Rozhdestvensky was born in Moscow. His parents were the noted conductor and pedagogue Nikolai Anosov and soprano Natalya Rozhdestvenskaya. His given name was Gennady Nikolayevich Anosov, but he adopted his mother’s maiden name in its masculine form for his professional career so as to avoid the appearance of nepotism. His younger brother, the painter P.N. Anosov, retained their father's name.
He studied conducting with his father at the Moscow Conservatory and piano with Lev Oborin. Already known for having conducted Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of 20, he quickly established his reputation. He premiered many works of Soviet composers, including Edison Denisov's Le soleil des Incas (Sun of the Incas) (1964), as well as giving the Russian premiere of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Western premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival. He became general artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2000, and in 2001 conducted the world premiere of the original version of Sergei Prokofiev's opera The Gambler. Not long afterwards he resigned, citing desertion by singers, production problems and hostile coverage by the Moscow press.
Among the works dedicated to Rozhdestvensky are Sofia Gubaidulina's symphony Stimmen... Verstummen... and several of Alfred Schnittke's works, such as Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 8, and Symphony No. 9. Schnittke wrote of him:
- "I once calculated that there are now some forty compositions written for Rozhdestvensky—either derived from his ideas or else he was the first to conduct them. I could not believe it, but it really is so. I could even say that nearly all my own work as a composer depended on contact with him and on the many talks we had. It was in these talks that I conceived the idea for many of my compositions. I count that as one of the luckiest circumstances of my life."
Rozhdestvensky is considered a versatile conductor and a highly cultured musician with a supple stick technique. In moulding his interpretations, he gives a clear idea of the structural outlines and emotional content of a piece, combined with a performing style which melds logic, intuition and spontaneity. He has been praised for his efficient rehearsals which he keeps short, and is noted for his habit of walking around the stage while conducting and not using a podium, even at concerts.
Conductor Rozhdestvensky is featured in the documentary Notes interdites : scènes de la vie musicale en Russie Soviétique (Bruno Monsaingeon, 2004, 55m 44s, English title: "The Red Baton") , which examines the hardships faced by musicians in the Soviet Union under Stalinism. In it, he describes the political situation and its impact on his life, as well as those of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Richter and other colleagues. The role of Tikhon Khrennikov, Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, is discussed extensively.
On a lighter note, the documentary features Rozhdestvensky discussing the art of conducting, and includes footage of masterclasses, rehearsals with students from the Moscow Conservatory and Zürich's Tonhalle orchestra, as well as snippets of Rozhdestvensky conducting Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, and Alfred Schnittke's Dead Souls.
- 1951-1961 Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre (conductor)
- 1961-1974 Symphony Orchestra of All-Union Radio and Television (Moscow)
- 1964-1970 Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre (principal conductor)
- 1974-1985 Chamber Theatre Orchestra
- 1974-1977 Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (artistic director)
- 1978-1981 BBC Symphony Orchestra (chief conductor)
- 1980-1982 Vienna Symphony
- 1983-1991 USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
- 1992-1995 Royal Stockholm Philharmonic
With the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra he recorded all the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich, Alexander Glazunov, Anton Bruckner, Alfred Schnittke, and Arthur Honegger. He also performed all the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams in Leningrad in the late 1980s. Those have been released, by the Melodiya label, in a complete CD box set in April 2014.
He has also conducted many of the world's greatest orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 1969 he married the pianist Viktoria Postnikova.
Honours and awards
- Hero of Socialist Labour (18 October 1990) - for outstanding contributions to the development of Soviet music, and effective pedagogical activity
- Order of Merit for the Fatherland;
- 2nd class (22 April 2011) - for outstanding contribution to the development of national musical art, multi-year pedagogical and creative activity
- 3rd class (31 January 2007) - for outstanding contribution to the development of national musical culture, and many years of creative and educational activities
- 4th class (26 April 2001) - for great contribution to the development of national musical art
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour, twice (1981, ?)
- Order of Lenin (1990)
- Order of Cyril and Methodius (Bulgaria, 1972)
- Officer of the Legion of Honour (France, 2003)
- Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd class (Japan, 2002)
- People's Artist of the RSFSR (1966)
- People's Artist of the USSR (1976)
- Lenin Prize (1970)
- Russian Federation State Prize in Literature and Art in 1995 (27 May 1996)
- Honorary Member of the Royal Swedish Academy (1975)
- Honorary Academician of the British Royal Academy of Music (1984)
- Grand Prix of the company Chant du Mond
- Diploma of the Academy Charles Cros in Paris (1969) - for the fulfillment of all of Prokofiev's symphonies
- Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2014)
- Edison Denisov by Yuri Kholopov and Valeria Tsenova. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995
- "Gennadi Rozhdestvensky: Conductor". State Academic Bolshoi Theatre. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Jeremy Eichler (November 22, 2008). "Miffed at BSO, famed maestro backs out". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Schnittke, Alfred (2002). Alexander Ivashkin, ed. A Schnittke Reader. Indiana University Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780253109170.
- Yampol'sky, 16:287.
- "There are no Whiz Kid Among Conductors". Voice of Russia. May 4, 2001. Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
- Ben Mattison (February 28, 2006). "Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky Quits Concerts Over Liner Notes". Playbill Arts. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
- Yampol'sky, I.M., ed. Stanley Sadie, "Rozhdesvensky, Gennady (Nikolayevich)," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, First Edition (London: Macmillian, 1980), 20 vols. ISBN 0-333-23111-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gennady Rozhdestvensky.|
- Gennady Rozhdestvensky at AllMusic
- Rayfield Allied profile
- František Sláma (musician) Archive. More on the history of the Czech Philharmonic between the 1940s and the 1980s: Conductors
|Music Director, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio
|Music Director, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
|Principal Conductor, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, State Symphony Capella of Russia
|Principal Conductor, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Davis and Paavo Järvi