Serge Koussevitzky was born in Vyshny Volochyok, roughly 150 miles northwest of Moscow. He received his first musical education from his parents, learning violin, cello, and piano, before travelling to Moscow to study double bass at the Musico-Dramatic Institute of the Moscow Philharmonic Society at the age of 14. He proved to be talented at the instrument, and joined the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of twenty, succeeding his teacher as principal bassist seven years later. He made his debut as a double bass soloist in the mid 1890s, and later received critical acclaim for his first recital in Berlin in 1903. He eventually moved to Berlin and began studying conducting under Arthur Nikisch.
His conducting career quickly took off, and alongside performing as a double bass soloist he made his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, with Rachmaninov as soloist in the pianist’s own Concerto No. 2. He soon moved back to Moscow and founded his own music publishing business, buying the catalogues of many composers including Scriabin, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky. In 1924 he moved to the US, taking up the post of principal conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, marking the beginning of a golden era for the ensemble. Koussevitzky has left a lasting impact on music, and the Koussevitzky Music Foundations, created by Koussevitzky in 1942, was responsible for financially supporting the premieres of a number of prominent 20th century orchestral works.