Another historic concert this week; The USSR Symphony conducted by Yevgeny Svetlanov and recorded during the Prague Spring Festival 1977.
Three works are featured – opening with Symphony Number 1 (Classical) by Prokofiev, followed by Introduction to Mussorgsky’s Khovantschina and ending up the first half with a work by Svetlanov; his Poeme for violin and Orchestra (in memory of David Oistrakh) with Edward Grache, violin. The concert concludes with a performance of Scriabin’s Symphony Number 2.
In addition to being a legendary conductor and pianist, Yevgeny Svetlanov was also a well-regarded, yet less well known composer. His Poeme for Violin and Orchestra was written in tribute to his friend David Oistrakh, with whom Svetlanov had appeared countless times.
Svetlanov’s association with the USSR Symphony began in 1962 until his departure in 1999. Long considered “his” symphony orchestra, Svetlanov recorded a vast amount of primarily Russian music and it was through these many recordings, made during the Soviet period that he established the international reputation he was to enjoy throughout his career. His 1999 “firing” from the orchestra, was attributed to frequent guest appearances with other orchestras around the world, beginning with his association with the London Symphony in 1979, but eventually which led the Russian hierarchy to consider excessive and no longer in the Russian State Orchestras (former USSR Symphony) best interest; that he was spending too much time abroad and not enough time in Moscow. He was also appointed Principle Guest Conductor of the Hague Residente Orchestra, as well as the Swedish Radio Symphony from 1999 to 2000.
Yevgeny Svetlanov went on to become closely associated with the NHK Symphony in Japan, leading the orchestra from 1993 until 2000. His popularity at home had not diminished in the least since leaving the USSR Symphony. He was widely honored in many different ways; from having an Asteroid and the first Aeroflot Airbus A300 named after him to The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation and an international conducting competition also carrying his name.
After his death in 2002, practically all of his recordings have been reissued, as well as many of his live concerts with the USSR Symphony. He has been widely regarded as one of the greatest conductors Russia has had to offer.
This concert from the 1977 Prague Spring festival is typical of the type of concert he led throughout his career.