Working with the German National Youth Orchestra is a matter of personal importance for both the Berliner Philharmoniker and their chief conductor designate Kirill Petrenko. For good reason. The Philharmonic, patron of the orchestra since 2013, annually invite the National Youth Orchestra, in which Germany’s best up-and-coming musicians play, to Berlin; the Philharmonic instrumentalists also pass down their musical knowledge and skills to the young instrumentalists in various projects and master classes. Kirill Petrenko, in contrast, has been associated with the orchestra since 2009. At the time he prepared with them a programme made up of works by Arthur Honegger, Tan Dun and Igor Stravinsky. “I definitely notice that the young people absolutely want to give their very best, maybe even more,” the conductor disclosed to the Berliner Zeitung.
In 2019, the German National Youth Orchestra is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Kirill Petrenko does not want to miss the opportunity to conduct the Philharmonic’s mentees on this occasion. Two key works of the 20th century are on the programme: the musical West Side Story, a modern version of Shakespeare’s drama Romeo and Juliet, was a great success for Leonard Bernstein in 1957. His music, an ingenious blend of jazz, classical and Latin American rhythms, captured the spirit of the time. The composer arranged the most captivating songs of the piece into a suite in the Symphonic Dances in 1961.
Igor Stravinsky provoked a scandal in 1913 with the premiere of his ballet Le Sacre du printemps; at the same time, the piece – with its sharp dissonances and rhythmic intensity – became a guidepost pointing to the modern era. Besides the compositions by Bernstein and Stravinsky, the National Youth Orchestra, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, will also perform a contemporary work: the Concerto No. 1 for timpani and orchestra by William Kraft. The American composer began his musical career as a percussionist and timpanist and is thus extremely familiar with the instruments’ possibilities. With his timpani concerto he created one of the most important works for this percussion instrument. The soloist is the Philharmonic’s principal timpanist Wieland Welzel.