Petrenko takes on Philharmonic

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The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra is finally about to officially take on the young Russian, Vasily Petrenko, as its new conductor, and vice versa. After a two-year build-up, the waiting is over and “Petrenko Fever” is set to infect Philharmonic fans.

Vasily Petrenko will officially take over as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra this month, with his first concert expected to attract thousands to the City Hall Plaza. PHOTO: Philharmonien/Bo Mathisen

Vasily Petrenko will officially take over as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in August, with his first concert expected to attract thousands to the City Hall Plaza. PHOTO: Philharmonien/Bo Mathisen

Petrenko, who’s only 37 years old and already a star in symphony circles, will make his debut as the Oslo Philharmonic’s new chief conductor at its annual free outdoor concert on the City Hall Plaza (Rådhusplassen) August 14. That’s when the orchestra traditionally performs Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, “Ode to Joy,” and it’s with quite a bit of joy that Petrenko is being welcomed to Oslo, succeeding Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who bowed out at the end of the last season in May.

Petrenko has already thanked his Oslo fans for what he’s called “a warm welcome.” He’s earlier worked with the Philharmonic on several occasions, conducting a free concert shortly after his appointment in March 2011 and touring with the orchestra later that year.

Now he says he greatly looks forward to “get better acquainted” with his Oslo audiences, and have “a lively dialogue.” Newspaper Aftenposten announced this week that at least part of that dialogue will take place through a monthly column Petrenko has committed to write for the paper’s website. The first one is due out “a few days” before the outdoor concert on the evening of August 14.

‘Expectations and reflections’
“I want to write about the music but also about my trips around the world, about my expectations and reflections around concerts, and about moving to Norway,” Petrenko told Aftenposten. “It’s a way for me to get in contact with the public, also those who seldom have been in a concert house.”

“A lot of people don’t know what the life of a conductor is like,” he continued, “but by showing everyone I’m a completely ordinary person who does ordinary things, perhaps I can show there’s nothing to be scared about.” He said early on he’d be moving to Oslo with his wife and young son, who will follow a British curriculum at a school in Bærum.

Petrenko was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), educated at the city’s music conservatory and became the youngest conductor ever of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006. He frequently makes guest appearances with other orchestras, which is why he travels the world, but he developed a close relationship with the public in Liverpool, writing a blog there as well for the local paper, the Liverpool Echo, and becoming well-known for his enthusiasm, energetic style and commitment to concerts that attract youth. He intends to carry that on in Oslo.

Season opener with Andsnes
His season-opener at the Oslo Concert House at the end of August will feature none other than acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who’s in the midst of his worldwide “Beethoven journey” project. Also featured will be Norwegian composer Ørjan Matre, with Petrenko conducting Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” as well, 100 years after its first performance.

Petrenko has said wants to bring music out to the people, and the orchestra out in the world. In the meantime, he’s also said he hopes to be able to do some skiing and he’s already been given honorary membership in Bærum’s Stabæk Football Club. He remains a big fan of Liverpool.

His predecessor Saraste of Finland hasn’t cut all his ties Oslo Philharmonic. He was made an honorary conductor of the orchestra before stepping down in May, meaning the relationship will continue, with Saraste already scheduled to be back conducting in Oslo in mid-November.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund