Yuri Temirkanov obituary


As head of two of Russia’s main musical establishments, the Kirov (later, Mariinsky) Opera and Ballet Theatre (1976-88) and the Leningrad (later, St Petersburg) Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he was principal conductor for greater than three a long time from 1988, Yuri Temirkanov, who has died aged 84, was on the forefront of music within the Soviet Union for almost half a century.

He was a well-recognized determine internationally, too, not solely by advantage of his frequent excursions with Russian orchestras but additionally due to his relationships with American, British and different European ensembles.

He was, from 1979, principal visitor and, from 1992 to 1998, principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic, and, following a sequence of visitor appearances with orchestras in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles within the Nineteen Nineties, he was music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 2000 to 2006. He additionally held positions with the Danish Nationwide Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic.

Nonetheless, regardless of his powerfully impassioned, typically searing performances, he was a controversial determine. Each his idiosyncratic model on the rostrum and the unpredictability of his dazzling, wilful readings attracted criticism. His unreconstructed views about girls – not least feminine conductors, a phenomenon he believed to be opposite to nature – and his perceived closeness to Vladimir Putin additionally induced ructions.

As late as 2012 he opined in an interview {that a} girl “ought to be stunning, likable, engaging. Musicians will take a look at her and be distracted from the music”. Digging himself even deeper, he went on: “The essence of the conductor’s occupation is energy. The essence of a girl is weak point.”

But, Lara Webber, who held each assistant and affiliate conductor positions with the Baltimore orchestra, said that these opinions have been inconsistent with the person she had recognized and labored with, and that he was a “actually supportive boss”.

Although he denied ever becoming a member of the Communist occasion, he advised the Baltimore Solar in 2004 that Putin was “an excellent buddy, superb”. The newspaper famous that Temirkanov was utilizing his closeness to Putin to foyer for Russian orchestras going through a monetary disaster within the post-Soviet years.

Temirkanov’s podium choreography modified over time. When he took the Leningrad Philharmonic to the Edinburgh competition in 1991, I famous that his comedian antics might have earned him a bob or two on the perimeter circuit.

Brandishing his Pavarotti handkerchief and sarcastically brushing his hair again on the sight of a digicam, he quietly relished the limelight. Carrying a quizzical smile, he had an astonishing repertory of gestures at his disposal, a flick of the wrist performing as a sort of semiotic code. He carried out not with a baton, scarcely even along with his arms: extra along with his eyebrows and infrequently his elbows.

The histrionics suited him greatest in a Prokofiev programme. Within the Classical Symphony and Romeo and Juliet music he extracted a fairly heavy humour – with acidic brass and the decrease strings excavating deeply – however this was balanced by a contrasting mode of the utmost delicacy, wherein the upper strings dialogued in an exaggeratedly hushed whisper.

In Russian repertoire, specifically, his readings have been at their most electrifying. And, no matter one’s views of his music-making, he was all the time a pleasure to look at on the rostrum in these years.

At a BBC Proms look in 2004, his gestures in Glinka’s Valse-Fantaisie have been extraordinary: palm prolonged like an importunate beggar, sweeping, scooping, typically a mere nod of the pinnacle. However the outcome was breathtaking: a waltz that actually floated, with gradations of delicacy that not often rose above mezzo forte.

Such was the synergy between this orchestra (now named the St Petersburg Philharmonic) and its longstanding music director that Temirkanov might threat daring however typically convincing rubato and idiosyncratic phrase turns. In more moderen years, streamed performances confirmed a genial, silver-haired maestro nonetheless gesturing extravagantly, albeit extra sedately.

Born in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Caucasus, he was considered one of 4 kids of Khatu Sagidovich Temirkanov, minister of tradition in Kabardino-Balkaria, who was executed by the Germans in 1941, and his spouse, Polina Petyrovna.

Yuri studied the violin on the Leningrad Conservatory faculty for gifted kids after which conducting on the conservatory, graduating in 1965. He started conducting on the Malïy Opera theatre, Leningrad, making his debut with La Traviata. After successful the Soviet All-Union Conductors’ Competitors in 1968 he turned music director of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra, the second main ensemble of town.

As creative director and chief conductor of Kirov Opera and Ballet he exercised appreciable authority. For his personal manufacturing of Eugene Onegin in 1982 (filmed in 1984) he undertook intensive archival analysis to determine such niceties as how a girl would maintain a fan, how a person would sit when sporting tails. In line with Sergei Leiferkus, who sang the title function, Temirkanov knew your entire Pushkin novel and the whole opera libretto from reminiscence. His goal was to realize most constancy to the unique, and, unsurprisingly, he was unsympathetic to the extra progressive dramaturgy then prevalent in Europe.

When he introduced the Kirov to Covent Backyard in 1987 – the primary time a Russian opera firm had appeared on the Royal Opera – along with his personal productions of Onegin and the Queen of Spades, in addition to Boris Godunov, directed by Boris Pokrovsky, the stagings have been already wanting old style (although each his Onegin and the Queen of Spades stay within the Mariinsky repertory to the current day). His conducting of Onegin, specifically, was as soon as once more criticised as erratic.

He recorded the six numbered symphonies of Tchaikovsky twice, as soon as with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, as soon as with the Royal Philharmonic. In each, the darkish mysteries of the later works are unerringly captured. Russian music loomed massive in his recorded catalogue, however he additionally set down variations of works by such composers as Mozart, Mahler, Berlioz, Dvořák and Sibelius.

Temirkanov’s spouse, Irina Guseva, died in 1997. Their son, Vladimir, a violinist, additionally predeceased him.


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