Breaking news: Oslo in raid on Liverpool star

Breaking news: Oslo in raid on Liverpool star


norman lebrecht

February 17, 2011

The Oslo Philharmonic has just announced Vasily Petrenko as its next chief conductor, starting August 2013. 

Petrenko, 34, was the saviour of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the making of the city’s Year of Culture. He’s contracted to Merseyside until 2015, but the move to Oslo marks a big leap forward on the world stage, both for him and for the Norwegians.
Raised to international standard by Mariss Jansons in the last quarter of the 20th century, Oslo has twice mishandled the podium succession, first preferring Andre Previn to Antonio Pappano, then replacing a lacklustre Previn with the excellent but not exactly earth-shattering Finn Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
Petrenko, whose potential was spotted at a conductors competition by Sir Neville Marriner, will take Oslo up a grade with a huge investment of energy and idea. Theirs will be a rocket worth watching.
Also in the running, but discarded as too inexperienced, was the fast-rising local lad, Eivind Gullberg Jensen, whose time will surely come.

                                                                                                  photo: Liverpool Daily Post

Press release follows:

Making History


Vasily Petrenko Appointed Chief Conductor of the

Oslo Philharmonic from August 2013



An exciting new age beckons for the Oslo Philharmonic with the appointment of Vasily Petrenko as its Chief Conductor Designate. The 34-year-old Russian musician, who officially succeeds Jukka-Pekka Saraste in August 2013, is determined to build on the orchestra’s rich artistic legacy, extend its audience reach and raise its international profile. Petrenko’s partnership with the Oslo Philharmonic’s players began with his acclaimed debut concert in 2009 and is set to develop when they tour together later this year.


“I was thrilled to be asked to be the Oslo Philharmonic’s Chief Conductor,” observes Vasily Petrenko. “It is too early, of course, to speak in detail about our future programmes together. But we will certainly be thinking about 2013 and the big anniversaries of Wagner, Verdi and Britten and the centenary of Diaghilev’s great Ballets Russes season in Paris, which gave the world Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printempsand Debussy’s Jeux.”


“I’m looking forward to programming everything from Johann Sebastian Bach to contemporary music and the work of Scandinavian composers, Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius among them. I love Scandinavian music and think it will be a natural process to explore it together with the Oslo Philharmonic.”


During his St Petersburg student years, Vasily Petrenko received guidance from the Oslo Philharmonic’s longest serving Chief Conductor, Mariss Jansons. “It will be a privilege for me to follow in his great footsteps with the Oslo Philharmonic. Their association is part of the orchestra’s modern history. I hope we will be able to make our own history together.”


The Oslo Philharmonic was founded in 1919 and can trace its ancestry back to the Christiania Musikerforening (Christiania Musical Association), founded by Edvard Grieg and Johan Svendsen in the 1870s. The Norwegian orchestra, based at Oslo Concert Hall since 1977, achieved international acclaim during Mariss Janson’s tenure as Chief Conductor (1979-2002) and has retained its place among the world’s leading ensembles under Jukka-Pekka Saraste (2006 to present). The Oslo Philharmonic’s roster of distinguished Chief Conductors also includes Issay Dobrowen (1927-31), Herbert Blomstedt (1962-68) and André Previn (2002-06).


Vasily Petrenko’s sense of historical perspective is matched by his acute understanding of the present need to increase and widen the audience for symphonic music. He draws here on invaluable lessons learned and applied as Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. His extended Liverpool contract currently runs until 2015 during which time will he will continue to lead the orchestra in concerts, tours and recordings. “The connection with an audience is a very important part of my work in Liverpool, Oslo and wherever else I conduct,” he comments. “I believe this relationship is central to the conductor’s role in developing the modern orchestra. Working with and developing a young audience has been my guide in Liverpool. We now attract young people to our concerts there and I consider this to be another central concern of my mission as a conductor.”


Odd Gullberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Oslo Philharmonic, welcomes Vasily Petrenko’s appointment and notes that the orchestra is excited about the future under his artistic leadership. “We compiled a long list of those who might become the orchestra’s next Chief Conductor,” he recalls. “When we matched these to the criteria we wished to see in that person, Vasily Petrenko emerged as our clear first choice. We wanted somebody ready to shape a long-term vision for the orchestra, an outstanding conductor able to communicate freely with people on and off stage. We’ve seen what Vasily has achieved with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and recognise his combination of assets: he’s a great musician and tremendous communicator. He motivates musicians and inspires audiences. We approached Vasily’s agents, IMG Artists (London), and were delighted when he accepted our offer.”


