When the leaders of the Berlin Philharmonic staggered, weary and confused, from a May election that split the orchestra between supporters of Christian Thielemann and Andris Nelsons, they knew that there was not time to waste in choosing an compromise candidate. Either of the first choices would have damaged the orchestra beyond repair as the players continued their feud.
Petrenko had conducted the orchestra three times since 2006 and showed no ambition for having a closer relationship. A modest man, focussed closely on music and musicians, he took over only two years ago as music director of Bavarian State Opera. In previous contacts with Berlin he had declared himself unavailable.
But he had a good time in Berlin as music director of the Komische Oper and got to know several of the Berlin Phil players. In the face of their powerful need for a unifying candidate, his resistance crumbled.
He is, beyond question, a brilliant and intense conductor, a leader who fights for his musicians and spares no effort in achieving the best musical results.
His drawbacks? He is unknown outside Germany and attractively shy.
The Berlin Phil is a figurehead role. He will need to change, fast.