The debut performance of the State Orchestra, one of oldest symphonic ensembles in Russia, took place on 5 October 1936 at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. During these years, the Orchestra has been led by outstanding musicians such as Aleksander Gauk, Natan Rakhlin, Konstantin Ivanov, and Evgeny Svetlanov. In 1972 the Orchestra was granted honorary title “academic” and in 2005 the was officially named after Svetlanov.
In 2011 Vladimir Jurowski was appointed as the Artistic Director of the State Orchestra. Since the start of the season 2016/2017 Vasily Petrenko is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra.
The orchestra has performed with many world-renowned musicians, such as conductors Hermann Abendroth, Ernest Ansermet, Arvids Jansons, Otto Klemperer, Lorin Maazel, Igor Markevitch, Evgeny Mravinsky, Charles Munch, Mstislav Rostropovich, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, Mikhail Jurowski, Aleksander Lazarev, Kurt Masur, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leonard Slatkin, Yury Temirkanov; and soloists: singers Irina Arkhipova, Elena Obraztsova, Galina Vishnevskaya, Montserrat Caballe, Placido Domingo, Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Jonas Kaufmann, Waltraud Meier, Anna Netrebko, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Rogas Pape; pianists Van Cliburn, Emil Gilels, Svyatoslav Richter, Boris Berezovsky, Denis Matsuev, Grigory Sokolov, Mitsuko Uchida, Rudolf Buchbinder; violinists Leonid Kogan, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Vadim Repin, Vladimir Spivakov, Maxim Vengerov, Leonidas Kavakos, Patricia Kopachinskaja, Julia Fischer, Nikolaj Znaider; violist Yury Bashmet; cellists Mstislav Rostropovich, Nataliya Gutman and Aleksander Lazarev. A lot of attention is also devoted to collaboration with young musicians such as conductors Stanislav Kochanovsky, Andris Poga, Murius Stravinsky; pianists Lucas Debargue, Jan Lisiecki, Aleksander Romanovsky; violinists Alyona Bayeva, Aylen Pritchin, Valery Sokolov; cellist Aleksander Ramm to name a few.
The orchestra has performed at the most prestigious venues, such as the Carnegie Hall (New York), Musikverein (Vienna), Salle Pleyel (Paris), and regularly tours abroad. The Orchestra frequently participates in well-known festivals and competitions, among which Grafenegg Festival (Austria), Kissinger Sommer (Germany), the VIII Mstislav Rostropovich Festival (Russia), the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition. The orchestra presents numerous world and Russian premieres each season and carries out a unique annual educational concert cycle “Stories with the Orchestra”.