Yuri Simonov is a prominent Russian conductor whose colorful career has been as varied as his reportorial tastes have been eclectic. He has led operatic and ballet performances of the Bolshoy, conducted major orchestras throughout the former USSR, and led performances abroad as a guest conductor of the world's leading orchestras and at the major opera houses. In the post-Soviet era, Simonov held important conducting posts in Europe and South America and since 1998 has served as music director of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. While Simonov has conducted many of the operatic standards by Verdi, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Prokofiev, as well as orchestral staples by Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorák, Mahler, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich, he has also been an advocate for contemporary Soviet and Russian music, championing works by Rodion Shchedrin, and numerous younger Soviet and Russian composers. Simonov has made many recordings over the years for a variety of labels, including Melodiya, Collins Classics, Intersound, and Vanguard. Many of the Melodiya recordings have been reissued on Russian Disc, Brilliant Classics, and Kultur Video.
Simonov was born in Saratov, Russia, on March 4, 1941. The son of opera singers, he studied violin as a child and later, viola and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory (1956-1965). He conducted student orchestras on the side and later on took conducting lessons from Nikolai Rabinovich.
Simonov was principal conductor of the Kislovodsk Philharmonic Orchestra from 1967-1969, and debuted at the Bolshoy in the latter year leading a performance of Aida. He served as principal conductor at the Bolshoy from 1970-1985, often leading high-profile performances with the company in Moscow and abroad, including at the Met. He was also busy during this period guest-conducting at major venues like Covent Garden.
After holding two lesser posts with Russian orchestras and serving as a guest conductor for the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra (1991-1994), Simonov accepted the appointment of music director of the Belgian National Orchestra in 1994. Since 1998 Simonov has served as music director of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the new century, Simonov has led the MPO on several acclaimed tours abroad, including to the U.S., Czech Republic, and Japan (2004-2005) and to the U.K., Korea, and Spain (2005-2006). Among Simonov's later releases were two Kultur Video DVDs issued in 2005 of Bolshoy performances of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina (from 1979) and Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (1983). During the 2009-2010 season, he made guest appearances with the Riga, Wuppertal, and Eindhoven orchestras and he continued tours throughout the U.K. and South Korea.