Kirov Takes Up Residency at the Sage

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

One of the world's top orchestras is to make the North-East its temporary home this week, as David Whetstone reports.

The Russians are coming! More than 100 of the best musicians the country has to offer, led by one of the most talked-about and charismatic conductors in the world, are bound for a residency on Tyneside.

The Kirov Orchestra and Valery Gergiev will perform four concerts at The Sage Gateshead featuring the work of three great Russian composers, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.

Gergiev is regarded as one of the best of his generation and has been much in the news because he succeeds Sir Colin Davis in January as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

This is the stuff dreams are made of ( the dreams that imagined a world-class concert venue on Tyneside attracting the kind of talent others can, well, only dream of. It has become a reality for us.

The Kirov is appearing fleetingly elsewhere in the country, but it will be here for days.

There will be pre-concert talks and three Northern Sinfonia musicians will attend a master-class hosted by the Kirov's exceptional violinist, Vadim Repin, the soloist in the two Prokofiev concertos in the Sage's Hall One ( "probably the most beautiful violin concertos written in the 20th Century," according to Simon Clugston, director of classical-performance programming at the Sage.

Simon is an undemonstrative fellow, but he is excited about this new landmark in the life of the Sage. "It has been nearly two years in the planning and I think what we are getting is the essence of the essence of Russian music," he suggests.

The Kirov Orchestra has a long history, having been founded in the 18th Century during the reign of Peter the Great. Since 1860 it has been housed at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, named after Maria, the wife of Czar Alexander II. Tchaikovsky was closely associated with the theatre and also conducted the orchestra.

The Mariinsky Orchestra became known as the Russian Imperial Opera Orchestra. After the revolution, the Mariinsky Theatre was renamed the Kirov Theatre and the orchestra became the Kirov Orchestra to honour Sergei Kirov, the top Communist who was assassinated in 1934 after falling out with his mentor, Stalin. …