Valery Gergiev

Gergiev at the 2010 Time 100 Gala

Valery Abisalovich Gergiev (Russian: Валерий Абисалович Гергиев, IPA: [vɐˈlʲerʲɪj ɐbʲɪˈsaləvʲɪdʑ ˈɡʲerɡʲɪjɪf]; Ossetian: Гергиты Абисалы фырт Валери, romanized: Gergity Abisaly fyrt Valeri; born 2 May 1953) is a Russian conductor and opera company director. In 1988 he became general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. He was chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic from September 2015 until he was dismissed on 1 March 2022.

Early life

Gergiev was born in Moscow. He is the son of Tamara Timofeevna (Tatarkanovna) Lagkueva and Abisal Zaurbekovich Gergiev, both of Ossetian origin. He and his siblings were raised in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia in the Caucasus. He had his first piano lessons in secondary school before going on to study at the Leningrad Conservatory from 1972 to 1977.

His principal conducting teacher was Ilya Musin. His sister, Larissa, is a pianist and director of the Mariinsky's singers' academy.


In 1978, Gergiev became assistant conductor at the Kirov Opera, now the Mariinsky Opera, under Yuri Temirkanov, where he made his debut conducting Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace. He was chief conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 until 1985 – the year he made his debut in the United Kingdom, along with pianist Evgeny Kissin and violinists Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin at the Lichfield Festival.

Gergiev in Brussels in 2007

In 1988, Gergiev guest-conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for the first time. In his next appearance with the LSO in 2004, he conducted the seven symphonies of Sergei Prokofiev. This engagement led to his appointment in 2005 as the Orchestra's fifteenth principal conductor, succeeding Sir Colin Davis with effect from 1 January 2007. Gergiev's initial contract with the LSO was for 3 years.

In 1991, Gergiev conducted a western European opera company for the first time, leading the Bavarian State Opera in a performance of Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov in Munich. In the same year, he made his American début, performing War and Peace with the San Francisco Opera. Since then, he has conducted both operatic and orchestral repertoire across the world. He also participates in numerous music festivals, including the White Nights in St. Petersburg.[citation needed]

He became chief conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky in 1988, and overall director of the company, appointed by the Russian government, in 1996. In addition to his artistic work with the Mariinsky, Gergiev has worked in fundraising for such projects as the recently built 1100-seat Mariinsky Hall, and intends to renovate the Mariinsky Theatre completely by 2010.

In 1998, Gergiev conducted the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra at the Moscow Youth Olympics.

After the 2004 Beslan school massacre, Gergiev appealed on television for calm and against revenge. He conducted concerts to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

His first official concert as principal conductor of the LSO was on 23 January 2007; it was originally scheduled for 13 January, but was postponed due to Gergiev's illness.

In April 2007 Gergiev was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the ten-year classical music outreach manifesto, "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st century", to increase the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving free entry to all British schoolchildren to a classical music concert.

Valery Gergiev's requiem concert in Tskhinvali, 21 August 2008

During the 2008 South Ossetia war, Gergiev, who is of partial Ossetian heritage himself, accused the Georgian government of massacring ethnic Ossetians, triggering the conflict with Russia. He came to Tskhinvali and conducted a concert near the ruined building of the South Ossetian Parliament as tribute to the victims of the war.

In June 2011, Gergiev joined the International Tchaikovsky Competition and introduced reforms to the organisation.

In 2015 Gergiev became chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, but his contract was terminated in March 2022 after he refused to condemn the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In March 2016, Gergiev conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on a South American tour. The programme included Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony in B minor, and Wagner’s prelude from "Parsifal" usually executed together with the "Good Friday Music" from the same opera. Performances took place in two consecutive nights at the prestigious Sala São Paulo hall – home of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra. The last concert included a single appearance with the Vienna Philharmonic in Bogotá, Colombia.

On 5 May 2016, Gergiev performed at the Roman Theatre of Palmyra at a concert event called Praying for Palmyra – Music revives ancient ruins. It was devoted to the victims who died while liberating Palmyra from ISIS.

