»Artistic happiness«

Chief conductor designate Kirill Petrenko in the 2018/2019 season

Kirill Petrenko
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

When the Berliner Philharmoniker elect a new chief conductor it is always a turning point for the musicians and their public. Take the conductors who held the post during the period after the Second World War, for example: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle – each of them a distinct personality who had a lasting impact on the orchestra in terms of interpretation and programming. Kirill Petrenko will become the orchestra’s next chief conductor in summer 2019. Early indications of this new chapter of Philharmonic history are already apparent during the 2018/2019 season, however.

“Commitment to the music”

The number of concert programmes Kirill Petrenko has conducted since his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2006 is small. But these concerts were filled with such uncompromising, outstanding music-making that they justify the highest expectations for the future. Facets of sound sparkled anew, there were judiciously placed build-ups of tension, free breathing and powerful explosions of energy, and above all an “unrelenting commitment to the music” (Süddeutsche Zeitung).

Kirill Petrenko was born in Omsk, Russia. Following conducting appointments at the Vienna Volksoper, the Meiningen Theater and the Komische Oper in Berlin, he began his tenure as general music director of the Bavarian State Opera in 2013 – a post he will continue to hold until 2020. He has been a guest conductor with leading symphony orchestras, the Bayreuth Festival and great opera houses from Vienna to New York. He earned the highest praise from critics in all these positions, including the jury of the magazine Opernwelt, which named him “Conductor of the Year” no less than four times.

Arrival in stages

The fact that the arrival of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s new chief conductor is taking place in stages is nothing unusual in the orchestra’s history. In the case of this transition, the 2018/2019 season marks a phase of anticipation. Although Kirill Petrenko still holds the unofficial title of chief conductor designate, his conspicuous presence at Philharmoniker concerts is already obvious. It begins with the gala season opening, which is devoted to core repertoire of the Berliner Philharmoniker: a Beethoven symphony and two symphonic poems by Richard Strauss. An open-air concert in the Schlüter Courtyard of the Berlin Palace, which is being rebuilt as the Humboldt Forum, and a tour to Salzburg, Lucerne and the London Proms will follow immediately afterwards. In spring 2019 Kirill Petrenko will appear again at the Philharmonie and the Easter Festival. He will also conduct the Bundesjugendorchester (National Youth Orchestra of Germany), which is supported by the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Thus, the 2018/2019 season offers ample opportunity to become acquainted with the future man at the helm from various perspectives and observe how his partnership with the Berliner Philharmoniker develops further. Where will this path lead? Shortly after his election Kirill Petrenko himself gave a hint: “Above all, however, I hope for many moments of artistic happiness in our music-making together which will reward our hard work and fill our lives as artists with meaning.”