When Valery Gergiev became Principal Conductor in 1995 he and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra decided to hold an ambitious multi-day musical event. One year later, they presented the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival.
The early years
What began in 1996 as a themed concert series grew into a large-scale music festival. The 2001 edition was a major milestone, because it adopted a multi-disciplinary format to spotlight Shostakovich and his War Symphonies. In 2003 the Festival chose a ‘difficult composer’ in Prokofiev, but thanks to the wide range of programmes it managed to attract a record number of visitors. Further successes were achieved in the festival featuring Tchaikovsky (2004) and the edition entitled Fin-de-siècle Icons (2005) with music including works by Wagner and Strauss.
The second decade
In 2006 the Festival entered its second decade, with Freedom as its motto. There was now no focus on a particular composer or musical period, but a theme that gives every opportunity to place the music in a wider context. This course continued with Night of Love, Heaven and Earth, Eternal Youth and a trio of festivals about Rotterdam: Resurrection (2010), Sea & the City (2011) and Sea & You (2012). In 2013 the festival celebrated Valery Gergiev’s 25-year connection with the city and in 2014 the theme was The First World War.
Gergiev Festival new style
In 2014 the festival opted for a new format concentrated into a long weekend. Once again the principal actors (Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra) and their unique chemistry took centre stage. This new format was very well received by the audiences. The 2015 (Rachmaninov), 2016 (Prokofiev) and 2017 (The Russian Avant-Garde) festivals were very well attended; the highlights included the piano marathons, children’s concerts and the collaboration with the Symphony Orchestra of Codarts & the Royal Conservatoire.
Festival 2019: Paris, mon amour
This edition of the festival features the rich musical history of France, with French masterpieces being combined with less familiar works and a commission composed by Thierry Escaich. And artists such as Yulia Matochkina and Thierry Escaich, who made successful appearances in earlier editions, are performing again this year. For four days, they and host Valery Gergiev will turn the centre of Rotterdam into Montparnasse-on-Maas. The festival closes with the thrilling music drama La damnation de Faust. Along with a star-studded cast, Gergiev shows what a revolutionary composer Berlioz was and how much influence his colourful instrumentation had on later French composers.