Here’s why Kirill Petrenko won’t be appearing at the BBC Proms

Sir Peter Jonas, retired intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, tells us what happened when a visit by the Munich company’s orchestra with its fast-rising conductor was proposed to the BBC Proms.



Kirill Petrenko is one of the great conductors of our time and only in Britain has he been somewhat undervalued and or ignored. His work at the Komische Oper was superb and his performances, as well as his uncompromising leadership qualities and integrity at the Bavarian State Opera, have been thrilling, inspiring and edifying in that they have given many of us faith and belief in the musical future of such institutions.

He is not shy but, rather, in his single-minded pursuit of his musical dream, completely concentrated on the musical task at hand. One prays that he will see out the whole of his contract in Munich as the Staatsorchester at the Opera have flourished working with him (let us not forget this was Carlos Kleiber’s favourite orchestra and had a such a close, affectionate and rewarding relationship with Zubin Mehta during his era as MD).

Maybe this is the riposte to the infamous reply of the BBC Proms management as the Staatsorchester’s committee and their management offered themselves to the Proms for 2016 on tour and were sent away with the exclamation….’Oh no…. Kirill Petrenko?…We do not really know about him over here….’!!! Little Britain!!

The tour will happen…all over Europe but without London and the Proms, which the players are sad about.

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  • A shame that Great Britain wasn’t interested in Petrenko and the fine orchestra. A beam of light in a sad and dark, troubling place.

    • I am from Great Britain and I have been quite interested in Kirill Petrenko ever since I first heard his fine series of Suk recordings on CPO. Obviously I cannot speak for other denizens of this sad dark and troubling place, but I imagine that there are a few of us who might have wanted to hear him conduct even before today’s news, although personally I doubt that I would have wanted to travel to the Proms to do so.

  • Little Britain? Surely not. But an unfortunate lapse of common sense. Hopeful it will be resolved. Would he conceivably even visit Canada? Still some of the finest orchestral players around – Stravinsky agreed back when. Nezet-Seguin, I suggest, also agrees.

  • Well, it does not surprise me. The Empire has gone, the knowledge failed. But they are proud to be so. I can sing a song about…

  • Real managerial talents are rare dear friends and they were rare in history.
    Worst example? Johann Sebastian Bach, who was in 1723 the third if not fourth choice as new Thomaskantor and city-musicdirector of Leipzig.
    So, what’s new?

  • I do not think Mr. Petrenko is in the slightest bit concerned by this snub, having just been named Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic.

  • To accuse the Proms of being parochial is risible – and in the absence of any comment from them, this smells strongly of one-sided gossip. I’d be far more ready to believe that the Bavarians simply asked for an unjustifiably high fee – and that the response was that, given Petrenko (K)’s profile (not just in the UK but pretty much anywhere outside central Europe until yesterday) – they couldn’t run to it.

    Cue indignant disbelief in Munich, and a handy one-sided confirmation of the prejudices of classical music’s thriving “all centuries but this and every country but his own” squad (see comments above). German orchestras exist in a lavishly state-funded bubble; this wouldn’t be the first time they’d have priced themselves out of musical centres that don’t benefit from astronomical subsidy or trust-fund sized endowments.

    Just an idle surmise…

    • “German orchestras exist in a lavishly state-funded bubble”

      it is called CULTURE and it is commonly publicly funded in cultured nations. Except in Britain and the US, two “special” entities that have a different idea about their use of tax money. They prefer to bail out banks and big corporations in times of crisis. And to spend fortunes on the military. To each his own.

        • Mmmm. I don’t think we actually preferred to bail out our daft UK banks and we don’t actually spend enough on the military these days. I agree that funding the arts should take a higher priority but I rather remember our German friends going a bit wild on military spending not too long ago. Delighted you’ve only got the best orchestra now!

  • Why Little Britain? Why not Overbearing Germany?

    Just because a bunch of Berliners picked Petrenko doesn’t make the BBC Proms wrong. Just because some 70 or so musicians (“large majority”) anointed him in Germany doesn’t mean the British have to kiss his baton-holding hand.

    The jury is still very much out on Petrenko. I’m glad there is a divergence of opinion on him.

    Let him prove himself worthy of the Proms, not the other way around.

    • “worthy of the proms”? Give us a break. It is what it is, a popular summer festival, the venue is big, not the artistry necessarily.

    • You are right, we shouldn’t generalize just by one act. But unfortunately this country-together with other english speaking countries has proved to be ignorant of other part of the world. Just think of the geographical knowledge or literature education. How many Dostoevsky , Thomas Mann or Goethe do English schools teaching?

  • Well I have to confess that I was ignorant about this man. And I love classical music. But I shall look out for him. I shall be looking out for him and when he does come to the UK, as in sure he will, I will be we all go wild.

  • The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra IS coming to London next season. They had many illustrious conductors,
    including Maazel, Joachim and, of course, Kubelik.

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