Kirill Petrenko voted new artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic

Yesterday, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra revealed the name of their newly voted in principal conductor – Kirill Petrenko. Watch the press conference on YouTube or read the Berlin Phil’s press release her. I’ve pulled together some of the media write-ups below.

Limelight Magazine provides some context on the outsider’s appointment:

Petrenko, who was considered an outsider as he has only guest conducted the orchestra a handful of times in the past, and not within the last couple of years, was elected by a large majority of members as Chief Conductor Designate to follow Sir Simon Rattle in August 2018. He will also become Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation.

BBC Music Magazine (Classical-Music.com) explained how the announcement was made yesterday.

The conference was rapidly called after word of Petrenko’s appointment had apparently somehow been leaked to the German radio station RBB – the election is traditionally one of the most closely guarded secrets in classical music. Tasked with announcing the good news was the Berlin Philharmonic double bassist and board member Peter Riegelbauer.

The Australian Times writes:

Petrenko is a huge talent, but his appointment presents the Berlin Philharmonic with big challenges. He is comparatively inexperienced in the symphonic repertoire and has almost no public profile outside Germany and Austria, a problem for an orchestra that tours as often as the Berliners do. He describes himself as shy and rarely talks to the media. (Asked if he was married, single or had children, a spokesman replied: “No details.”)

On the politically sensitive question of where he stands on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies, Petrenko has stayed silent.

The Boston Globe focusses on Andris Nillsons, 36, who was previously rumoured to have been voted into the top job.

Nelsons, whose five-year contract with the BSO extends to the 2018-2019 season, apparently sought to quell those rumors early on, telling the German-language publication Die Welt last year that he would be “too young in 2018 to take over from Simon Rattle.” He added: “That was a strategic decision. I signaled it when I decided to be, from this autumn, chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” But that didn’t stop many online from following a false rumor that claimed the Berliners had selected Nelsons — fraudulently attributed to Sarah Willis, a French-horn player with the Philharmonic — during the unsuccessful vote in early May.

Norman Lebrecht, writing on the Spectator Blog, says that Petrenko’s ‘euphoria and joy’ about his new role ‘won’t last’.

… he is completely unknown abroad, in the territories where the Berlin Phil needs to be number one. A few guest appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and the Concertgebouw left no lasting impression. He has never toured Japan or China. He has made hardly any recordings. Berlin will have to build his profile up from scratch before 2018 in order to maintain its myth of being the world’s premier orchestra with the greatest living conductor.

Under the headline “Petrenko is Kirill Petrenko is the right choice for the Berlin Philharmonic
The Russian conductor carries a flame for the great German tradition” Michael Henderson in the Telegraph writes:

Petrenko was always a leading candidate to succeed Rattle, and inherit the most important position in the world of orchestral music. The only problem, according to his supporters, was whether he had the appetite for the job. He has twice scrubbed concerts with the orchestra, most recently as last December, when Daniel Harding stepped in at the last moment to conduct Mahler’s sixth symphony.

Janos Gereben writing on San Francisco Voice posits why Petrenko ended up securing the vote:

Those familiar with the Berlin music scene suggest that one reason for Petrenko being selected by the Philharmonic’s musicians is that he was the candidate on whom the two largest camps of the orchestra — those for Christian Thielemann (for his musical excellence) and those against him (for his political views) — could compromise. 

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