Russian to lead Berlin Philharmonic

Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, who is notoriously media-shy, will take over from Briton Sir Simon Rattle in 2018.
Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, who is notoriously media-shy, will take over from Briton Sir Simon Rattle in 2018.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN - The Berlin Philharmonic, regarded as one of the world's best orchestras, has picked Russian-born Kirill Petrenkoas its next artistic director and chief conductor.

Mr Petrenko, 43, was born in Omsk in south-west Siberia in 1972 and emigrated to Austria with his family when he was a teenager. He will succeed Briton Sir Simon Rattle in 2018.

Speculation about who would succeed Sir Simon has been a hot topic in music circles for months. Six weeks ago, an attempt by the orchestra's 124 members to elect a new director failed after 11 hours of fruitless voting rounds.

Insiders claimed at the time that the players were divided between two favourites, Mr Christian Thielemann, a 56-year-old Berlin native, and Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, 37.

The orchestra is unique in the world of classical music in that it chooses its chief conductor itself. Because of the secrecy of its deliberations, its voting is often likened to a papal election - minus the white smoke.

Mr Petrenko was not at yesterday's news conference announcing his appointment but said in a statement that words could not sum up the emotions he felt about taking over.

"I will mobilise all my strength to be a worthy leader of this extraordinary orchestra and am aware also of the responsibility and the high expectations."

Sir Simon, who has led the Berlin Philharmonic since 2002, is due to take over the London Symphony Orchestra from 2017. His contract in Berlin runs until 2018, so there may be a period when he combines the two roles.

The BBC quoted Sir Simon yesterday saying that he has admired Mr Petrenko for years, and is delighted he will be his successor.

Mr Petrenko is notoriously media-shy.

He has a reputation for being a perfectionist and a fanatically meticulous "musician's conductor", who can draw out the very best from his orchestra.

He never gives interviews and has made few recordings.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Russian to lead Berlin Philharmonic'. Subscribe