The Mariinsky Theatre boasts one of Russian's oldest orchestras, which traces its history from
the time of Peter the Great. It was played at the Mariinsky ever since the Theatre was founded in
1860. The orchestra's "golden age" is associated with the name of Eduard Napravnik, who entered
the theatre as an assistant conductor in 1863 and went on to head it for over half a century. He
trained a large number of famous conductors and developed what subsequently became known as
the Russian school of conducting.
Leading musicians, such as Vietan, Kontszki, Weniavski and Auer, have at various times led the
Mariinsky Orchestra. Composers have presented their symphonic works from behind its podium,
among them Tchaikovsky ("Fifth Symphony", "Sixth Symphony", "Hamlet" Fantasy Overture,
"The Enchantress"), Rachmaninov (cantata "Spring", symphonic poem "The Bells"), Berlioz ("La
damnation de Faust", "Romeo et Juliette", "Symphonie fantastique", "Harold in Italy"),
Schoenberg (symphonic poem "Pelleas et Melisande") and Mahler ("Fifth Symphony"). Such
famous conductors as Hans von Bullov, Felix Mottl, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Bruno Walter,
Erich Kleiber and Otto Klemperer have all worked with the orchestra. In the Soviet period the
orchestra was led by Emil Cooper, Albert Coates, Eduard Grikurov, Ari Pazovsky, Boris Khaikin,
Konstantin Simeonov, Yury Temirkanov. Vladimir Dranishnikov, Nikolai Malko, Dmitry
Pokhitonov and Yevgeny Mravinsky have all at one time stood behind its podium.
Many classics of opera and ballet were presented to the public for the first time in the Mariinsky
Theatre. It has been the setting for the world premieres of Glinka's "A Life for the Tsar" and
"Ruslan and Lyudmila", Musorgsky's "Boris Godunov" and "Khovanshchina", Borodin's "Prince
Igor" and the masterpieces of Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Glazunov. The
premiere of Verdi's "La forza del destino" took place here in the presence of the composer. The
Mariinsky Theatre was also the scene for Russia's first ever staging of the whole cycle of
Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen", conducted by Hans Richter.
The Mariinsky Orchestra concert program received a new impetus in 1988 with the appointment of
Valery Gergiev as Principal Conductor. Closer contacts were established with the world's leading
opera companies - Covent Garden, La Scala, San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.
A series of promenade concerts and highly acclaimed tours have affirmed the Mariinsky
Orchestra's reputation as one of the world's top symphonic orchestra.