Although Kirill Petrenko doesn’t take up his new post as the new chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker until next season, audiences this season have already had, and will again have the opportunity to get to know him from quite different perspectives: following the season opening concert at the Berlin Philharmonie and the open air event at the Schlüterhof of the Berlin Palace – plus the festival tour to Salzburg, Lucerne and London in August and September 2018, Petrenko returns to Berlin in January 2019. Not, however, to lead his future orchestra, but rather to appear together with the German National Youth Orchestra, which has the Berliner Philharmoniker as its patron, and which also celebrates its 50th birthday this year.
Training ground for orchestral talent
Founded by the German Music Council in 1969, the orchestra is regarded as a training ground for the next generation of orchestral talent. It provides skilled instrumentalists between the ages of 14 and 19 with the opportunity to experience the life of an orchestra – at a professional level. More than 80 percent of the young people who play in the German National Youth Orchestra opt for a career as a professional musician. It is understandable that the collaboration with the orchestra is of particular significance to Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker. As early as 2009, the conductor and the youth orchestra rehearsed and performed a both exciting and challenging programme: Arthur Honegger’s musical portrayal of a steam locomotive Pacific 231, while Tan Dun’s Paper Concerto and Igor Stravinsky’s mystical Firebird formed a musical journey from Russia to China. “Kirill Petrenko showed himself to be the ideal conductor, both programmatically and educationally, a leader who was able to inspire passion in his team,” as the Neue Musikzeitung reported.
The programme once again includes a work by Stravinsky: his provocative, scandalous ballet Le Sacre du printemps, whose appeal lies above all in its rhythmic intensity. Dance music of a completely different kind can be heard in the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein’s hit musical West Side Story with its congenial mixture of jazz, classical music and Latin American rhythms. In addition to the dance-inspired compositions by Bernstein and Stravinsky, the German National Youth Orchestra under the baton of Kirill Petrenko also performs a contemporary work: the Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra No. 1 by William Kraft, a self-taught timpanist who exploits the possibilities of his instrument to full effect. The soloist is the Philharmoniker’s principal timpanist, Wieland Welzel.