At the age of 13, Vladimir Teodorovich Spivakov was awarded the first prize at the major conductor contest in Moscow. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Yuri Yankelevich and debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1979. The same year he established the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.
In 1984, Leonard Bernstein presented his conductor's baton to Spivakov. In 1989 he emigrated to Spain. Spivakov was named the People's Artist of the USSR in 1991. Three years later, he established the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation to help Russian orphans. In 2000 he was awarded the Légion d'honneur for his work as an artistic director of the Colmar International Festival, for which he has worked since 1989.
Spivakov is also considered one of the foremost violinists of his generation, having studied with Yuri Yankelevich at the Moscow Conservatory. He was a prizewinner at several competitions in Moscow, Paris, Genoa, and Montreal.
Spivakov currently serves as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the National Philharmonic of Russia. He conducted the music for Garri Bardin's 2010 animated feature, The Ugly Duckling.