Celebrated conductor Yuri Temirkanov brought his talents from the former Soviet Union through Europe, and to the United States. In 1999, he accepted a position as the principal conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra while retaining simultaneous positions as the principal conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. Temirkanov is recognized globally as a precise orchestral conductor, highly knowledgeable of musical composition and intuitive in his direction.
Temirkanov was born Yuri Khatuyevich Temirkanov on December 10, 1938, in Nalchik, the capitol city of the southern Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, on the Northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. He was born to Khatu Sagidovich Temirkano and Polina Petrovna Temirkanova. Khatu Temirkano was the minister of culture for the republic. The family lived in Nalchik until 1941, when Khatu Temirkano was executed during the German invasion. Just prior to his death, the composer Sergei Prokofieff and his future wife, Mira Mendelson, lived for a time with Temirkanov’s family. Prokofieff was involved in writing the score of War and Peace at the time.
At the command of the Soviet regime, Temirkanov began to study music at age nine. It was the young boy’s teacher who selected the violin as Termirkanov’s instrument. At age 13 he went to Leningrad, sent by his teacher, to the School forTalented Children. Temirkanov studied both viola and violin and went on to the Leningrad Conservatory (Conservatoire). He graduated in a violin program there in 1962. Temirkanov came to consider Leningrad as home since he moved there at age 13. Beginning in 1961, he played violin with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra until 1966. Between 1966 and 1968, he was a conductorfor the Maly Theatre and Opera studio in Leningrad. During much of that time he continued at the Conservatoire in a post-graduate program of conducting, while working under Evgeny Mravinsky as an assistant conductor with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. Temirkanov graduated in conducting in 1965, and debuted with the Leningrad Opera that same year.
From 1968 until 1977, Temirkanov led the Leningrad Symphony (a different group from Mravinsky’s Leningrad Philharmonic). He then took over as the chief conductor of the Kirov Opera and Ballet Company in 1977. His most memorable operatic productions included Shchedrin’s Dead Souls, Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin at Kirov; as well as Porgy and Bess earlier at Maly. Temirkanov made his recording debut in 1973, performing Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 with the Royal Philharmonic, a popular rendition that was re-released in 1998 on compact disc. American
Born Yuri Khatuyevich Temirkanov, December 10, 1938, in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria (Russian republic); son of Khatu Sagidovich Temirkanov and Polina PetrovnaTemirkanova; married Irina Guseva (died 1997); one son, Vladimir. Education: Leningrad Conservatoire, graduated 1962 and 1965.
First violinist, Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, 1961-66; conductor, Maly Theatre and Opera Studio, Leningrad, 1966-68; chief conductor, Leningrad Symphony Orchestra, 1968-76; Kirov Opera and Ballet Company, 1976-88; professor, Leningrad Conservatoire, 1979-88; artistic director, Leningrad Philharmonia Orchestra (later St. Petersburg Philharmonia), 1988-; signed with BMG/RCA, 1988; chief conductor, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1992-; music director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, 1999-; principal guest conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra; guest conductor numerous countries; opera productions: Porgy and Bess; Peter the Great; Dead Souls; Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin, 1979.
Awards: First Prize, U.S.S.R. All-Union Conductors’ Competition, 1966; Moscow National Conducting Competition Winner, 1967; Glinka Prize, U.S.S.R State Prize, 1976, 1985; U.S.S.R. People’s Artist, 1981.
Record Guide’s Philip Haldeman called the performance “warmer [and] more passionate” than other interpretations. In 1979 Temirkanov joined the faculty of the Leningrad Conservatoire as a professor and served there until 1988. In 1979, he was named the principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic of London, and in 1988 he assumed a position as the chief conductor and music director of the Leningrad Philharmonic, behind his mentor, Mravinsky. Temirkanov retained his position with that orchestra throughout the 1990s. In 1992 he added to his credits the title of chief conductor of the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, an organization which he formerly led as principal guest conductor.
Temirkanov’s made his conducting debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1992 and began a lasting affiliation with that organization. He returned in 1995, 1996, and 1998. In 1999 he assumed a position as the music director of the orchestra, and later that year he was appointed to succeed David Zinman as principal conductor of the Baltimore Symphony. In addition to his permanent positions, Termirkanov was named to a host of guest conductor positions, including principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. He served as guest conductor to orchestras around the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de Paris, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, as well as orchestras in Scandinavia and in Sweden in 1968. Additionally he has held positions in the United States—in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles since 1981.
In 1988, under an exclusive contract to BMG/RCA Records, Temirkanov recorded the Stravinsky ballets and Tchaikovsky symphonies with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His other sound recordings included performances of Shostakovich and Prokofieff, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, and Sibelius with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. He is well known for his performances on four continents, including Europe, South America, Japan, and other Asian countries. A critically acclaimed tour to the United States took him to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. Although audiences worldwide appreciate his presentations and interpretations of the works of the great Russian composers, Temirkanov is equally at ease with the music of non-Russian composers. He avers wholeheartedly that music is an international phenomenon that should not be compartmentalized by nationality.
