The building housing the Philharmonia was constructed in 1839 by the architect P. Jacot (the facade designed by C. Rossi) for the St. Petersburg Assembly of the Noble.
The hall with wonderful acoustics and a seating capacity of over 1500 has been the center of the city's musical life since the end of 1840s. Numerous renowned musicians of the XIX century performed here. F. Lizst, H. Berlioz, R. Wagner, G. Mahler, A. Rubinstein, K. Schumann, P. Viardo, P. Sarasate and others were among them. Many works of such exponents of Russian classical tradition as Borodin, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov were premiered here.
On June 21, 1921 the enauguration of the Petrograd Philharmonia took place. The orchestra was conducted by E.Couper, the first Director of the Philharmonia, a talented conductor and brilliant organizer. The concert program was dedicated to P.I.Tchaikovsky's works. In a short period of time the Philharmonia developed diverse concert, educational and publishing activities; the unique Philharmonic Library favoured this process. The Philharmonic Orchestra (at present the St. Petersburg Philharmonic) became its leading orchestra. In the course of 50 years (1938 - 1988) it was headed by the outstanding Russian conductor E.A. Mravinsky. Since 1988 Yuri Temirkanov, one of the world's leading conductors, has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Orchestra.
The concert repertoire was broadened by Russian and world classical music as well as works by the distinguished composers of the XX century such as Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith (all of them performed in the Great Hall). The number of guest artists also increased. Such famous contemporary musicians as O.Klemperer, B.Walter, E.Ansermet, E.Kleiber, L.Stokowski, A.Cortot, A.Schnabel, A.Rubinstein, B.Britten, F.Fischer-Diskau, S.Richter, E.Gilels, A.B.Michelangeli, G.Gould, Y.Menuchin, M.Rostropovich appeared in the Hall.
Among the orchestras that gave concerts here were the Filadelfia, Clieveland, Chicago Orchestras, the Berlin, Vienna and New-York Philharmonic Orchestras, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. Some great careers started here. Schostakovich's First Symphony was premiered here on May 12, 1926. The outstanding composer performed in the Hall for many years. In 1930es, when he lived in Moscow, he used to come here to premiere his works. Nowadays the St. Petersburg Philharmonia bears his name. The Grand Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia is one of the best concert halls in Europe. It is considered to be prestigious and honorable to perform here. The concert life of the Hall has considerably changed; new names appear in its concert programs. But, as I. Andronikov, a famous artist and literary critic, said, it is still "one of the best places in the earth".