Political involvement

Gergiev has been, according to Alex Ross in The New Yorker, "a prominent supporter of the current Russian regime" of Vladimir Putin. In 2012, in a television ad for Putin's third Presidential campaign, he said: "One needs to be able to hold oneself presidentially, so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning."

In December 2012, Gergiev sided with the Putin administration against the members of Russian band Pussy Riot and suggested that their motivation was commercial.

In New York City in 2013, the LGBT activist group Queer Nation interrupted performances by orchestras conducted by Gergiev at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall. The activists cited Gergiev's support for Vladimir Putin, whose government had recently enacted a law that bans the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, as the reason for their actions. In London, the veteran activist Peter Tatchell led anti-Gergiev demonstrations. In a public statement Gergiev replied: "It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people and many of them are indeed my friends." Writing in The Guardian, Mark Brown wrote: "Gergiev's case was not helped by comments he made to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant on 10 September [2013]: 'In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia. But I have too busy a schedule to explore this matter in detail.'" On 26 December 2013, the city of Munich made public a letter from Gergiev assuring them that he fully supports the city's anti-discrimination law and adding: "In my entire professional career as an artist, I have always and everywhere adhered to these principles and will do so in the future... All other allegations hurt me very much."

In March 2014 he joined a host of other Russian arts and cultural figures in signing an open letter in support of the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. The letter was posted on the website of Russia's culture ministry on 12 March 2014. In the letter signatories stated that they "firmly declare our support for the position of the president of the Russian Federation" in the region. However, in September 2015, as he became chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Gergiev said that he did not really sign the letter to Putin, but only had a phone conversation about it with Vladimir Medinsky. The New York Times reported that Russian artists may have been pushed by the Russian government to endorse the annexation of Crimea. The article specifically mentioned Gergiev, who faced protests in New York City while performing. After a public outcry in the country, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture blacklisted Gergiev from performing in Ukraine.

Terminations after 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra said that it would drop Gergiev from its September festival if he did not stop supporting Putin. Milan's La Scala also sent a letter to Gergiev asking him to declare his support for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine or he would not be permitted to complete his engagement conducting Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. This followed an announcement by New York City's Carnegie Hall that it had canceled two May performances by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra that were to be conducted by Gergiev, and the Vienna Philharmonic dropping Gergiev from a five-concert tour in the U.S. that was to start on 25 February.

On 28 February, the Verbier Festival requested and accepted Gergiev's resignation as Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra. On 1 March, Munich's mayor Dieter Reiter announced the termination of Gergiev's contract as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic for failing to respond to a demand that he condemn the "brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine and now, in particular, against our sister city of Kyiv". On 13 October, Gergiev was expelled from his position as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music for his reluctance to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Personal life

In 1999, Gergiev married musician Natalya Dzebisova—a teenager at the time, 27 years his junior, and also of Ossetian descent. They have three children together: two boys and a girl. From time to time, Gergiev has been reported to be a friend of Putin; they have been said to be godfathers to each other's children, but in a letter to The Daily Telegraph Gergiev rejected this notion. From a past relationship with the language teacher Lena Ostovich, he has another daughter, Natasha.

In April 2022, the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russian Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny released a video revealing the immense wealth of Gergiev, including various properties in Italy (among others Palazzo Barbarigo in Venice), the U.S. and Russia. A significant part of his wealth is said to stem from the inheritance of Yoko Nagae Ceschina.


Gergiev has focused on recording Russian composers' works, both operatic and symphonic, including Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky and Rodion Shchedrin. Most of his recordings, on the Philips label, are with the Kirov Orchestra, but he has also recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic. Recent undertaking such as the complete Prokofiev symphonies (from the live concerts of 2004) and a Berlioz cycle, are with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Gergiev's recording of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet with London Symphony Orchestra on LSO Live in 2010 was voted the winner of the Orchestral category and the Disc of the Year for the 2011 BBC Music Magazine Awards.



