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Coming up on Revealed: Valery Gergiev

  • Story Highlights
  • In October, CNN's Revealed profiles celebrated Russian maestro Valery Gergiev
  • Gergiev takes us on a tour of his beloved Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg
  • He launches a worldwide tour with London Symphony Orchestra in Edinburgh
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By Rosie Tomkins
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- "No one can explain the power of music; there is no writer, no philosopher, no musician, and certainly no politician who can describe where the music stops, it is not possible" (Valery Gergiev, CNN 2008)

Valery Gergiev sees music not only as an art-form, but also as a means to bring people together

Valery Gergiev sees music not only as an art-form, but also as a means to bring people together

The name Valery Gergiev evokes passion, risk-taking, formidable performances and immense talent. Born in Moscow to Ossetian parents, the celebrated Russian maestro has performed all over the globe with the world's most acclaimed orchestras, from London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) to the New York Metropolitan Opera.

He has a dedicated public following and is widely known for his intense and often improvised performances. Journalist Galina Kushnaryova describes Gergiev as a "very emotional, inspired and passionate" conductor and adds that "musicians consider his work to be revolutionary" (CNN, 2008).

Gergiev began his musical career as a young pianist, then entered the Leningrad Conservatory as an adolescent in 1972 and soon showed signs of great talent. He started as an assistant conductor at the Mariinsky -- then the Kirov Opera -- and has since been instrumental in galvanizing its international standing in the post-communist era.

The revival of the Mariinsky had a tremendous effect on Gergiev's career, launching him onto the international stage. Today, Gergiev runs the institution and single-handedly raised money for the construction of a new concert hall. "That's like running every institution in the Lincoln center in America. That's what that is comparable to" (Doug Sheldon, Manager, CNN, 2008).

The maestro's presence is in high demand, and even though "he could be rehearsing in Britain in the morning, flying to Germany for the afternoon and conducting a performance in St. Petersburg in the evening" (Galina Kushnaryova, CNN, 2008), Gergiev is known to fully commit to the orchestras he conducts.

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In 2007, Gergiev became the London Symphony Orchestra's Principal Conductor, delighting its musicians with his passion for the Russian repertoire and ability to shed new light on familiar works. Keeping his musicians on their toes, LSO bassoon player Rachel Gough notes that "no two performances are ever the same with Gergiev, and from the rehearsal to the concert, the differences can be absolutely enormous...therein lies the reason why we love working for him and why the audience loves coming to the concerts" (CNN, 2008).

Gergiev sees music not only as an art-form, but also as a means to bring people together, often using his prominence to steer interest towards current affairs, particularly those close to his own heart. In 2004, after the Beslan school hostage crisis, Gergiev showed his support to the Ossetian people by calling for calm and peace in the region and playing memorial concerts across the globe.

His unquestioning support for the Russian government and close ties with Vladimir Putin have raised questions about his politics; following this summer's bombing of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, Gergiev visited the region to stage what some perceived to be a controversial concert reinforcing his vehement support for Russia's military response.

While some question his motives, Gergiev maintains that he is not political and remains an independent voice. He told Revealed: " As an Ossetian, I was in absolutely no position to stand somewhere distant and just watch this event. More importantly, if one army fights another I will stay away. But if civilians, whatever their nationality, are killed in their sleep, I will raise my voice. And there is nothing political in this statement, nothing political" (CNN, 2008).

Revealed follows Gergiev to St Petersburg for the White Nights Festival where the Mariinsky Orchestra perform a new opera, "The Enchanted Wanderer". Eminent Russian composer and close friend Rodion Shchedrin is present during rehearsals, and surprises Gergiev with a gift. Gergiev takes us on a tour of the Mariinsky and shows us his pride and joy; the new Concert Hall that he commissioned and built in record time.

Revealed then follows Gergiev to the Edinburgh International Festival, where the LSO will launch their 18-month worldwide tour, playing the complete cycle of the Prokofiev symphonies. LSO's Matt Gibson notes that the Russian repertoire is all the more alive in the hands of its homegrown maestro: "This music is just in Valery's blood, this is what he does, to bring the passion out of these scores" (CNN, 2008).

"There is a mistaken view that a conductor does something with his hands and that's why the orchestra sounds the way that it sounds...but the decisive factor is the communication. The energy level depends totally on this communication and it's 90% in your eyes. You could do the same thing with your right hand, but give a different look, and the sound will change" (Valery Gergiev, CNN, 2008)

Join us for half an hour in the company of one of the most exceptional maestros of our time.


Wednesday, October 15
0830 GMT
1730 GMT
Saturday, October 18
0730 GMT
1800 GMT
Sunday, October 19
0430 GMT
1730 GMT
Monday, October 20
0300 GMT


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