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Vasily Petrenko

As principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko has built the group into one of Britain's strongest ensembles, both artistically and financially. Assuming the leadership of several other prominent orchestras in the 2010s, Petrenko has been viewed widely as one of the top stars on the European conducting scene. Vasily Petrenko was born in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia), on July 7, 1976. He is unrelated to Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko. He attended the Boys' Music School of the venerable St. Petersburg Capella and then went on to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where his principal teacher was Ravil Martynov. Although he had master classes with Mariss Jansons and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Petrenko's musical education was otherwise completed entirely in Russia. He began his career as an opera conductor, serving as resident conductor of the St. Petersburg State Opera and Ballet Theatre from 1994 to 1997, and quickly developing a repertory of some 30 theatrical works. He also served as conductor of the State Academy Orchestra of St. Petersburg from 1994 to 2007. In the late '90s and early 2000s, Petrenko began winning competitions, some of them, like Spain's Cadaques International Conducting Competition (2003), outside Russia, and those led to new opportunities. A guest conducting debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 2004 turned into a three-year appointment as principal conductor the following year; at 29, Petrenko was the youngest conductor ever to hold the post. He increased audience sizes, made strong recordings, and improved the orchestra's financial footing. His contract was extended to 2012, then to 2015 (with a promotion to chief conductor), and finally to an open-ended arrangement where Petrenko was required only to give three years' notice before stepping down. At the same time, he was taking on guest conducting assignments with orchestras in Britain, Russia, and Scandinavia, and these led to his appointment as principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2009 and as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic in 2011. He has also held guest conducting positions at various European opera houses. In 2015, Petrenko added the conductorship of the European Union Youth Orchestra to his portfolio. In 2018, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London announced Petrenko's appointment as its new chief conductor, effective in 2021. He was also principal conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation, but he suspended his participation in that group's activities after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Petrenko made many critically acclaimed recordings, including an award-winning 2007 reading of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony and a series devoted to the symphonies of Shostakovich that concluded in 2015. In the late 2010s, Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have recorded for the Onyx and Warner Classics labels; with the Oslo Philharmonic, he has recorded for Lawo Classics. His recorded repertory emphasizes Russian music, but he has also proven an enthusiastic interpreter of music by Elgar and other English composers. In 2019, Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic issued a recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations on Onyx. He was hardly slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, issuing seven recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Oslo Philharmonic in 2020 and 2021. In 2022 and 2023, he and the Liverpool group backed pianist Boris Giltburg on installments in a new cycle of Beethoven's piano concertos, released on the Naxos label. By that time, Petrenko's recording catalog comprised more than 65 items.
© James Manheim /TiVo


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