Album Orchestra Label Discs Release Year
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet (complete ballet) Kirov Philips 2 1991
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Sleeping Beauty (complete ballet) Kirov Philips 3 1993
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (L'Oiseau de feu) (complete ballet) Kirov Philips 1 1998
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker (complete ballet) Kirov Philips 1 1998
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps) (with Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy) Kirov Philips 1 2001
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (complete ballet) (+ Works by Prokofiev & Schnittke) VPO TDK 1 2001
TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake (complete ballet) (Highlights available separately) Mariinsky Decca 2 2007
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet (complete ballet) LSO LSO Live 2 2010
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet) (with Pavane pour une infante défunte and Boléro) LSO LSO Live 1 2010
MELIKOV: Legend of Love Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra Melodiya 2 2015


Album Orchestra Label Discs Release Year
MUSSORGSKY: Khovanshchina Kirov Philips 3 1992
TCHAIKOVSKY: Pique Dame Kirov Philips 3 1993
PROKOFIEV: War and Peace Kirov Philips 3 1993
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Sadko Kirov Philips 3 1994
BORODIN: Prince Igor Kirov Philips 3 1995
PROKOFIEV: The Fiery Angel Kirov Philips 2 1995
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Maid of Pskov Kirov Philips 2 1997
VERDI: La Forza del Destino (1862 original version) Kirov Philips 3 1997
GLINKA: Ruslan and Ludmila Kirov Philips 3 1997
PROKOFIEV: Betrothal in a Monastery Kirov Philips 3 1998
TCHAIKOVSKY: Mazeppa Kirov Philips 3 1998
TCHAIKOVSKY: Iolanta Kirov Philips 2 1998
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh Kirov Philips 3 1999
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Tsar's Bride Kirov Philips 2 1999
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Kashchey the Immortal Kirov Philips 1 1999
MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov (1869 & 1872 version) Kirov Philips 5 1999
PROKOFIEV: The Gambler Kirov Philips 2 1999
PROKOFIEV: Semyon Kotko Kirov Philips 2 2000
PROKOFIEV: The Love for Three Oranges Kirov Philips 2 2001
BARTÓK: Bluebeard's Castle LSO LSO Live 1 2009
SHOSTAKOVICH: The Nose Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 2 2009
STRAVINSKY: Oedipus rex (Comes with Ballet Les noces) Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2010
WAGNER: Parsifal Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 4 2010
DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 2 2011

Orchestral works

Album Orchestra Label Discs Release Year
BORODIN: Symphonies No. 1 & 2 RPhO Polygram 1 1991
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2 Kirov Philips 1 1994
TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture and others Kirov Philips 1 1994
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird – SCRIABIN: Prometheus Kirov Philips 1 1998
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 VPO Philips 1 1999
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6, Francesca da Rimini, Romeo and Juliet Kirov Philips 1 2000
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade,

BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia, BALAKIREV: Islamey

Kirov Philips 1 2001
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring – SCRIABIN: The Poem of Ecstasy Kirov Philips 1 2001
PROKOFIEV: Symphony No.1 (+ Works by Stravinsky & Schnittke) VPO TDK 1 2001
MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition VPO Philips 1 2002
BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique, La Mort de Cléopâtre (Soprano: Olga Borodina) VPO Philips 1 2003
PROKOFIEV: Scythian Suite, Alexander Nevsky Kirov Philips 1 2003
SHOSTAKOVICH: The War Symphonies (No. 4–9)

