From 12-27 May the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and Opera Company were on tour in the UK and Ireland, performing under Valery Gergiev in Newcastle, Glasgow, Dublin, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff. It was in the UK last year at London's renowned Barbican Hall that Valery Gergiev opened the immense All Shostakovich's Symphonies project, which will see all of the composer's fifteen symphonies performed by the world's leading orchestras under Maestro Gergiev both in Russia and abroad.
Continuing the anniversary celebrations the programme for this May's tour by the Mariinsky Theatre included Shostakovich's Third, Fifth, Eighth, Tenth and Fifteenth Symphonies. British audiences also had the opportunity to hear symphonic works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Musorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov as well as concert performances of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Verdi's La forza del destino.
The British press responded enthusiastically to the Mariinsky Theatre's tour:
"Correct me if you think I'm wrong, but was the concert given on Sunday night by Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre orchestra not one of the most virtuosic and shattering demonstrations of orchestral playing witnessed in the Royal Concert Hall in its 16 years of operation'
With his highly unorthodox conducting technique and one of the most polished orchestras in the world, Gergiev succeeded in producing from his band a performance as riveting as any musical drama of Shakespearean depth". (Mariinsky Theatre orchestra, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow. Michael Tumelty // The Herald. 16.05.2006)
"Such an orchestra! Such precision! Such an ensemble!" So wrote Berlioz in his memoirs about the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Well, the same holds good almost 140 years later as this fabulous orchestra under its charismatic conductor Valery Gergiev, brought the National Concert Hall's own 2005-6 season to a sensational close on Monday evening". (From Russia with electrifying musical magic. Pat O'Kelly // Irish Independent. 17.05.2006)
"The sounds the Mariinsky Theatre musicians make could never be duplicated by any of the identikit orchestras further west in Europe. Take the brass. Here we're used to shrill brilliance; the St Petersburg players give us earthy warmth. Or the strings: a formidable section, this, masterly at the legato glide, but most supreme in the dark weight of cellos and double basses.
On Friday Shostakovich's ubiquitous Fifth Symphony – most brilliantly played – came paired with Prokofiev's last, neglected Seventh. Gergiev balanced the chameleon moods most skillfully". (Kirov Orchestra/Gergiev. Geoff Brown // The Times. 17.05.06)
"Proving that, for a Russian orchestra, raw emotionalism isn't necessarily all, Valery Gergiev showed that his Kirov Orchestra can be just as polished, precise and glamorous, with a depth of sound driven from the cellos and the double basses lined up along the back that would be the envy of most.
Gergiev's approach to Shostakovich was perhaps unsurprising, it was an astonishing performance of the 10th Symphony, which brought out the often unacknowledged beauty of the score". (Kirov/Gergiev. Rowena Smith // Guardian. 18.05.2006)