Dear Director-General, Dear Ambassadors and permanent representatives, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors and Artists for Peace Ladies and gentlemen, It is a special honor for me to welcome you, on behalf of the Russian Federation, to this gala concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory. Throughout history, the art of music has been valued most highly. In different ages, music has been recognized as the universal language of humanity, and it continues to play this role in our era as an important channel for intercultural dialogue. The guests and participants here this evening have a unique opportunity: to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in style with UNESCO. Over the course of its 150-year history, Russia’s oldest existing establishment for higher musical education, now an Academy, has trained many outstanding musicians who have made a unique contribution to our world’s musical treasury. The names of its world-famous graduates and teachers, composers and performers are irreplaceable in world culture: Anton Rubinstein, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Dmitri Shostakovich, Evgeny Nesterenko, Elena Obraztsova, Yuri Temirkanov, Anna Netrebko, Mikhail Gantvarg and many more. The destinies of three Russian UNESCO Artists for Peace, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Spivakov and Sergei Markarov are entwined with the Conservatory. The founders of the Conservatory, who laid the foundations for professional musical training in Russia, aimed to develop a system of education that would meet the standards and needs of a national art. The traditions they established are still maintained today, and the Conservatory itself has become one of the most famous centers of music. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s arrival at the Conservatory (in 1871) ushered in a new era in the development of professional training in composition and theory. The young Rimsky-Korsakov – he was only 27 – had a huge influence on all aspects of life at the Conservatory. He taught several specialist courses and trained a plethora of students, many of whom became teachers at the Conservatory on graduating from his class. Altogether, he succeeded in training more than 200 composers, conductors and musicologists. Rimsky-Korsakov maintained that “musical creativity is the greatest sphere for displaying musical talent and the highest branch of activity in the musical arts”. These words of Rimsky-Korsakov are fundamental to understanding his views and methods for professional training in composition, which were embodied in the system he developed for training professional composers. The young “rebel” Sergei Prokofiev studied in the celebrated master’s class, representing the anti-academic camp, while Igor Stravinsky was one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “private pupils”. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and his school would set the standard for professionalism for future generations of composers and theorists right up to the present day. The Petersburg Conservatory now boasts seven faculties: composition, piano, orchestra, voice and directing, conducting, musicology, and folk instruments. Among the teachers and students at the Conservatory are famous composers, opera conductors and directors, ballet masters, pianists, singers and orchestral musicians. Many graduates of the Conservatory have gone on to win prestigious international competitions and play prominent roles in the international musical arena. The Conservatory takes an active part in international scientific and musical exchange. This year, the traditional annual music festival “International Conservatory Week”, organized by the Conservatory, was dedicated to its 150th anniversary. Representatives of 17 advanced music schools from Russia, Europe, Asia, the USA and Brazil came to congratulate the oldest Conservatory in the country. To coincide with the anniversary, an international symposium and several international scientific conferences were held at the Conservatory. The Conservatory is proud of its historic building, specially built for it in 1896 and now returned to its former glory by a restoration programme supported by the Russian federal authorities and a grant from the World Bank. The Saint Petersburg Conservatory has been inscribed on the State list of particularly valuable cultural heritage sites of the peoples of the Russian Federation by Presidential decree. The building itself is, of course, a true gem in one of Russia’s most glittering World Heritage Sites, which UNESCO protects: the historic centre of Saint Petersburg and related groups of monuments. Colleagues, friends, Today, the guardians of the glorious traditions of the Russian school of musical art will perform for you, representing the Saint Petersburg Conservatory: its Rector, People’s Artist of Russia Mikhail Gantvarg; UNESCO Artist for Peace Sergei Markarov; and the global stars of the future – the Grand Student Symphony Orchestra of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, under the baton of International Laureate Mikhail Golikov. Another dazzling Russian pianist and graduate of the Moscow Conservatory has offered to lend his invaluable support to his colleagues and fellow musicians: People’s Artist of Russia Denis Matsuev. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the management of UNESCO for helping to organize today’s gala evening; to the conductors, musicians and soloists taking part in this unique concert in honor of the anniversary of the Conservatory; and to the French firm “Pianos Daude” for their assistance. I wish you all a pleasant evening! Thank you.