Each one available separately

Kirov Philips 5 2005
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphonies No. 4, 5, 6Each one available separately VPO Philips 3 2005
PROKOFIEV: Completes Symphonies (No. 1–7) (No. 4: 1930 + 1947 Versions) LSO Philips 4 2006
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 LSO LSO Live 1 2008
MAHLER:Symphony No. 3 LSO LSO Live 2 2008
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 LSO LSO Live 1 2008
MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 LSO LSO Live 1 2008
TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture, Moscow Cantata, Marche Slave, Coronation March, Danish Overture Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2009
MAHLER: Symphony Nos. 2 & 10 (Adagio) LSO LSO Live 2 2009
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 1 & 15 Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2009
MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 LSO LSO Live 1 2009
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 LSO LSO Live 1 2010
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 2 & 11 Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2010
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2 LSO LSO Live 1 2010
DEBUSSY: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, La Mer, Jeux LSO LSO Live 1 2011
LISZT: Les préludes, MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition (Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn 2011) VPO DG 1 2011
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 LSO LSO Live 1 2011
MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 LSO LSO Live 1 2011
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 3 & 10 Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2011
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2012
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8 Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2013
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphonies No. 4, 5 & 6 Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 2 2014
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Overture: Waverley LSO LSO Live 1 2014

Orchestral works with soloists

PROKOFIEV: Complete Piano Concertos (No. 1–5) Alexander Toradze Kirov Philips 2 1998
SCHNITTKE: Viola Concerto (+ Works by Stravinsky & Prokofiev) Yuri Bashmet VPO TDK 1 2001
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No.2, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Lang Lang Mariinsky DG 1 2003
TCHAIKOVSKY & MIASKOVSKY: Violin Concertos Vadim Repin Mariinsky Philips 1 2003
BRAHMS & KORNGOLD: Violin Concertos Nikolaj Znaider VPO RCA Red Seal 1 2009
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No.3, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Denis Matsuev Mariinsky Mariinsky Live 1 2010
TCHAIKOVSKY: Variation on a Rococo Theme, PROKOFIEV: Sinfonia Concertante Gautier Capuçon Mariinsky Virgin 1 2010
Lang Lang: Liszt, My Piano Hero (LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1) Lang Lang VPO Sony 1 2011
Berlioz: Harold en Italie, La Mort de Cléopâtre Antoine Tamestit, viola

Karen Cargill, mezzo-soprano

LSO LSO Live 1 2014
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No.3 Behzod Abduraimov RCO RCO Live 1 2020

Vocal works

Tchaikovsky & Verdi Arias Dmitri Hvorostovsky Kirov Philips 1 1990
Tchaikovsky & Verdi Arias Galina Gorchakova Kirov Philips 1 1996
PROKOFIEV: Ivan The Terrible Cantata RPhO Philips 1 1998
VERDI: Requiem Kirov Philips 2 2001
Russian Album Anna Netrebko Mariinsky DG 1 2006
Homage: The Age Of The Diva Renée Fleming Mariinsky Decca 1 2007
Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette Olga Borodina

Kenneth Tarver

Evgeny Nikitin


LSO Chorus

LSO Live 2 2016



  • Valery Gergiev in Rehearsal and Performance
  • Verdi: La forza del destino, Marinsky Theatre Orchestra, 1998.
  • Valery Gergiev Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Prokofiev, Schnittke & Stravinsky, 2003.
  • 60 Minutes: The Wild Man of Music, 2004.
  • Prokofiev: Betrothal in a Monastery, Kirov Opera, 2005.
  • Shostakovich against Stalin, 2005.
  • Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko, Kirov Opera, 2006.
  • Puccini: Turandot, Vienna Philharmonic, 2006.
  • "All the Russias – a musical journey": a five-part documentary through the tradition and heritage of Russian music.
  • Tschaikovsky: Eugene Onegin; Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Renee Fleming, Ramon Vargas, Metropolitan Opera, 2007
  • "Gergiev Conducts Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem" Kringelborn, Kwiecien, Swedish Radio Choir, Rotterdam Philharmonic, 2008
  • Berlioz:


  • Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame, Acts 1 and 2, Kirov Opera, 1992.
  • Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov, Kirov Opera, 1993.
  • Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame, Kirov Opera, 1994.
  • Mussorgsky: Kovanshchina, Kirov Orchestra, 1994.
  • Prokofiev: Fiery Angel, Polygram Video, 1996.

Honours and awards


See also

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