St Petersburg State Capella Symphony Orchestra

Click to view hi-res image

The history of the St Petersburg State Capella Symphony Orchestra goes back to July 16, 1882, the time when the musicians staff as well as formal internal house rules were authorized for work and the chorus was given the name Court musicians chorus (chorus – the ancient name applied to military or brass bands).

The staff of musicians was formed mainly of the Court Capella orchestral classes graduates, their highest professional level was result of high profile education acquired during their studies. That was also a result of outstanding professional training and upbringing provided by skilful management of two outstanding Russian composers: Mily Balakirev, managing director of the Court Capella since 1883, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, appointed at the same time head of the orchestral class.

Excellent quality of orchestra performance is marked in reviews of that time: 'The Orchestra comprises not only perfect groups of musicians, has not only reached highest degree of perfection which is a result of great masters expertise and teamwork, but, at the same time, amazes by unique discipline which makes absolute quality of each orchestra and which, however, does not often happen even in very respected orchestras of the kind'. (New Time, May, 3rd, 1897).

Since 1902 Capella introduced in its concert hall educational concerts held on regular basis under the name 'Orchestral musical news meetings', the format of concerts combined forgotten musical masterpieces of old masters with compositions of modern Russian and foreign creators. Here were the first performance of The Life of the Hero and Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, The Symphony No.1 and a suite The Faun and the Shepherdess by Stravinsky, Mahler's Symphony No.1, Brukner's Symphony No.9... Such great masters as Artur Nikish, Gustav Mahler, Alexander Glazunov (devoted to the orchestra The Solemn Overture), R. Strauss, Willem Mengelberg, eight-year Willi Ferrero, Evgeny Napravnik, Nikolay Golovanov, Nikolay Tcherepnin stood behind conductor’s stand.

The Orchestra did considerably extend it’s activity since 1906. The introduction of monographic concerts, dedicated to memorable dates, was a new and remarkable musical event where masterpieces of Mozart, Arensky, Schumann, Borodin, Lvov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Haydn, Liszt, Brahms etc. were brilliantly played.

After the revolution of 1917 the former Court chorus and the orchestra continued successful concert activity. In 1921 basing on exceptional traditions of the Court chorus, the Philharmonic society was established. The musical library and all orchestra property were naturally integrated in it.

On November, 1st, 1991 the St Petersburg Capella Symphony Orchestra renewed its performance after a 70-year-old historical pause. The musicians of the orchestra demonstrated their highest professionalism and devotion to precious traditions of the Court orchestra. It gathered graduates of the Petersburg musical school, trained by professors of the first Russian Conservatoire, the majority of great teachers were, in turn, leading soloists of the philharmonic orchestra. The new orchestra has bright soloists which are recognized and awarded at various Russian and international competitions.

Everything in life of the Capella orchestra is inseparable from traditions of the first Russian symphony orchestra. One of remarkable facts is that its main conductor, the People's artist of Russia Alexander Chernushenko heading an orchestra from the date of its reconstruction, is a graduate of the Capella, being also a graduate of the St.Petersburg Conservatoire he inherited and kept with care the traditions and highest professional expertise of great Imperial Capella masters, going from Bortnyansky, Glinka, Lvov, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Arensky, Glazunov, Lyadov.

Despite the mentioned historically forced pause, it is fare to say that the Capella orchestra is not at its start but keeps on working strongly supported by precious traditions. As in days of old times, the orchestra is recognized and highly appreciated by strict audience in Russia and abroad, performing on scenes of Germany, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, England, Ireland, Poland, Austria, Spain, Finland, South Korea and other countries.

Today outstanding conductors, brilliant soloists and famous composers cooperate with the orchestra. Over 50 compact discs were recorded in different countries of the world. One of most remarkable projects was the work on record of three operas, the requiem and symphonic music by Mikis Theodorakis, also record of products for the largest sound recording companies Chandos and Naxos.