Gramophone Artist of the Year Vasily Petrenko undertakes major tour of China with London Philharmonic Orchestra, brings Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel to life at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and explores rich repertoire with leading orchestras in Montreal, Paris, Rome and Vienna
Deep-rooted guest relationships are set to complement Vasily Petrenko’s work this season as Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. His 2017-18 season includes returns to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with programmes rich in romantic repertoire and works tinged with exotic evocations of fairy-tale adventures. Petrenko’s round of guest conducting engagements includes a concert performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel and beguiling programmes of French, Russian and Austro-German music. He will also lead the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on tours to China, and take the European Union Youth Orchestra to the Middle East for its first performances in Dubai.
The conductor launches his LPO tour with two concerts at the spectacular Guangzhou Opera House on Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 December. Orchestra and conductor will be joined by the Swedish-Danish cellist Andreas Brantelid as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme Op.33 and Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 also form part of the tour programmes, and the subsequent concerts take place in Shenzhen, Shanghai Symphony Hall and Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (1 – 6 January 2018).
Petrenko welcomes the rapid rise in western classical music’s popularity with audiences in China and South Korea. “It’s great to see the interest in classical music in China,” he notes. “I predict that India will be the next to see this growth. I believe this music helps people find their balance in the world, to find their belief. I look forward to visiting China with the London Philharmonic at the end of this year and to touring there next July with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. I’ve already been several times and can see how audiences are becoming more adventurous in what they want to hear. The Chinese government is investing in new halls, like the extraordinary Guangzhou Opera House, and in new local orchestras. This points to a bright future for classical music.”
Later in the season, Petrenko will conduct the London Philharmonic on its home turf in February when they perform Stravinsky’s Hans Christian Andersen-inspired tone poem The Song of the Nightingale, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Scheherazade at the Royal Festival Hall (Friday 23 February), Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict Overture at the Brighton Dome (Saturday 24 February), as well as Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Ravel’s First and Second Daphnis et Chloé Suites at the Royal Festival Hall (Wednesday 28 February).
In addition to his busy performance schedule, Vasily Petrenko - recently named as 2017 Gramophone Artist of the Year – has his next recording due for release in October. This will be his third release on the LAWO label with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and it is the second in their complete cycle of Scriabin’s symphonies. Other season highlights with his Norwegian orchestra include multiple explorations of works by Richard Strauss, including recordings of Don Juan Op. 20 and Till Eulenspiegel Op. 28 (Thursday 19, Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October) as well as his Four Last Songs (Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March). With the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Petrenko joins forces with Sir Bryn Terfel for the bass-baritone’s ten day artist residency with the orchestra. Petrenko conducts performances of Verdi’s Requiem (Sunday 19 November) and Falstaff (Friday 24 and Sunday 26 November).
Just before his first China tour of the season, Vasily Petrenko will spend two weeks with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic preparing for a concert performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel in the Saturday Matinee series at Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw (Saturday 16 December). The cast includes Maxim Mikhailov as Tsar Dodon, Venera Gimadieva as the Queen of Shemakha, Andrei Bondarenko as Tsarevich Afron and Barry Banks as the Astrologer. The opera, based on the last of Alexander Pushkin’s imitation fairy tales, presents a political satire on the dangers of hubris, deception and vanity, a warning to the mighty not to abuse their power.
“I’ve been a regular guest conductor with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic for over ten years now, but this will be the first time we will perform an opera together,” observes Petrenko. “The Golden Cockerel is an incredible work. I think it had such a strong influence on Stravinsky, provoking him to explore new sounds, new colours, that ultimately led him to create The Firebird and The Rite of Spring. There is so much novelty and daring in this Rimsky-Korsakov, which is remarkable from such a conservative composer. He released his free creativity in this piece. Rimsky-Korsakov was already a master of orchestration – nobody at the time could come close to the way he used the orchestra. But I think Pushkin’s surreal fairy tale about the deceitful tsar and the golden cockerel inspired him to be adventurous with his music and loosen the bonds of his conservatism. This opera, which was first performed in 1909, leads us into the music of the 20th century.”
