piano Hero (LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1)Lang LangVPOSony12011
PROKOFIEV: Complete Piano Concertos (No. 1–5)Alexander ToradzeKirovPhilips21998
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No.2, Rhapsody on a Theme of PaganiniLang LangMariinskyDG12003
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No.3, Rhapsody on a Theme of PaganiniDenis MatsuevMariinskyMariinsky Live12010
TCHAIKOVSKY & MIASKOVSKY: Violin ConcertosVadim RepinMariinskyPhilips12003
TCHAIKOVSKY: Variation on a Rococo Theme, PROKOFIEV: Sinfonia ConcertanteGautier CapuçonMariinskyVirgin12010

Vocal works[edit]

Tchaikovsky & Verdi AriasDmitri HvorostovskyKirovPhilips11990
Tchaikovsky & Verdi AriasGalina GorchakovaKirovPhilips11996
Homage: The Age Of The DivaRenée FlemingMariinskyDecca12007
Russian AlbumAnna NetrebkoMariinskyDG12006
PROKOFIEV: Ivan The Terrible CantataRPhOPhilips11998
VERDI: RequiemMariinskyPhilips22001




Honours and awards[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.
Foreign awards
Religious awards
Community Awards

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John O'Mahony (18 September 1999). "Demon king of the pit". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  2. ^ Jessica Duchen (19 January 2007). "Valery Gergiev: Light the red touchpaper, stand back". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  3. ^ Geoffrey Norris (18 January 2007). "A Russian energy import". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  4. ^ Tom Service (10 May 2004). "LSO/Gergiev". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  5. ^ Richard Morrison (24 May 2005). "Lightning conductor". London: The Times. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  6. ^ Charlotte Higgins (14 April 2006). "Russian maestro reveals his plans for the LSO". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  7. ^ Tim Ashley (16 January 2007). "Gubaidulina". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  8. ^ "Slipped Disc". Slipped Disc. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Classical Superstars Fantasy Concert". Neiman Marcus. 2 October 2007. 
  10. ^ "Slipped Disc". Slipped Disc. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Valerie Lawson (28 September 2006). "Life and tempo of a maestro". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  12. ^ Norman Lebrecht, Interview with Valery Gergiev, BBC Radio 3, 15 August 2011
  13. ^ Charlotte Higgins (26 April 2007). "Orchestras urge free concerts for children". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  14. ^ Tom Service (10 November 2004). "Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre/ Gergiev". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  15. ^ Tim Cornwell (16 August 2008). "'How many of my people were burned?'". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  16. ^ The Times, LSO conductor Valery Gergiev leads defiant South Ossetia concert, 22.08.2008
  17. ^ a b Alex Ross, "Imperious: The problem with Valery Gergiev", The New Yorker, 4 November 2013
  18. ^ Adam Sherwin, "London Symphony Orchestra director takes sides with Putin against Pussy Riot", The Independent, 12 December 2012
  19. ^ Cooper, Michael (23 September 2013). "Gay Rights Protest Greets Opening Night at the Met". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ a b Cooper, Michael (10 October 2013). "Gay Rights Protests Follow Gergiev to Carnegie Hall". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "Slipped Disc". Slipped Disc. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  22. ^ Mark Brown, "Russian conductor Valery Gergiev denies supporting anti-gay legislation", The Guardian, 6 November 2013
  23. ^ Mark Brown, "Valery Gergiev concert picketed by gay rights supporters", The Guardian, 7 November 2013
  24. ^ Mark Brown, "Valery Gergiev concert picketed by gay rights supporters", The Guardian, 7 November 2013
  25. ^ Melissa Eddy, "Gergiev, With Eye on Munich Job, Responds to Antigay Accusations", New York Times, 27 December 2013
  26. ^ "Николай Зятьков. 2014. "Валерий Гергиев: 'Если внутреннее зло побеждено, то и внешнее не страшно.'" Interview. Аргументы и факты (5 March)". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Ng, David. 2014. "Putin policy in Crimea backed by Valery Gergiev, other arts figures." Los Angeles Times (12 March).". 12 March 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  28. ^ Susan Mansfield (15 August 2008). "Reaping the Russian whirlwind – Valery Gergiev". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  29. ^ Valery Gergiev (August 2008). "Letters to the Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  30. ^ Andrew Clements (23 June 2006). "Prokofiev: Symphonies 1–7, LSO/Gergiev". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  31. ^ "BBC Music Magazine Awards". Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  32. ^ "Putin Hands Out First Soviet-Style Awards". RIA Novosti. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  33. ^ "Mariinsky news item". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
David Khanjian
Principal Conductor, Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Rafael Mangassarian
Preceded by
Yuri Temirkanov
Principal Conductor and Music Director, Kirov Opera
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Jeffrey Tate
Principal Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Yannick Nézet-Séguin