Portrait of the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, first published in 2014
"In my opinion, the UPO is one of the best in Russia, which means in Europe as well, as the level of the Russian musicians is very high. (…) One of the main qualities of this orchestra is its unbelievable temperament and ability to stand for each other. This is a very important quality and it greatly impresses me every time." – Vadim Repin
In comparison to the media hype around some Russian conductor colleagues, Dmitry Liss shies away from the limelight – at least offstage. German media such as Süddeutsche Zeitung, or only recently took note of the groundbreaking, excellent cultural work in faraway Yekaterinburg. Indeed, Europe heard little news from this region since Sverdlovsk was the birthplace of the defence and nuclear power industries in Soviet times, and was thus completely cut off from the outside world.
The success story of Dmitry Liss, the Artistic Director of the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra and Alexander Kolotursky, the Director of the Sverdlovsk State Philharmony, which also comprises a choir and a youth orchestra, began in the mid-nineties. Over 18 years, Liss and Kolotursky gradually elevated the UPO to an international level and the Philharmony became a landmark in the city. Today, the orchestra is considered one of the best in Russia. Remarkably, not a single orchestra musician was laid off in the process. Liss rather attempted to bring everyone on board and to change the overall attitude. "Everything has changed since then," says Liss in a conversation with the magazine Das Orchester. "Most of all, the self-confidence of the orchestra, its attitude. When I came, the musicians were very introverted, even frustrated. At the same time, the orchestra has existed for more than 70 years and is one of the oldest Russian ensembles. Even 18 years ago, it had an excellent reputation. But among Russian musicians! Abroad, it was unknown and it didn’t play a role in the city."
Just how professionally the Philharmony in Yekaterinburg works and how forward-thinking it is, is documented in the extensive pedagogical work and an association of friends with 24,000 members, but most significantly by the interconnectedness with even the smallest village in the Sverdlovsk region. Each concert which Dmitry Liss conducts at the Philharmony is broadcast via broadband internet connection to more than twenty cultural centres and libraries in the entire region.
As the only external orchestra with its own series at the Mariinsky Theatre, the UPO’s artistic standing is widely acknowledged in Russia. Beyond Russia, the distinguished and cosmopolitan chief conductor Dmitry Liss and his orchestra also enjoy an excellent reputation. He regularly leads the UPO at the Folles Journées (also in 2014 in Nantes with a focus on American music) and at the Salle Pleyel. Their first guest performance at the Beethovenfest Bonn in September 2013 generated enthusiastic applause and standing ovations. Dmitry Liss has recently worked with the Orchestre National de Paris, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Residentie Orkest, the Hungarian National Philharmonic and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, amongst others.
His commitment to lesser-known and modern Russian repertoire is an integral part of Dmitry Liss’ profile, for instance the oeuvre of Nikolai Miaskovsky, a student of Rimsky-Korsakov’s and companion of Prokofiev’s, whose symphonies he regularly includes in his programmes. In addition, Liss has recorded works by Avet Terteryan and Galina Ustvolskaya with the Ural Philharmoic Orchestra. His open and self-assured stance is met with great approval by soloists such as Boris Berezovsky, Vadim Repin and Denis Matsuev.
"The UPO is astonishingly flexible and can perform any program.(…) This Orchestra has its own style, its own taste and, I would say, its own musical texture as its strings are simply unique. It also demonstrates the highest level of ensemble teamwork when any movement of a soloist is caught by the orchestra and the conductor." – Denis Matsuev