New conductor greeted with glee

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Russian Vasily Petrenko has been named the new conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra from Spring 2013 – and has already laid out his hopes to make the orchestra one of the best in the world.

Vasily Petrenko will lead the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra from 2013, succeeding current conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. PHOTO: Mark McNulty/Oslo Philharmonic

Petrenko’s appointment has been greeted with praise by those who wish to see a conductor who combines musical flare with the charisma and global appeal required to raise the Philharmonic’s profile internationally. Comparisons are already being made with former director Mariss Jansons, whose departure in 2002 over poor acoustics in the Oslo Concert Hall (Konserthuset) and other issues have since led to a perceived decline in the orchestra’s fortunes.

Schooled at the St Petersburg Conservatoire under famous communist era teacher Ilya Musin among others, the 34-year-old prize-winning Petrenko is best-known for being the youngest ever conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in England, a post he assumed in 2006. During his time in the UK, the Russian has been feted for reviving the fortunes of Liverpool’s orchestra, as well as conducting the National Youth Orchestra of Britain and recording a number of CDs.

His appointment in Oslo was described as “an exciting choice” by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and a “coup” by newspaper Aftenposten’s music critic. He conducted a free concert at the Oslo Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon, in a so-called “get-acquainted” session with the orchestra and the public, and received a warm welcome. Orchestra fans lined up outside to get in, and gave Petrenko a standing ovation as soon as he walked on stage.

Petrenko has led Norway’s best-known orchestra before, performing Prokoviev’s 5th symphony and Elgar’s violin concerto with them in December 2009. Oslo Philharmonic’s director, Odd S Gullberg, told newspaper Aftenposten that the conductor “clicked” with the orchestra, and that “the musicians understood that here we had a brilliant conductor of the type we were looking for.”

“I believe Oslo Philharmonic has a great potential to come further and become even better. I actually believe it can be among the world’s best, or even the best,” Petrenko told Aftenposten. He described being “second place” as “really defeat,” and joked “but I am Russian, and note that we are now for evolution, not revolution.” His desire is to play “in exactly the style and spirit that the composer intended.” Part of Petrenko’s vision also includes making more records.

Even before 2013, Petrenko will go on tour to Berlin, Vienna and Paris with his new orchestra this coming autumn, as well as performing once in Oslo. At the weekend’s free concert in Oslo, he conducted Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony and Johan Svendsen’s Norsk Kunstnerkarneval.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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