The combination of Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic, explains Gullberg, has the makings of a strong international brand, one boldly hallmarked by qualities of excellence, dynamism and audience appeal. “This is about looking to the orchestra’s future at a time when Norway is investing in the arts and culture. Our future plans will embrace everything from the concerts we give at home and abroad to recordings, the use of new media and the way we communicate with Scandinavian and international society. It is a major project, which will fully involve our new Chief Conductor and give something back to the society that so generously supports us.”



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Notes for Editors



Vasily Petrenko


Born in St Petersburg in July 1976 and educated at the St Petersburg Capella Boys Music School and St Petersburg Conservatoire, Vasily Petrenko served as Resident Conductor at the St Petersburg State Opera and Ballet Theatre (1994-7) and Chief Conductor of the State Academy Orchestra of St Petersburg (2004-7). He is currently Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (his contract extended until 2015) and Principal Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.


In recent seasons Petrenko has made debut performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, the Philharmonia, the NHK Symphony Tokyo, the Budapest Festival and Russian National Orchestras, and has toured with the European Union Youth Orchestra. In the United States he has made successful debuts with many top level orchestras, the Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Baltimore, Cincinnati and St Louis Symphony Orchestras among them. His schedule includes forthcoming debuts with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Sydney Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra Washington.


In 2007 Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year at the annual Gramophone Awards, and in 2009 he was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University, in recognition of the immense impact he has had on the city’s cultural scene.


Vasily Petrenko is represented for worldwide general management by IMG Artists (London).




Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra


The Oslo Philharmonic can trace its roots back to the time of Edvard Grieg and Johan Svendsen. It was established under its present name in 1919. The orchestra annually presents 60 to 70 concerts at its home venue, Oslo Concert Hall, most of which are broadcast by Norwegian National Radio. Its concert programme has secured a high international profile, widely recognised for the breadth of its repertory and the quality of its music-making. Thanks to its international reputation, the orchestra attracts many distinguished conductors and soloists.


Under Mariss Jansons, Music Director from 1979 to 2002, the orchestra achieved great international fame and critical acclaim. Since 1982 the Oslo Philharmonic’s touring activities has regularly taken the orchestra to Europe’s leading venues, including a residency at Vienna’s Musikverein and visits to the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh, Lucerne and Salzburg international festivals. The orchestra has also appeared at significant venues in North and South America and in East Asia.


Maestro Jansons was succeeded by André Previn, and in 2006 the orchestra signed a five-year contract with Jukka-Pekka Saraste as Music Director. In 2009, Maestro Saraste’s contract was extended until 2013. The Oslo Philharmonic has performed highly successful overseas concerts with Jukka-Pekka Saraste, for example, at the BBC Proms and Barbican Hall in London, the Vienna Musikverein, the Berlin and Cologne Philharmonies, and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, together with appearances at the Rheingau, Grafenegg and Baltic festivals and venues in Italy, Switzerland and the Benelux countries.


As a recording orchestra the Oslo Philharmonic attained global fame under Mariss Jansons in the 1980s, initially with their cycle of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies for the Chandos label. In 1986 they signed what was then the most extensive orchestra recording contract in EMI’s history, resulting in over 20 acclaimed releases during the next decade. The Oslo Philharmonic’s discography presently includes over 70 titles spanning a strikingly wide range of music. Recent releases include a Brahms symphony cycle and Mahler’s first, sixth, seventh and ninth symphonies for Simax; recordings with Hillary Hahn, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Daniel Müller-Schott and Christian Lindberg; and the album Norwegian Heartland, a survey of Norwegian romantic compositions by Grieg, Halvorsen, Svendsen, Saeverud and Tveitt (Simax).


In 2008 the orchestra launched its first DVD, presenting the final version of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony and sequences from the work’s ‘forbidden’ original 1915 score, with Jukka-Pekka Saraste as conductor and narrator. This was followed in spring 2010 by another DVD and Blu-ray release of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, again conducted by Maestro Saraste.


The most recent recording of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra with Saraste is Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (Simax), which was released in Norway in December 2010 and internationally in January 2011.



  • Thomas Walton says:

    Eivind Gullberg Jensen can’t have been “discarded as too young” as he is four years older than Petrenko – he was born in 1972, Petrenko in 1976…