Other highlights of Vasily Petrenko’s guest conducting schedule include a return to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for three performances of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy Op.54, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 in C major Op.26 and Debussy’s La Mer (Wednesday 11, Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 October). He will also lead workshop sessions with young conductors at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, part of his enduring personal commitment to reach beyond the concert hall. “I always try to work in the wider community whenever I can,” comments Petrenko. “It’s an important part of my life, whether in Liverpool and Oslo or as a guest with other orchestras. The orchestra is part of society not separate from it. I believe it’s our duty to connect as much as possible with local society, including through education projects. I’m looking forward to performing French music in Montreal with an excellent orchestra that has such a great history of playing and recording this repertoire.”
Vasily Petrenko travels to Rome the following month for concerts with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Thursday 2, Friday 3 & Saturday 4 November). They will explore Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Mario Brunello as soloist, together with Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Haydn and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.5 Reformation. “It will be fascinating to work with the Santa Cecilia orchestra on this repertoire,” he suggests. “We have worked together almost every season over many years, but this will be the first time I will perform this German repertoire with them. The ‘Reformation’ Symphony is a powerful work and one that you can do in a very personal way. I think we will have a lot of fun with this programme.”
Bold musical ideas and colours flow through Petrenko’s programming for two concerts with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at the Vienna Konzerthaus. The first, on Friday 9 March, presents the combination of Milhaud’s ballet Le Bœuf sur le toit – originally conceived as a Cinéma-fantasie for a planned but never realised collaboration with Charlie Chaplin – and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. The second performance, on Sunday 11 March, pairs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with the young Austrian Armenian violinist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian as soloist, and Scheherazade. “The Milhaud and Rimsky-Korsakov will work very well together,” the conductor comments. “Although the Beethoven, with its exploration of the inner universe, and Scheherazade, with its extrovert nature, are almost polar opposites, they make really good companions and are so fascinating for the audience to hear in the same programme. To perform Beethoven in Vienna, just moments from his statue outside the Konzerthaus, is truly special for me. And it’s always such a pleasure to work with the Wiener Symphoniker.”
Exotic sounds and impressionistic instrumental colours belong to Petrenko’s programme with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France at the Philharmonie de Paris on Friday 4 May. Anna-Caterina Antonacci takes the mezzo-soprano part in Chausson’s song-cycle Poème de l’amour et de la mer, presented in company with the third and final version of Takemitsu’s Toward the Sea and Alexander von Zemlinsky’s three-movement orchestral fantasy Die Seejungfrau, based on Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid. Towards the end of the season, Petrenko also gives a series of concerts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Lowy Concert Hall, Tel Aviv. Concerts include four all-Beethoven programmes, featuring the composer’s unmistakable Symphony No. 5 as well as his Concerto for cello, violin and piano – with Renaud and Gautier Capuçon on strings and Lahav Shani performing the piano part (Tuesday 19, Thursday 21, Friday 22 and Sunday 24 June). For two of the concerts (19th and 24th), Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture prefaces the programme.
In addition to guest engagements, Vasily Petrenko is due to resume his role as Chief Conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra with concerts at Grafenegg, Bucharest, Sofia and Athens (Sunday 1 – Thursday 19 April). Their latest collaboration includes plans for a short residency in Dubai, with two concerts and an extensive programme of community outreach and education work. “We will begin our long-term project to perform in the capital cities of each of the EU member states,” notes Petrenko. “This will be my first spring project with the orchestra; all the others have been in the summer. I’m very glad that the financial situation of the EUYO has been settled and am very grateful to everyone who campaigned for it to continue to receive EU funding. There are not so many examples where the countries of the European Union can work together in such a productive and creative way and achieve such excellence.”