Irkutsk became a musical center of Siberia in the XIX century. In the 1850s Irkutsk orchestra was popular enough, its conductor, first violin Redrov. Since 1858 the orchestra began to offer musical evenings in the Noble assembly. Famous composers and players began to come to Irkutsk. "On March 2, 1858 a solo-flutist of his Majesty of Netherlands gave the first concert on a flute in the large hall of the General house. He was accompanied on a piano by the music amateur B.К.Кugel …", - this is the way N.S.Romanov’s annals of city informs us of this memorable event in musical life for Irkutsk citizens. During those years the performances of famous French flute Lize Cnristiani, the concerts of pianists Klauf-Kamensk and Elvira Morelly, schoolgirls of Anthon Rubinshtein were organized in Irkutsk. The true pleasure was delivered to Irkutsk citizens by madam Marianna Brusnitskaya, an opera singer from the theatre "La Scala".
In November 1898 A.U.Ganita-Pilsudskii, a graduate of the Petersburg conservatory, came to Irkutsk to take a post of the teacher of choral singing in the Maiden institute. In the early 1899 he opened a musical school - first special musical institution in the city and in general in East Siberia, which existed until May 1901. Besides teaching, the teachers and schoolchildren gave concerts, including the fund raising one for the opening of Irkutsk branch of an Imperial Russian musical society (IRMO), which took place in Irkutsk on August 4, 1901. The Branch had the concerts of touring opera singers, performances, symphonic and instrumental concerts with participation of the musical classes teachers. The musical classes existed at the Irkutsk branch IRMO from 1901 to 1914. Annually from 44 up to 118 men were trained there. The graduates of the musical classes became the actors of Irkutsk symphonic orchestra, the Mariinskii theatre; many of them entered a conservatory. In 1914 at the beginning of the first world war the management of the Branch was broken up, the grants of the private persons stopped, on September 10, 1914 the Irkutsk branch IRMO was liquidated and the Musical classes were closed.
The former teachers of the Musical classes E.G.Gorodetskaya and R.А.Ivanov in 1905 opened a private musical school, where violin, piano, flute, alto, copper wood-wind instruments playing was taught. The teachers and pupils participated in concerts of chamber music. Since 1914 the school was the only musical educational institution in the region, conducting musical-educational work. In 1920 the school became a part of musical university.
In the Soviet power years the MUSUN (Musical university) Musical technical school, Musical school and other special educational institutions carried out musical-educational activities. In 1963 the Musical school was united with the Art one and the School of arts was formed - one of leading educational institutions of Eastern Siberia in the field of culture. Among the graduates of this school are Denis Matsuev – a winner of competition of P.I.Chaikovskii in 1999, participants of some international competitions - the violinists V. Tretyakova and V. Belomestnikh. Today in Irkutsk it is possible to receive musical education at the musical faculty of Pedagogical university, in the Musical school, in a School of culture. There are several working musical schools at the city. The students of humanitarian faculties of Irkutsk State university get acquainted with the history of musical culture.
The important event in musical life of Irkutsk became the opening of the regional philharmonic society in spring1939. At the beginning its functions were limited to organization of concert brigades, and only in 1950 the first concert hall - in a building of former Public assembly appeared. In 1959 the symphonic orchestra of the Irkutsk philharmonic society was founded. The graduates of the best conservatories of the country and local young executors were at its source. The main conductor of the orchestra became I.Sokolov – a graduate of Leningrad conservatory. The face of musical Irkutsk of that time was created by such musicians as L.Holodilova, L.Sementsova, D.Baskov and others. Today main conductor of a symphonic orchestra is a graduate of the Petersburg conservatory Oleg Zverev. In the concert programs under his management the immortal creations of P.I.Chaikovskii, Shostakovich, Stravinskii, Bethoven, Skryabin, Wagner are played. The performances of the orchestra in Japan and USA caused enthusiastic responses of auditoriums.
In 1974 the chamber orchestra was created, the Irkutsk philharmonic society is proud of today. A talented violinist, musician of high culture – Lev Kasabov became its founder and long-term chief. In the early 1960s he became the initiator of the creation of a string quartet, which gradually developed into a chamber orchestra. The repertoire of the musical collective includes all sonatas of Beethoven, foreign and domestic music, both ancient, and modern.
In 1988 a musician and pianist V.E.Karpenko organized an ensemble of the soloists of a Irkutsk philharmonic society. This collective set a goal to revive forgotten musical names and its inclusion into modern concert life. Russian music of the XVIII - early XIX centuries is considered to be the main part of the repertoire. These are the works of D.Bortyanskii, E.Fomina, M.Berezovskii, I.Handoshkin, K.Kavos and other composers, incorporated in "the Russian musical subscription". The basic programs are "The Golden century of Ekaterina", "Small yard of Pavl Petrovich", "Foreigners in Russia", "Forgotten names", "Star of captivating happiness", a cycle "The Destinies connected with Irkutsk" and others. In a creative assets of the ensemble there is music of the foreign composers of the XIV-ХХ centuries, works of Russian composers – classics of the XIX century, and also modern Russian music of such composers as S.Prokofiev, D.Shostakovich, A.Hachaturyan, G.Sviridov, A.Shnitke. In concerts of a cycle "A voice of the past" the ancient instruments are used: family blockflute (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), lyre, organ. The ensemble takes part in all significant measures, taking place in a city: the Innokentievskie readings, annual festivals "Russia shining", "The Decembrists evenings", "Days of the Polish culture".
The concerts in the Organ hall, located in a building of Polish kostel, are very popular among the Irkutsk citizens and visitors of the city. Its opening in 1978 became one of the brightest events of musical city life. The masters from Germany made a remarkable organ of the firm "A. Schuke". In different time famous musicians – O.Yanchenko, G.Grodberg, S.Dizur, A.Feseiskii and others performed here. L.Yankovsakay, a musician and organist, was a constant participant of the concerts.
The musical life of the city has deep roots and rich traditions. Today it in many respects characterizes Irkutsk as the city of large culture, the city which keeps and makes the spiritual heritage of previous generations larger.