Emotions and Discoveries

Anyone who follows Kirill Petrenko through the new season will encounter great classics and hidden treasures

Kirill Petrenko (Photo: Priska Ketterer)

The repertoire of the Berliner Philharmoniker is as wide-ranging as one could possibly imagine for a great symphony orchestra. This variety is reflected in the concerts with chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, in which the artistic director’s own personal preferences are also obvious. The latest contemporary music is there, as well as the orchestra’s core Classical and Romantic repertoire from Beethoven to Brahms; Russian and Czech composers can be found, along with the “lost generation” from the first third of the 20th century, whose works are well worth rediscovering.

Whatever is on the programme, Kirill Petrenko “can hardly wait to finally play in front of an audience again with the Berliner Philharmoniker. We want to pick up the thread of the past season and introduce rarely performed music, including many works from the 1920s and by composers who had to suffer under the Nazi regime. There is still so much to discover, for example, the music of Leone Sinigaglia.”

A spectacular, groundbreaking 20th-century work will be presented in the first subscription concert conducted by Kirill Petrenko: Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird. Petrenko’s wish “to introduce works that are undeservedly seldom heard because they perhaps do not fit into any of the usual pigeonholes” is fulfilled with Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre for violin and string orchestra. The Romantic sound world of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony will be fascinatingly contrasted in October with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, which heralds an optimistic new beginning after long oppression.


The fact that contemporary music can evoke emotions that are at least as powerful as those expressed in Romanticism is demonstrated in the combination of three extremely different orchestral works by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Witold Lutosławski and Johannes Brahms. Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto also offers Kirill Petrenko the opportunity to appear for the first time with pianist András Schiff.

Kirill Petrenko has a soft spot for Czech music as well. For example, he will continue his exploration of the music of Josef Suk, whom he considers “not only one of the most important Czech composers but one of the truly great late Romantic composers”. In another concert, he will conduct Leoš Janáček’s fiery orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba, combined with works by Richard Strauss.

June brings works by three composers who are rarely encountered in the concert hall, in a programme intended as a statement against anti-Semitism and racial prejudice: two works for violin and orchestra by the Italian composer Leone Sinigaglia, Erwin Schulhoff’s Second Symphony and the Lyric Symphony by Alexander Zemlinsky.

Finally, opera also has a special significance for Kirill Petrenko, whose career began in the opera house. This preference is reflected in the Philharmonie with two concert performances of works by Peter Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spades, his third and final Pushkin setting, and Iolanta, Tchaikovsky’s last opera. “I am very much looking forward to all of this,” Kirill Petrenko says, “and especially to you.”