Vasily Petrenko on Conducting, Soviet Russia, and Soccer

[From the San Francisco Classical Voice]

Springtime has brought accolades to Russian-born conductor Vasily Petrenko and the ensembles he now leads in the West. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra was shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Ensemble award, while Petrenko himself was shortlisted for his performance as Liverpool’s chief conductor, a post he assumed in 2009. A week later, the Liverpool ensemble was nominated for a BBC Music Magazine Award in the Orchestral category, lauding its Warner Classics recording, under Petrenko’s baton, of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1. The magazine’s readers also nominated the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Petrenko became chief conductor in 2013, in the Concerto category for an Orfeo recording of the music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.

Petrenko, who now lives with his wife and son just south of Liverpool, also serves as principal guest conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in his native St. Petersburg, where he was trained at the Capella Boys Music School and the (then-named) Rimsky-Korsakov Leningrad Conservatory, Russia’s oldest. Now 38, Petrenko has taken on other symphonic and operatic assignments across the globe, and last year completed a cycle of recordings of the symphonies of Shostakovich for Naxos Records. The program for his guest spot with the San Francisco Symphony this week includes that composer’s 12th Symphony (The Year of 1917), Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with Chinese pianist Sa Chen. Petrenko spoke by phone with SFCV during a tour stop in St. Louis last week.

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