Temirkanov came to the conductor’s post of the Leningrad Orchestra in 1968. His appointment followed 50 years of leadership by Mravinsky, a brilliant conductor who brought that orchestra into its standing as a world-class organization even amid the turmoil of World War II. Mravinsky led the orchestra until his death in 1989. Temirkanov patiently resurrected the long-lost vigor of the famed musicians and restored the orchestra to its legendary brilliance. In 1991 Temirkanov was quoted in American Record Guideas saying, “Mravinsky was the one who made the orchestra’s name. [It was my job]… to persuade the musicians to trust me.” Under Temirkanov’s leadership the orchestra was revitalized and took on new qualities. In 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the official name of the city of Leningrad was restored by popular vote to St. Petersburg. Temirkanov restored the name of the Philharmonic to follow suit, and the orchestra again became known as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. The collapse of the Soviet regime brought new freedom for musicians to travel freely abroad without the overbearing security and surveillance tactics characteristic of the old government. Since that time Temirkanov has retained his Russian citizenship, but has performed as much as possible in the United States. Regretfully he acknowledged that the situation in Russia resulted from the poor civic and economic climate of his motherland following the political upheaval of the 1990s. Many Russian musicians were unemployed during the 1990s, while others who were fortunate enough to secure work were paid only rarely, if ever. Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic were among the fortunate few to secure rewarding assignments. They received a commission from RCA Victor in 1995 to create a restored soundtrack for the early film classic, Alexander Nevsky. Stalin originally produced the film in 1938, the year of Temirkanov’s birth. Ironically the movie was released as a propaganda vehicle to warn of the looming danger of a German invasion—the very circumstance that became a tragic reality in 1941 when Temirkanov was three years old. Stereo fìew’ewcompared the luster of the completed stereo soundtrack led by Temirkanov to the restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling in Vatican City.
In 1995 Temirkanov conducted the San Francisco Orchestra through the Prokofieff soundtrack of the Sergei Eisenstein epic, Ivan the Terrible. American Record Guide critic Marilyn Tucker, called the music “extraordinary,” and said that “Temirkanov sketched the scenes with a brush that painted up the immense scale and vitality of both the film and the music.”
Temirkanov has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, even during the years of repressive rule by the Soviet government. In 1966 he won first prize in the All Soviet-Union Conductors’ Competition, and he was named the winner of the Moscow National Conducting Competition in 1967. Temirkanov received the Glinka Prize, aState Prize awarded bythe former Soviet Union, in 1976 and in 1985. In 1981 he was also named the People’s Artist of the Soviet Union.
Temirkanov has one son, Vladimir, who plays violin for St. Petersburg Philharmonic. Temirkanov’s wife, Irina Guseva, died in 1997.
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker, RCA Victor, 1995.
(with St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra) Shostakovich:Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad,” RCA Victor, 1996.
(with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 1998.
(with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra) Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2.
(with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra) Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade/Russian Easter Overture.
American Record Guide, January-February 1996; January-February 1998; March -April 1998.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 1997.
Stereo Review, May 1995.
Washington Post, April 18, 1999.
“Gramophone Chat Transcript,” http://www.gramophone.co.uk/chats.html (March 19, 1999).
Temirkanov, Yuri, outstanding Russian conductor; b. Nalchik, Dec. 10, 1938. He received his training at the Leningrad Cons., where he graduated as a violinist in 1962 and as a conductor in 1965. In 1965 he made his first appearance as a conductor at the Leningrad Opera. After capturing 1st prize in the All-Union Conductors’ Competition in 1966, he appeared as a guest conductor with many Russian orchs. and opera houses. From 1968 to 1976 he was music director of the Leningrad Sym. Orch. He also appeared as a guest conductor abroad, making his Salzburg Festival debut in 1971 with the Vienna Phil. In 1977 he made his London debut as a guest conductor with the Royal Phil., and subsequently appeared with the major British orchs. From 1977 to 1988 he was artistic director of the Kirov Opera and Ballet, which he also led on tours. In 1978 he made a tour of the U.S. In 1979 he was named principal guest conductor of the Royal Phil. In 1988 he became chief conductor of the Leningrad (later St. Petersburg) Phil. In 1992 he was made principal conductor of the Royal Phil. while retaining his position in St. Petersburg. During the 1992-93 season, he conducted the St. Petersburg Phil. on a tour of Europe and Japan and the Royal Phil. on a tour of the U.S. and Germany. Temirkanov has won particular renown for his brilliant and idiomatic performances of works from the Russian repertoire.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire