Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival in a nutshell.When Valery Gergiev became Principal Conductor in 1995 he and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra decided to hold an ambitious multi-day musical event. One year later, they presented the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival.
The early years
What began in 1996 as a themed concert series grew into a large-scale music festival. The 2001 edition was a major milestone, because it adopted a multi-disciplinary format to spotlight Shostakovich and his War Symphonies. In 2003 the Festival chose a ‘difficult composer’ in Prokofiev, but thanks to the wide range of programmes it managed to attract a record number of visitors. Further successes were achieved in the festival featuring Tchaikovsky (2004) and the edition entitled Fin-de-siècle Icons (2005) with music including works by Wagner and Strauss.
The second decade
In 2006 the Festival entered its second decade, with Freedom as its motto. There was now no focus on a particular composer or musical period, but a theme that gives every opportunity to place the music in a wider context. That course was pursued in the editions Night of Love, Heaven and Earth, Eternal Youth and a festival triptych about Rotterdam: Resurrection (2010), Sea & the City (2011) en Sea & You (2012). And in 2013, exactly 25 years after his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra the festival marked Valery Gergiev’s ‘silver’ affiliation with the city.
For three days, the theme of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival was the First World War. Gergiev conducted works by no fewer than 11 composers (not counting a Wagner encore) from Ravel and Elgar to Prokofiev and Janácek, giving a unique cultural portrait of the years before, during and after WW1. The often heavy repertoire in symphonic and chamber concerts alternated with early jazz music played by the Daams-Lukacs Ensemble in the reception hall. The site-specific theatre presentation Niemandsland left nobody unmoved. The theme provided the ideal opportunity to perform less-known repertoire, such as works by Alexander Myaskovsky and Rudi Stephan.
NRC Handelsblad: ‘From a musical perspective the Gergiev Festival offered precisely what you would expect: top-quality symphonic performances with the emphasis on Russian repertoire – Gergiev’s speciality – and an original fringe programme.’
Trouw: ‘The Russian maestro Valery Gergiev still exerts a spellbinding power over Dutch audiences. You only have to look at the queue to get into De Doelen and at the packed auditorium, and hear the rapturous applause that greets the honorary conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.’