The Russian sound

Alexander Dmitiriev conducts the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv.

Alexander Dmitiriev (photo credit: PR)
Alexander Dmitiriev
(photo credit: PR)
The St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra will make its Israeli debut on Russia Day (June 12), performing in Tel Aviv under its artistic director, veteran Russian conductor Alexander Dmitiriev.
“Our orchestra, inaugurated in 1931, is the second-oldest symphony orchestra founded in the Soviet Union,” says Dmitriev in a phone interview from his native St. Petersburg. “It is one of the two symphony orchestras that belong to the St. Petersburg Philharmonia Society. The other is the more famous St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in the 19th century. First it served as the Leningrad Radio Orchestra and, as such, it premiered the legendary Seventh Symphony by Shostakovich under the baton of Karl Eliasberg in August 1942, during WWII, when Leningrad was under siege. The piece was written for a huge orchestra, and some of the musicians were brought to Leningrad from the battlefield, where they fought the Nazi enemy as Red Army soldiers.”
In 1953 the orchestra came under the umbrella of the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Philharmonia Society, joining forces with the older Philharmonic Orchestra (founded in the 19th century).
Dmitiev became the orchestra’s artistic director in 1977, but the renowned ensemble was familiar to him since his childhood.
“My father was a member of the symphony orchestra, and as a child I used to go to rehearsals and concerts,” he recalls.
Dmitriev is obviously a classical old school maestro for whom “good education is essential for a conductor. I don’t want to brag, but after I graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory with three specializations – choir conducting, composition and musicology – and later symphony orchestra conducting, I also studied violin for nine years and have been playing piano my entire life.”
Dmitriev won the Russian national conducting contest. He served as chief conductor of the Petrozavodsk Symphony and later the Mikhailovsky Opera Theater in Leningrad. He was a trainee of legendary conductor Evgeny Mravinsky.
“Communication with the orchestra, insistence on high standards, devotion to the score – that is what I learned from him,” he says. “Mravinsky was a very closed person and always kept his distance from most of people. That said, after I won the conducting competition, he let me conduct the philharmonic orchestra more than once, and I also accompanied the renowned orchestra on tour to Japan.”
Dmitriev adds that his love of Western music comes from his other teacher, the well-known conductor and pedagogue Nikolay Rabinovich.
“Next April, it will be 40 years since I started working with the St.
Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra,” he continues. “Both orchestras of the Philharmonia Society offer about 12 subscription series every season. Our repertoires are similar, and we perform practically everything. But if, say, the Philharmonic Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, we play the Fourth.”
The orchestra tours extensively.
“We have appeared in most European countries, as well as China and Japan, but for some reason we have never been to Israel.
In preparing the concert program, I thought it would be appropriate to offer music from various epochs.
We open the concert with the overture to Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmila, one of the most popular pieces of the Russian repertoire, with joie de vivre written all over it. That is followed by the relatively short Ninth Symphony by Shostakovich. As for Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, it is a wonderful piece which, for some reason, is not performed that often, so I thought it was a must to perform it in Tel Aviv,” he says.
The conductor sums up, “We are looking forward to this tour. We follow the news about Israel and we know, of course, that Israel is a land of ancient history. Regretfully, our visit will be very short, so there will probably not be any sightseeing this time, but at least we will breathe the atmosphere of the country!”
June 12 at 9 p.m. at the Opera House in Tel Aviv. For reservations: (03) 692-7777 or online booking offices.