Ideals and Visions

Kirill Petrenko, chief conductor designate of the Berliner Philharmoniker, makes a guest appearance with his future orchestra

Applause after the concert on 22 March 2017
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

For the second time since his election as the future chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko is once again on the podium of the orchestra with a programme that presents two sonorous rarities: Paul Dukas’ exotic tone poem La Péri, whose themes are seduction, death and the longing for immortality, and Franz Schmidt’s Fourth Symphony, which is in the tradition of Anton Bruckner and culminates in a stupendous funeral march. Between these two works comes Sergei Prokofiev’s classically-styled Third Piano Concerto with Chinese pianist Yuja Wang as the soloist. Both the conductor and the orchestra are looking forward to their joint concerts with great anticipation. “I have the feeling that the musicians have a great understanding of how I work,” says Kirill Petrenko in a conversation with Olaf Maninger which was recorded for the Digital Concert Hall. “As a conductor, I want them to understand that we have the same ideals and visions.”

Spectacular debut

Even at his debut with the Philharmoniker in February 2006, Petrenko impressed the orchestra with his personality and his way of making music, which is meticulous, scrupulous, yet passionate and rousing. “When you stand before an orchestra, so many sonic possibilities come to a conductor. Anyone who does not have their own point of view about the sound falls through the cracks,” as Petrenko said in an interview with Alexander Bader which is also available in the Digital Concert Hall. At that time, he was already known to Berlin audiences as general music director of the Komische Oper. He took up this office in the 2002/2003 season, and from that point took his orchestra to the highest musical heights. The Komische Oper was his springboard into the world: Petrenko now conducts at the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera and in Bayreuth, where he conducted the Ring des Nibelungen. in the staging by Hans Castorf. Since the 2013/2014 season, Petrenko has been general music director of the Bayerische Staastsoper where he has celebrated one triumph after another. The Bavarian State Orchestra, one of Germany’s outstanding opera orchestras in Germany, has – according to the tenor of the press – become even better, more slimmed-down in tone and more precise in its intonation. The magazine Opernwelt has named Petrenko “Conductor of the Year” several times.

Full of optimism

A native of Omsk, the artist, who studied in both his home town and Vienna, initially learned his craft in smaller houses: at the Vorarlberger Landestheater, the Vienna Volksoper and the Meininger Theater, where he conducted a much-admired Ring des Nibelungen together with Christine Mielitz. Since his debut, Petrenko has portrayed himself as an interpreter of the Russian masters in concerts with the Philharmoniker, as well as with works by Béla Bartók, Edward Elgar and Ludwig van Beethoven. In addition to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Haffner Symphony and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, his most recent concerts with the orchestra in March 2017 included The Wound-Dresser by John Adams, the 2016/2017 season’s Composer in Residence. An exciting programme compilation that reflects various aspects of Petrenko’s artistic work. As the conductor says to Alexander Bader in the Digital Concert Hall, a concert programme is successful when the musicians play something where they have some fun, and the audience hears something which can both teach them something and move them at the same time. In his new role, which he assumes in August 2019 he looks to the future – as he revealed during the press conference of his contract signing in October 2016 – full of optimism: “Through my few guest appearances with this orchestra, I have gained the impression that together we can achieve much artistically.”