Breaking: Berlin Phil is rumoured to have chosen a music director

Breaking: Berlin Phil is rumoured to have chosen a music director


norman lebrecht

June 21, 2015

The rumour comes in Die Welt from Manuel Bruig, who can be unreliable, but it has legs. Brug says the players have chosen Kirill Petrenko, music director of the Bavaria State Opera. The Berlin Phil press office has promised ‘more tomorrow’ in an email to Slipped Disc.

Independent of his report we were informed last week that Petrenko had been offered the job on election day and turned it down. There is no sign yet that he has changed his mind – unless his recent Bayreuth anger at Thielemann has made it a point of honour to accept.

Here’s Brug (in German). More as we hear.



  • Yuan Yao says:

    An excellent choice!

  • John Lancaster says:

    The last time that Kirill Petrenko conducted the BPO, it was reported that the musicians thought very highly of him. Not taking over the podium until 2020 will leave a big 3 year gap as Manuel Brug says without a chief conductor. Well, maybe we will know tomorrow!

  • Luciano says:

    Entirely possible they have made a decision. Highly unlikely they have picked someone who hasn’t conducted the orchestra for a couple of years. Choosing a chief conductor is an emotional decision for an orchestra (as opposed to an intellectual one), and the impetus for a decision will come from having a particularly good week with someone. Far more likely to be someone who has conducted the orchestra in recent weeks, if indeed a decision has been made.

  • JVG says:

    He’d be a great choice. The orchestra seemed really inspired by his conducting, his choice of repertoire was intelligent and his conducting deeply emotional and technically flawless. I was already getting worried that right-wing Thielemann was going to get the gig.

  • Henrique Medeiros says:

    Perhaps, they had chosen another Petrenko…lol

  • Simon S. says:

    Thanks for the information, Norman. If I may, here’s a short summary of the (IMHO) most important points of Brug’s article:

    – Petrenko wouldn’t start before 2020, when his contract in Munich expires.

    – Both Thielemann and Nelsons have declared themselves no longer available. The former because he wasn’t elected by a landslide in the first ballot, the latter referring in a “more polite way” to his decision to stay in Boston for at least two terms.

    – Petrenko would be, in Brug’s view, a rather odd choice for BPhil, as his focus has been clearly set on opera so far, and he hasn’t conducted any work of the symphonic core repertoire with BPhil. Last year, he cancelled a series of Mahler 6 “under strange circumstances”.

    • DESR says:

      I hadn’t realised that Thielemann was out of the running following the last election day because he doesn’t want to be a less than wholehearted choice.

      Furthermore, developments in Bayreuth have clearly had great traction in Berlin!

  • DLowe says:

    Interesting, particularly given his utterances about the state of Bayreuth recently.. This would make a permanent enemy of Thielemann.

  • Simon S. says:

    Update: RBB (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenbrug, the regional public broadcasting corporation) also reports Petrenko is the chosen one, referring to their own anonymous sources. According to RBB, he will start in 2018, when Rattle’s contract expires. BPhil has scheduled a press conference for 1300 CEST today.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    The Berlin Philharmonic tried very hard to get Carlos Kleiber as Karajan’s successor in 1989, even using the good offices of the then Federal President, Richard von Weiszäcker, but to no avail. Just as Kleiber was the greatest conductor of his generation but so incredibly “difficult” in many different ways, Petrenko would be a tantalisingly wonderful prospect. Just watch on the Digital Concert Hall the reaction of the orchestra to his last appearance with them in 2012, all wreathed in smiles. They rarely applaud conductors at the end of a concert but they did on that occasion. The question is whether he can ultimately be persuaded to push himself forward into the unforgiving limelight of fierce scrutiny: his nerves led him to cancel last December’s scheduled performances of Mahler 6, and in that there are certainly parallels with Kleiber. Those of us who have so far seen real inspiration and deep musicality in Petrenko can only keep our fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    It’s official. Just been announced on Bayerischen Rundfunk.