Valery Gergiev was born in Moscow in 1953. He studied orchestral conducting at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in Leningrad under Ilya Musin and won the Herbert von Karajan Competition in Berlin whilst still a student. Immediately after graduating he was appointed assistant conductor at the Kirov Theatre, and then became principal conductor of the Armenian State Orchestra.
Gergiev returned to the Kirov in 1988, where he was appointed director and principal conductor. Under his inspirational leadership this company regained its original name and grandeur. Re-christened the Mariinsky Theatre, it once again became the temple of Russian opera and ballet culture.
Gergiev made his debut in the Netherlands on 31 October 1987. From 1988 onwards he was a regular guest conductor with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, where he became principal conductor in 1995. Together with the orchestra he initiated the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival, which was staged for the first time in 1996. Valery Gergiev has conducted all the world’s great symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Berliner Philharmoniker. From 2007 to 2015 he was principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. During the tenth Gergiev Festival (2005) Valery Gergiev was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. He was awarded the Rotterdam Promotion Prize 2006 a year later.
Gergiev ended his time as principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2008. At his departure mayor Ivo Opstelten presented him with the Johan van Oldebarneveldt Medal, the city of Rotterdam’s highest award, and he was appointed honorary conductor by the orchestra.
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 no focus on a particular composer or musical period, but a theme that provides every opportunity to place the music in a wider context. That course was pursued in the editions Night of Love, Heaven and Earth, Eternal Youth and a festival triptych about Rotterdam: Resurrection (2010), Sea & the City (2011) en Sea & You (2012). And in 2013, exactly 25 years after his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra the festival marked Valery Gergiev’s ‘silver’ affiliation with the city.
More information about the Gergiev Festival