Flash: Berlin Philharmonic elect Kirill Petrenko as music director

Flash: Berlin Philharmonic elect Kirill Petrenko as music director


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2015

Kirill Petrenko was elected yesterday as chief conductor Designate of the Berlin Philharmonic and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. He will succeed Simon Rattle in 2018. He confirmed his acceptance to the orchestra last night.

Petrenko, 43, will need to withdraw as music director of the Bavarian State Opera (although some German media suggest he might retain both posts for a while).

He is the orchestra’s first Russian-born chief, and the first Jewish person to hold that post.

kirill petrenko conducting

First commentary here.

press release:

During an orchestra assembly yesterday Kirill Petrenko was elected by a large majority of the members of the Berliner Philharmoniker as the Chief Conductor Designate of the orchestra and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. He succeeds Sir Simon Rattle, who will leave the orchestra in August of 2018. Kirill Petrenko said: “Words cannot express my feelings – everything from euphoria and great joy to awe and disbelief. I am aware of the responsibility and high expectations of me, and I will do everything in my power to be a worthy conductor of this outstanding orchestra. 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.”

Orchestra Board members Ulrich Knörzer and Peter Riegelbauer said: “We are extremely pleased that Kirill Petrenko has accepted his election as Chief Conductor Designate of our orchestra. We look forward to our musical future together with great confidence.” General Manager Martin Hoffmann: “As General Manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation I am delighted about the election and offer the orchestra and Kirill Petrenko my hearty congratulations.” Sir Simon Rattle: “I have admired Kirill Petrenko for years, and I am delighted that he will be my successor with this wonderful orchestra. I congratulate the Philharmoniker on making such a forwardlooking decision.”


  • Mark Stratford says:

    ==He is the orchestra’s first Russian-born chief

    Not quite. See below:


    • Peter says:

      Borchard was born on Russian soil but to German parents. And he was never elected by the orchestra but appointed in the days after German capitulation by a Soviet official. So under the bylaws of the Berlin Phil he was not a real chief conductor, but interim and appointed.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Absolutely the right decision, on artistic grounds alone. I look forward especially to an amazing talent and a clear understanding of the German repertoire, a quality which has unhappily eluded the present incumbent.

    • Halldor says:

      And…all the other music in the world?

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall you bringing up Petrenko as the “absolutely right” choice for the position in previous discussion, or did I miss that?

  • harold braun says:

    Bravo!Sensible choice!Artistic responsibility and conscience won over media hype!

  • Marina Arshinova says:

    that’s fantastic

  • John Borstlap says:

    Petrenko is a great musician and not the usual marketable ‘star presence’ which is entirely to his credit. “…… the first Jewish person to hold that post.” His ethnic background is irrelevant.

  • Andrey Boreyko says:

    Great choice! My personal congratulations for Maestro Kirill Petrenko, and for the musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker! Look forward for your common concerts!!

  • Elliot Kahn says:

    Norman I’m shocked by your assertion that Petrenko is “the first jewish person to hold the post What of the current conductor?

    • R A Hall says:

      Rattle is NOT Jewish, as far as I know.

    • Peter says:

      Who cares, both are not the religious type and do not emphasize their grand parents religious affiliations in any way. What it means to be “Jewish” is entirely their private choice. And none of them likes to make it a public issue, so let’s leave it at that. There are fortunately enough people on this planet, who have understood that science has negated religious dogma for many decades already, and that certain ethnic or racial divisions do only exist in people’s imagination, but not in reality.

  • Alec Johnston says:

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating…

  • Julian Reynolds says:

    In an interview, Sir S once said that he was born in a ‘Jewish area of Liverpool’ but didn’t actually mention if he was so.

  • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

    The business model of the orchestra has to change – which, in retrospect, might have happened already – into a model akin to that of the Wiener Philarmoniker if this move is to succeed.

    In spite of its long history, the Berlin phil became THE Berlin Phil via its ‘commander and chief’ – Furtwangler, Celibidache as interim, Karajan, Abbado, and Rattle. What does this mean for the world facing the new Berliner? People will have to go for the orchestra, not for the Maestro (which kind of already started happening).

    In recent years (and this is entirely my opinion) the Soloists and ensembles might have had more interesting moves than the ensemble as a whole (unless you count the whole story of dancing Stravinsky with high school kids revolutionary).

    We’ll see how this pans out, but in comparison the trend is clear: The orchestra now will have to legitimize the conductor, not the other way around…..and usually it has not worked.

    Concertgebouw has risen to the top with a very strong Jannsons, LA is following suit with Dudamel in a much larger degree that what they did with Salonen. Its a big risk for an ensemble which has been head and shoulders above the rest for the past 50 years.

    We’ll see what happens

  • Don Ciccio says:

    So much for Rory Macdonald – which would have been my first choice! 🙂

    On a serious note, I only heard Petrenko live once, in a somewhat disappointing Khovanshchina from the Met. Good but not great. But I will definitely give him another try. After all, how could I not?

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    He conducted Elgar 2nd Symphony in his first BPO concert in 2009. Available in Digital Concert Hall.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Petrenko is not the first Jewish conductor of the BPO. A certain Joseph Joachim preceded him.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    A great choice, and a signal for the future of the orchestra and of classical music: Petrenko is one of the most serious, no-nonsense conductors around, a man dedicated to music, a great colleague and a musician who doesn’t care about personal fame and success, but only cares about the integrity of art.
    I am happy for him and for BPO.

  • Novagerio says:

    Bravo Fabio!