In a continuation of Valery Gergiev's plans for a symphonic cycle marking one century since the birth of Dmitry Shostakovich, which will see all fifteen of the composer's symphonies performed by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Wiener Philharmoniker, the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra performed throughout March at major concert venues in American states including New York, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. During the American tour Valery Gergiev conducted Shostakovich's First, Second, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Symphonies.
2006 has been named the Shostakovich Century, with Russian President Vladimir Putin issuing a decree on 14 February 2006 confirming the fact on a State level. Valery Gergiev laid the foundations for the symphonic series when he conducted the composer's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra at London's Barbican Centre. There were also performances of the composer's symphonies during the Mariinsky Theatre's winter tour to Japan. During the US tour, this unique music project was warmly received by the public which included an audience of three thousand at the famous Avery Fisher Hall at New York's Lincoln Center, with Shostakovich's Second, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Symphonies being performed over two evenings.
"Shostakovich's 15 symphonies are an uneven lot, which is why we hear the Fifth plenty, the Seventh way too often, the Eighth, 10th and 13th some but not enough, and the rest once in a blue moon. If anyone can make a case for the full set, it is probably Mr. Gergiev. He is steeped in Shostakovich's musical language, which, after all, continues a line that runs through Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, also Gergiev specialties. And he has a flair for the dramatic, a quality that suffuses this music.
The Symphony No. 10 was played on Sunday with an uncommonly rich string tone and extraordinarily precise woodwind and brass playing. More striking, Mr. Gergiev's finely graded dynamics created a sense of this symphony – and of the Seventh and Ninth, on Monday – as a breathing organism.
But what Mr. Gergiev made clear in his coupling of polar opposites like the raucous wartime Seventh and gently cheerful postwar Ninth is that each of these organisms is distinct. The Ninth, for example, was a picture of light-textured orchestral virtuosity. The Seventh, virtuosic in a different way, offered some of the loudest orchestral playing I've ever heard, yet neither the orchestra's tone nor the solidity of its ensemble suffered for it". (Allan Kozinn. A power surge of Shostakovich. // The New York Times. 15.03.2006)
"The hour-long symphony revealed the fact that Gergiev's favorite instrument is the Kirov Orchestra itself. During the long first movement, Gergiev repeatedly made a small fluttering motion with his left hand (he does not conduct with a baton) and each time the lush strings responded immediately and with sublime tone. With his right hand, Gergiev painted a picture for the low strings that created a sound hauntingly beautiful. The maestro conducted with brilliant intensity and orchestra responded with intense brilliance.
After the concert, Gergiev quipped, "Shostakovich is probably not your normal musical food here" Maybe not, but some of us are ready for a steady diet as long as Gergiev is cooking". (Timothy Riley. Kirov Orchestra dazzles at PAC // Appleton Post-Crescent 21.03.2006).
"Throughout the concert, Gergiev demonstrated he's a master of dynamics and of integrating the sections of the orchestra so that none overpowered any of the others. Depending upon the mood of the music during each section, Gergiev's movements varied from a stern tone to the graceful fluidity of a dancer". (Andrew S. Hughes. Kirov Orchestra performs forcefully at ND // South Bend Tribune. 25.03.2006)
"Mr. Gergiev conducted the Symphony No. 1 with his usual engagement and adrenalin. He can get excited about anything, Mr. Gergiev – and that is a very useful trait in a conductor. The Kirov Orchestra was at the top of its game, and there was much slick solo playing: from the trumpet, the clarinet, the concertmaster. Also the timpanist, rightly wild". (Jay Nordlinger. A Busy, Engaged Conductor // The New York Sun. 14.03.2006)
"Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre opened [in Avery Fischer Hall] with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, a flashy student work from 1924-25-that showcased the virtuosity of maestro and band. Shrieking winds and gritty brass raised searing walls of sound in the first movement, only to give way to passages of impossible delicacy, mere cobwebs of music spun of diaphanous string tone. Abrupt, shattering drum strokes in the final movement drew gasps from the audience, who greeted this and the program's other works with roars of appreciation.
...For all the gorgeous detail they wrought, Gergiev and his orchestra never neglected the visceral sweep of Shostakovich's music. The maestro worked magic with every fluttery movement of his hands, drawing forth performances of blistering intensity and imposing musical integrity". (Marion Lignana Rosenberg. Spotlighting Shostakovich // Newsday. 15.03.2006)
The anniversary programme will continue in Russia with the Moscow Easter Festival (23 April-9 May 2006) and the Stars of the White Nights festival (10 May-19 July 2006), which is dedicated to one hundred years since the birth of Shostakovich, the playbill also listing the composer's symphonies.
In October 2006 under the baton of Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra will complete the American cycle to mark one hundred years since the birth of Shostakovich with a series of concerts in major US cities from Seattle to Washington and New York.