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The Mariinsky Orchestra ranks among Russia's oldest ensembles. It was founded in 1783 in St. Petersburg, during the reign of Catherine the Great, as the court orchestra. In the second half of the 19th century, the orchestra was substantially shaped by Eduard Nápravník, who regularly conducted from 1863 until 1914 and who also led the concerts of the Imperial Russian Music Society for many years. The ensemble’s extraordinary quality attracted musicians from all over the world, including such composers as Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, and Sergei Rachmaninoff and conductors like Hans von Bülow and Arthur Nikisch. Many milestones of the repertoire have been premiered by the Mariinsky Orchestra, including operas and ballets by Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian. In 1935, during the Soviet era, the ensemble and its regular house (the Mariinsky Theater) were renamed the Kirov Orchestra and the Kirov Theater, respectively, after the murdered Leningrad Secretary of the Communist Party. The original names were reactivated after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Dranishnikov, Ariy Pazovsky, Evgeny Mravinsky, Konstantin Simeonov, and Yuri Temirkanov number among the conductors who decisively shaped the Mariinsky Orchestra in the 20th century. Since 1988 the orchestra has been led by Valery Gergiev, who has significantly expanded its repertoire and also performed such previously overlooked composers as Stravinsky, Messiaen, Dutilleux, Henze, Shchedrin, Gubaidulina, and Kancheli; Gergiev has especially become known for leading his musicians in regular performances around the world, from the most important festivals to the major music centers. Since 2009 the orchestra has released its recordings on its own Mariinsky hosue label.
LUCERNE FESTIVAL debut on 20 August 2000 in works by Bartók, Scriabin, and Mussorgsky/Ravel conducted by Valery Gergiev.