The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Meet Kirill Petrenko, the unknown name who has just been appointed conductor of the famed Berlin Philharmonic. | July 11, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

His name is Kirill Petrenko -– not to be confused with conductor Vasily Petrenko in Liverpool, to whom he is no relation.

Chances are you have never heard his name.

Yet the Russian native Kirill Petrenko (below) has just been appointed to succeed Sir Simon Rattle as the music director and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, which is often seen as the finest and most prestigious orchestra in the world.

kirill petrenko

Petrenko sounds like a maestro who is worth getting to know.

And Tom Huizenga allows you to do just that in a terrific interview he did with a musician of the Berlin Philharmonic (below) about the new maestro who, it turns out, is publicity shy.

It appeared on “Deceptive Cadence,” the classical music blog that he writes and edits for NPR or National Public Radio.

It will be interesting to see what his initial concert programs and recordings are.


But while you wait, here is a link to the interview, which also includes some audio-video clips as samples of Kirill Petrenko’s music-making:




  1. This is stunning news and quite a surprise because Petrenko really does not have much of a background/reputation, except in opera, and even there, his reputation is limited. Quite a change from C. Abbado and Sir S. Rattle, who were both superstars and highly experienced before getting the top job with the BP.

    It may work out but I suspect that the BP is going to find out that marketing and a big name go together, especially at this level. Record sales might plummet.

    From the linked interview: ” He hasn’t done that much Beethoven or Bruckner in his life, I don’t think… .” And that was from a member of the BSO who thinks highly of him. That kind of background, or lack of it, especially in the German repertoire, would have been unthinkable not long ago. The person interviewed was also not sure what repertoire the new conductor’s strengths are in, other than opera. This underscores that this hiring seems something of a leap into the unknown.

    Lots of people thought the NYP’s highly regarded Alan Gilbert would be the next conductor in Berlin. Wonder what happened there?


    Comment by fflambeau — July 11, 2015 @ 4:27 am

    • The Berlin Philharmonic is so good — so heads above any other orchestra– that a conductor really does not matter. Petrenko also impressed members of the orchestra enough to have agreed to hire him, apparently enthusiastically. They could have done with one of two giants (Barenboim and Thielmann) but decided not to. Rest assured they will still be outstanding, and will sell out tickets.

      Comment by eddihaskell — August 6, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

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