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Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra)

The Moscow-based State Academic Symphony Orchestra "Evgeny Svetlanov", as it is officially now named in English, is one of the most renowned orchestras in Russia, with a long history of international touring. Its official name in Russian is Государственный Академический Симфонический Оркестр России имени Е. Ф. Светланова. (The "Svetlanov" sobriquet was added in 2005 to honor the ensemble's longest-serving chief conductor, whose career was almost entirely dedicated to what was for decades the "USSR State Symphony Orchestra." Confusingly, the musicians often tour today under the name "Russian State Symphony Orchestra.") The orchestra gives concerts in Moscow in the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory and at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.

Founded in 1936, the USSR State Symphony Orchestra's first chief conductor was Alexander Gauk. Konstantin Ivanov served a distinguished 19-year tenure until 1965, seeing out the Stalin regime, before Svetlanov became chief and made touring a priority. The orchestra frequently recorded for Melodiya, starting early in the Svetlanov period with a still-acclaimed Tchaikovsky symphony cycle. Its reputation for full, ripe string sound was well-earned, creating a potent combination with its traditionally Russian, largely unrestrained brass. Svetlanov's personal intensity only added fuel.

The orchestra's name naturally changed with the inception of the Russian Federation in late 1991. After tough years financially, for Russia as a whole, Svetlanov's 35 years as chief ended abruptly in 2000 when he was dismissal by Mikhail Shvydkoi, Russia's then Minister of Culture. The pretext of the firing, ironically, was that Svetlanov had been spending excessive time conducting outside Russia, precisely where the orchestra's reputation had been built up. But in 2005, as noted, the orchestra took the step of permanently acknowledging this musician's unequalled contribution.

Vassily Sinaisky and then, in 2002, Mark Gorenstein succeeded Svetlanov. Gorenstein caused controversy with remarks about Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan during the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, which led at first to his removal as conductor for the competition and later, that September, amid accusations of abusive behavior, as chief of the orchestra. In October 2011 the orchestra announced the appointment of Vladimir Jurowski as its sixth chief conductor, with immediate effect, signing a contract with an initial term of three years.

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