Mikhail Pletnev starts a new orchestra

Mikhail Pletnev starts a new orchestra


norman lebrecht

September 06, 2022

The conductor of the Russian National Orchestra has lived in Switzerland for the past 30 years.

In a rare interview in Croatia with Branimir Pofuk, he describes being cut off from his musicians in Moscow and making alternative arrangements – his first recording with a new orchestra:

‘My orchestra in Moscow is called RNO (Russian National Orchestra). Now we have put together RIO (Russian* International Orchestra). We gathered in Bratislava where 18 musicians from my orchestra came from Russia. Some came from Vienna, members of the Bratislava Philharmonic joined us, as well as several musicians from Ukraine.’

Full interview here.


*UPDATE: Pletnev says there was a misunderstanding in the interview. The name of his new orchestra is Rachmaninov International Orchestra.


  • M McGrath says:

    There was always so much to admire of Mikhail Pletnev. His conducting, his courage during the Cold War. Now this. When’t the first concert, and where?

  • Luiz F. says:

    Pletnev is an amazing pianist, I remember watching his arrangements of tchaikovsky’s pas de deux and thinking “how is this man able to capture the sentiment of a whole orquestra in his fingers?”

    • James Minch says:

      Pletnev is a truly great musician and I remember a survey of pianists (published in the 90s I think) that found that he most admired by his colleagues.


    Just what we need – another orchestra! Looking at its make-up it seems second rate.

    • MacroV says:

      Years ago when Sir Simon conducted the CBSO in New York, the critic said something to the effect that in New York they so often hear great orchestras making mediocre music; how refreshing it was to hear a mediocre orchestra making great music.

      • Wannaplayguitar says:

        I’m sure Sir Simon was over the moon with that perspicacious quote. How does a ‘mediocre’ orchestra play ‘great’ music if they are incapable of honking their horns or tooting their flutes? Fridge magnet quotes.

  • Nina Jey says:

    Mikhail Pletnev is one of the best conductors of our time. His orchestra always sounds great. I love his interpretations.

    • MacroV says:

      I saw him lead the RNO in Moscow nearly 20 years ago. Fabulous orchestra, and I have to think Pletnev contributed something to the proceedings.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    In bocca al lupo, Maestro Pletnëv e professori d’orchestra!
    Con profonda ammirazione.

  • J Barcelo says:

    That recording of the Tchaikovsky 6th be made for Virgin is extraordinarily fine. It’s just too bad that we’re at a point when new recordings of almost anything are frankly not needed. His own set of Tchaikovsky symphonies on DG is quite fine and hardly needs to be redone.

  • Gustavo says:

    My Pussy RIOt pun was censored!

  • esfir ross says:

    And who finance new orchestra. Putin regime subsidized RNO.

    • MacroV says:

      I don’t think so. The RNO had a lot of support from commercial sponsors, and sometimes got knocked for doing sponsor-driven programming (at least, say, because of a Finnish sponsor, they’d do a bit of Sibelius). Also, when the RNO fired Vladimir Spivakov after his poor start as Pletnev’s replacement at the RNO, Putin supposedly “encouraged” Spivakov to form a new orchestra (the National Philharmonic of Russia, after they first tried “Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra,” to which the RNO cried foul), and I would imagine that’s who got the money. Spivakov is also viewed as closer to Putin.

    • Nick2 says:

      esfir ross – do not write about things you only guess at. Putin and his regime had and have virtually nothing to do with the RNO. It is financed by a private foundation with much of its funding coming largely from the United States – not Russia. The Anne and Gordon Getty Foundation is one of its many regular donors. A San Francisco lawyer helped Pletnev in the organistion of its initial financing.

    • V says:

      In the same interview, Pletnev clearly condems Putin’s regime:

      Q. How difficult was it to preserve that independence?

      ——- Pletnev: Very difficult. Putin’s government wants to have everything under control. That’s why they want us to become a state orchestra. But Putin is not the cause of the problem, he is only a consequence. The problem is that the Russians have not yet made their way to democracy. It’s been that way since 1917, when Russia briefly went that way, but the Communists and the Bolsheviks stopped it with their iron fiest immediately. Slave psychology still prevails. Without Stalin or some other firm hand, the Russians don’t know what to do. Democracy is a place they have not been to yet.

      Q. So you’ve created a project where music continues to connect people. Do you want to show that culture and art do not belong to states and politics?

      ———Pletnev: You can never beat a crime with another crime. War is a crime regardless of who started it, who is right and who is wrong. Wars are driven by the desire for revenge, and that does no one any good. If you want to break that cycle, you have to do something good, not multiply the crime. The good I can do is my music. Who start wars? Stupid politicians. There is no normal human being who likes war. But politicians have propaganda and manipulation in their hands, and they use it only for their own benefits, not for us.

    • V says:

      Another exerpt.

      Q. What is happening now with your orchestra in Moscow?

      ——- Pletnev: It’s a sad situation. I can’t go to Moscow, and the orchestra can’t come to me.

      Q. Recently, the Ministry of culture fired the executive director of the orchestra Svetlana Rips and put Irina Shigoreva at her place. Has anyone asked you anything about it?

      ———-Pletnev: No, nobody asked me nothing. I don’t know that person at all. For me, Svetlana Rips is still the only director.

    • Sergey says:

      RNO was independently financed by a private foundation for 15+ years. Then Vladimir Spivakov attempted to raid the orchestra but had a mixed success: the Ministry of Culture intervened to stop the conflict, gave Spivakov the money to start a new orchestra, but the RNO had to pass under the Ministry of Culture, too. Since then the RNO was in a slow decline with occasional beams of brightness, which were becoming rarer over time. Now the soul of the RNO will migrate into the new body of RIO and rejuvenate

  • Paul Joschak says:

    The man’s got great taste: he plays on Blüthner pianos!