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Russian Conductor Yuri Temirkanov Tours Australia

Noted Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov visited Australia in August, 1996 to conduct the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras.

Temirkanov was born in the Caucuses in l938 and studied violin and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory. From l969 to l977, he has Music Director of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra (sister to the famous Philharmonic, then still under the reign of Yevgeny Mravinsky). In l977 he was appointed Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Kirov Opera and is now Music Director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic--the new name for the old Leningrad Philharmonic. He has also been Principal Guest Conductor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for much of the last decade. He has conducted many of the best American and European orchestras.

While he is known for his performances of Russian works, particularly those of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, the conductor would like to feature a wider range of non Russian pieces in his concerts. However, to date his recordings, mostly on BMG/RCA, feature standard Russian fare, including symphonies by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky (a complete cycle with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), and Stravinsky. However, he has recorded the Berlioz Symphony Fantastique, to widespread acclaim.

A conductor of considerable conviction, power and finesse, Temirkanov ranks as one of the finest exponents of the Russian school, together with Mariss Jansons (also closely connected with St. Petersburg), Valery Gergiev, and Yevgeny Svetlanov--whose newer recordings on the Japanese Pony Canyon label, alas, are very hard to get.

In his Melbourne appearance, Termikanov, known here mainly for his work with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic, showed that all conductors are definitely not created equal. The enigmatic Russian coaxed an exciting response from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the Rachmaninov Second Symphony and the Dvorak Cello Concerto with soloist Lynn Harrell. It was the Rachmaninov which created the stronger impression - a large scale typically Russian performance with lots of passion, energy, strong brass and more or less rich strings.

Temirkanov is not the only Russian conductor to have appeared in Australia: Jansons conducted a memorable series of concerts some time ago. Svetlanov, too, has conducted in Australia, but with his own orchestra, the then titled USSR State Symphony Orchestra. (These days it appears under a variety of names, including the State Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation).

Australia attracts many fine conductors from around the globe, but there are always two problems: the cost of getting the very best, and the distance from Europe and America. However, in regard to this latter point, it would seem that a mini circuit may be building up between Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and even Taiwan. In fact the quality of many of the orchestras in Asia is excellent --as you can read in my article on this site, "Asian Orchestras Achieve High Standards."

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