The “December Nights” that take place at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts are music festivals dedicated to Museum exhibitions. Held since 1981, they were the idea of Sviatoslav Richter (1915–1997) and the director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Irina Antonova.
Sviatoslav Richter was the mastermind and the art director of the festival. Its concept was the unity of culture, which can be achieved through the reconstruction of certain time periods using music, painting, poetry, and drama. The audience find themselves in a temple or a room in a palace, where music and works of fine arts are brought in as if it was their natural environment. At the same time, the White Hall of the Museum is a chamber space and an ideal place for playing music, giving the feeling of participation. The festival got the name “December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter” in 1998, and Yuri Bashmet became the art director after the death of the great musician. A great number of unique programs have been performed at the world-famous festival.
The festival participants are distinguished musicians, directors, actors, and poets. Among them are Sviatoslav Richter, Oleg Kagan, Natalia Gutman, Yuri Bashmet, Gidon Kremer, Viktor Tretyakov, Mikhail Pletnev, Eliso Virsaladze, Christoph Eschenbach, Justus Frantz, Murray Perahia, Peter Schreier, Robert Holl, Boris Pokrovsky, Anatoly Efros, Andrei Voznesensky, Evgeny Evtushenko, Bella Akhmadulina, Sergei Yursky, the Borodin Quartet, King's Consort, the Hagen Quartet, the Takács Quartet, the Arditti Quartet, Vladimiк Spivakov, Gérard Caussé, Yuliy Milkic, Barbara Bonney, Eduard Brunner, Alexander Rudin, Beaux-Arts Trio, the chamber orchestra “Moscow Soloists,” the chamber orchestra “Moscow Virtuosi,” Il Giardino Armonico, the Hilliard Ensemble, Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance, Alexei Lubimov, Lars Vogt, Piotr Anderszewski, Pascal Devoyon, Alexander Melnikov, Thomas Zehetmair, Christian Tetzlaff, Valery Afanassiev, Mischa Maisky, Mario Brunello, Ian Bostridge, Alexander Kniazev, Oleg Maisenberg, Irina Arkhipova, Dominique Labelle, Elisabeth Leonskaja, etc.
The high caliber of performance, programs with rare and difficult chamber works — everything that was so important to Sviatoslav Richter still attracts devoted audiences to the Museum. The great musician used to say: “The best concert is where the listeners stand around the stage. Everyone should be able to attend.” He appreciated the “real” audience, who loved the art of music sincerely. He frequently repeated the phrase, “The audience is always right.” Our task is to maintain the high level of the festival, which meant so much to him.