Watch an exclusive Profile of Gergiev courtesy of RM Arts:
1. Intro - Mussorgsky and Shostakovich
2. Childhood and Youth
3. The Conductor
4. Life and Times at the Kirov
5. Mikkelli Festival
Watch an exclusive GMN video interview with Valery Gergiev
Listen to an audio version
Read a synopsis of the interview (below)
Gergiev talks about his early musical influences beginning with his first piano and conducting teachers, and he believes that without these early influences he may not have begun a career in music.
He attended the Leningrad (now St Petersburg) Conservatory for five years, and during this time attended many concerts with the Philharmonic Orchestra under Evgeny Mravinsky. He held Mravinsky in high regard, describing his performances as 'an exemplary marriage between conductor and orchestra'.
The Russian musical tradition was an obvious influence during his years of study, but he also recalls spending time at the house of one of the lecturers from the Conservatory, where he saw photos and heard many stories about the major Russian musical figures of that time.
When Gergiev began his studies, the Russian education system gave everyone the opportunity to learn: tuition was free, and students had access to wonderful teachers.
Gergiev and his class-mates attended many concerts throughout their course, and whilst this exposed them all to a wealth of music, one of the most useful aspects was the in-depth, analytical discussions he had with his friends about the performances.
Konstantin Simeonov was one of the conductors Gergiev saw at this time. He describes him as an independent, very gifted, very strong conductor, with a big vision on how Russian opera should be performed, and recalls a performance of Wagner's Lohengrin that he describes as unforgettable.
THE RISE TO FAME OF THE KIROV…
When Gergiev was studying, the Leningrad Philharmonic had a more prominent reputation than the Kirov, but through the efforts of Gergiev amongst others, it has gradually evolved to become one of the major musical establishments in the world.
One of the first performances Gergiev undertook when he became the permanent conductor of the Kirov was Lohengrin, and this production was then broadcast live on the BBC, a coup for Russian music, as it was the first broadcast of any opera or ballet to come from the Soviet Union.
RUSSIAN CULTURE IN THE WEST…
The first performances of both the Kirov and Bolshoi ballet companies in the west were very successful, and part of their success came from the public's exposure to a new and different culture. Gergiev suggests that this in itself is a unique and rewarding part of any performance in another country.
Gergiev has conducted in many of the opera houses around the world, and believes that the Kirov's reputation has grown not because it is better than these other companies, but rather because it is different.
When guest conducting, Gergiev maintains his characteristic style, and explains that whilst the audiences may expect a certain sound, it is important to maintain individuality, after all 'different colour makes the bouquet more beautiful'.
Gergiev is satisfied and happy working with the Kirov, and feels he can concentrate and keep building on its successes … and of his aims for the future, he would like to do 'not so much, but to do it well'.