Yuri Temirkanov (1938-2023)

Thu Nov 02, 2023 at 5:47 pm
Yuri Temirkanov

Conductor Yuri Temirkanov, former music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Yuri Temirkanov has died at the age of 84, according to a report from the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

The Russian conductor served as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 2000 to 2006, and continued to lead performances in the Washington area as guest conductor, music director emeritus, or on tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. He served that last ensemble as music director from 1988 until last year, when he finally retired from conducting.

Anyone who heard the Beethoven Violin Concerto Temirkanov conducted with the BSO in 2006, with soloist Julia Fischer, still likely treasures the experience. He paired it with a probing rendition of Shostakovich’s First Symphony, which was equally memorable. When he was no longer a regular presence in these parts, his confident way with Russian music was sorely missed. The BSO has republished its tribute to Temirkanov from the time he left his post there, and his last stand with that orchestra in 2016 featured a superbly rarefied Tchaikovsky Fourth.

As heard in his last appearance at the Kennedy Center, with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in 2017, Temirkanov tended to give an orchestra a lot of freedom in dynamics. A consummate professional, he pushed through a snow-induced late arrival to make good on his 2014 concert with the same ensemble.

His conducting style was above all minimal, in the style of magisterial conductors of a previous age. Temirkanov was old-fashioned, and not just as a conductor. His remarks about women not being cut out to conduct orchestras, made a decade ago, felt of an age much older than that. It is best now to forget the words and instead take down your favorite recording of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and just remember the music.

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