The former conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Russian-born Vasily Petrenko, has sharply criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. He also quickly decided to drop all artistic work in his homeland.
Petrenko, who conducted the Oslo Philharmonic from 2013 to 2020, has been back in town this week conducting two concerts with the Philharmonic again at the Oslo Concert House. He was a popular figure in Oslo and on the guest list at the Russian Embassy in Oslo. He even comes from Putin’s hometown, St Petersburg.
He lashed out at Putin on social media, however, shortly after the invasion, calling it a “tragedy” and one of the biggest mistakes and “human catastrophes in our century.”
Newspaper Aftenposten reported how Petrenko wrote that he was proud of the historic and cultural ties between the Russian and Ukrainian people. He added, however, that such ties “can never be used to justify Russia’s invasion.”
He’s now cutting all ties to one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent symphony orchestras, suspending his engagement as artistic director of The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation “Evgeny Svetlanov,” named after its longest serving music director.
Petrenko was its principal guest conductor in 2016 and last year he became its principal conductor in Moscow. He’s also chief conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, and leads the EU’s youth orchestra.
It’s unclear when or whether he’ll work in Russia again following what he described as the “terrible events” in Ukraine. He says he won’t return at least “until peace has been restored.”