Vasily Petrenko is set to become Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). The 42-year-old Russian conductor will commence his tenure at the beginning of the 2021–22 Season, initially for five years. His appointment stands as a major landmark in the Orchestra’s history, signalling its determination to broaden the audience for orchestral music while enhancing its reputation as one of the world’s most versatile ensembles.
The maestro became the RPO’s Music Director Designate in August 2020, after leaving his role as Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. He will conclude his term as Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) in July 2021, closing a fifteen-year period during which he has drawn critical acclaim, global recognition and significantly increased audiences across the region.
Vasily Petrenko made his debut with the RPO at the Royal Albert Hall in March 2016 delivering a powerful interpretation of Mahler’s Symphony No.2, ‘Resurrection’. His rapport with the Orchestra’s players was confirmed in April 2017 when he returned to conduct Verdi’s Requiem at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and in a subsequent acclaimed 2019 performance of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben also at the Royal Festival Hall. Across the forthcoming seasons, he will conduct the RPO for performances in London and will lead the Orchestra on international tours to Europe and Asia.
In August 2021, Vasily Petrenko’s first concert as Music Director will mark the launch of the RPO’s 75th Anniversary Season. He will conduct an expanded number of the Orchestra’s concerts in London at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and will play a central role in strengthening the RPO’s Residencies in towns and cities across England. As one of the UK’s foremost cultural ambassadors, the RPO, under Petrenko’s direction, will strengthen its international touring programmes across the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with tours already scheduled as far ahead as 2022. Although Petrenko’s artistic plans for future seasons are still taking shape, supporters of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra can expect bold projects and adventurous repertoire from its new Music Director.
Vasily Petrenko was born in 1976 and started his music education at the St Petersburg Capella Boys Music School – the oldest music school in Russia. He then studied at the St Petersburg Conservatoire and has also participated in masterclasses with such major figures as Ilya Musin, Mariss Jansons and Yuri Temirkanov. Following considerable success in a number of international conducting competitions, including the Fourth Prokofiev Conducting Competition in St Petersburg (2003), First Prize in the Shostakovich Choral Conducting Competition in St Petersburg (1997) and First Prize in the Sixth Cadaques International Conducting Competition in Spain, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the St Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2007.
Petrenko is Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (a position he adopted in 2009 as a continuation of his period as Principal Conductor which commenced in 2006), Chief Conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra (since 2015) and Principal Guest Conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (since 2016). He has also served as Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (from 2013 to 2020), Principal Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain from 2009 to 2013, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre (formerly the Mussorgsky Memorial Theatre of the St Petersburg State Opera and Ballet) where he began his career as Resident Conductor from 1994 to 1997.
He has worked with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared at the Edinburgh Festival with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Grafenegg Festival with the European Union Youth Orchestra and the State Academic Symphony of Russia, and made frequent appearances at the BBC Proms. Recent years have seen a series of highly successful North American debuts, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Montreal and St Louis Symphony orchestras, and appearances at the Aspen and Ravinia summer festivals. He also made acclaimed debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival.
Equally at home in the opera house, and with over thirty operas in his repertoire, Vasily Petrenko made his debuts in 2010 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Macbeth) and the Opéra de Paris (Eugene Onegin), and in recent seasons has also conducted Pique Dame at Hamburg State Opera, Boris Godunov at the National Reisopera, Eugene Onegin, La bohème and Carmen at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, Carmen at the Zürich Opera, Tosca and Parsifal with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and Der fliegende Holländer with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. 2016 saw a highly successful debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper with Boris Godunov and performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Zürich Opera.
Petrenko has established a strongly defined profile as a recording artist. His Shostakovich symphony cycle for Naxos Records with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (collated as a boxset in the autumn of 2015) has garnered worldwide acclaim, and he has produced award-winning surveys of Rachmaninov’s symphonies, orchestral works and complete piano concertos with Simon Trpčeski, Tchaikovsky’s piano concertos and Manfred Symphony (winner of the 2009 Gramophone Award for Best Orchestral Recording), works by Offenbach, Higdon and Tavener, and Elgar’s Symphony No.1 and Cockaigne Overture for Onyx Records. With the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra he has released the Shostakovich cello concertos with Truls Mørk (Ondine), the Szymanowski violin concertos with Baiba Skride (Orfeo), and Prokofiev’s complete Romeo and Juliet ballet, and 2017 saw the continuation of cycles of Scriabin’s symphonies and Strauss’ tone poems.
In October 2007, Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year at the annual Gramophone Awards, and in 2010 he won the Male Artist of the Year at the Classical BRIT Awards. He is only the second person to have been awarded Honorary Doctorates by both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University (in 2009), and an Honorary Fellowship of the Liverpool John Moores University (in 2012), awards which recognise the immense impact he has had on the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the city’s cultural scene.
Read more about Vasily Petrenko's Mahler concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.