The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra has generally been highly regarded among Russian orchestras of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. In the twentieth century, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic was, on the whole, viewed as the finest Russian orchestra, with the MPO probably a close second. In recent times, however, some critics have hailed the MPO as Russia's finest, comparing it with the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras. Over the years the MPO has concertized throughout the world, giving more than 4,000 concerts and making over 300 recordings. The list of conductors leading the ensemble has included some of the most respected artists and composers of the day: Samosud, Kondrashin, Mravinsky, David Oistrakh, Benjamin Britten, Stravinsky, Rozhdestvensky, Kitayenko, Maazel, Mehta, and Penderecki. Most of the MPO's early recordings were made available on the old Soviet label Melodiya, but many of those have been reissued on Brilliant Classics, Moscow Studio Archives, Live Classics, and Globe, while some of the MPO's efforts in the West, such as the Britten and Van Cliburn recordings, have been re-released on EMI and RCA. Newer recordings have appeared on Naxos and other major labels.
The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1951, but did not adopt its current name until 1953. Its founder was veteran Bolshoi Opera conductor Samuel Samosud. The ensemble was initially established for broadcast performances of operatic music. But its mission quickly expanded in the early '50s, when it began playing much contemporary Russian music, as well as repertory standards.
In 1958 Kiril Kondrashin was appointed music director, and under his leadership the ensemble became one of the Soviet Union's finest and most prominent orchestras. Kondrashin used the MPO for the first International Tchaikovsky Competition, famously won (in the piano division) by American Van Cliburn.
Kondrashin recorded heavily with the orchestra, his Shostakovich symphony series being among his most memorable efforts. Dmitri Kitayenko succeeded Kondrashin in 1976, and led the ensemble until 1990. The MPO has had two additional music directors since: Mark Ermler (1996-1998) and Yuri Simonov, who took the helm in 1998.
Simonov has led the orchestra on highly successful tours of the U.S., U.K., and throughout much of Europe. The MPO's 2006-2007 concert schedule included tours of Japan, Germany, and Croatia. Among the MPO's later recordings is the 2004 Naxos CD of the Tischenko Symphony No. 7, led by the orchestra's principal guest conductor, Dmitry Yablonsky.