The International Winter Festival is an annual musical festival that takes place in December at Arts Square. This year, there were performances and exhibitions by the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, the Mikhailovsky Theater, the Theater of Musical Comedy, the Museum-Monument “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”, and the Russian State Museum. This year the festival celebrated the anniversaries of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Jean Sibelius, and Georgy Sviridov. I was able to see the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra perform twice at the Grand Hall during this music festival.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was celebrated all year since 2015 marked the 175th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Tchaikovsky has a long history with the St. Petersburg Philharmonia. His Symphony No. 5 in E minor premiered at a concert of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society on November 17, 1888. Tchaikovsky conducted this premiere. His last symphony, Symphony No. 6 in B minor, premiered at the Assembly of the Nobility (Grand Hall of the Philharmonia) on October 28, 1893 also conducted by the composer. One concert that I attended for the International Winter Festival featured winners of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition. I saw Andrei Ionita who won first prize for the cello in 2015 and Lukas Geniusas who won the second prize for the piano in 2015. Andrei performed Tchaikovsky’s Variation on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra and Lukas performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. At another concert of the music festival I saw my first live performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor.
2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Sibelius helped to develop a national identity through music in Finland during its struggle for independence from Russia. He wanted to become a virtuoso on the violin, but instead turned to composition. Sibelius was influenced by the musical compositions of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, and Bruckner and was the musical rival of Mahler. I have been a fan of Sibelius since I played his tone poem Finlandia in high school. I was able to see a performance of his Violin Concerto in D minor performed by Alina Pogostkina, winner of the first prize of the 9th Sibelius Competition (2005). I was able to play this violin concerto with the Huxford Symphony Orchestra in Tuscaloosa Alabama.
This year also marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Soviet composer Georgy Sviridov. Sviridov studied piano at the Leningrad Central Music College from 1932-1936. Afterwards, he studied under Dmitri Shostakovich at the Leningrad Conservatory from 1936-1941. Sviridov composed mostly vocal and chamber works. During his musical career, he experimented with different genres and different types of musical compositions, while being influenced by the Russian musical heritage. Poetry had a major impact on his songs and romances, setting music to the poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Blok, and even Shakespeare. Sviridov’s music is rarely heard in the West, but his music remains popular in Russia because of their lyrical melodies and national flavor. I attended a performance of Sviridov’s Small Triptych for Orchestra and this was the first time I heard music from this Russian composer.
XVI International Winter Festival
December 13-25, 2015
Yuri Temirkanov (Artistic Director of the Festival)