Vasily Petrenko looks set to galvanise the Oslo Philharmonic much as he did the RLPO. Geoffrey Norris meets the conductor with a big heart and even bigger plans him that Shostakovich had been the RLPO’s backbone. ‘Shostakovich,’ he counters, ‘has definitely been the longest project, but not the only one.’ He cites the Mahler cycle that the orchestra spread over two years, the Beethoven cycle, a big Elgar project as well as Rachmaninov recordings ‘and many other things’. The atmosphere at the RLPO is now exhilarating, to the extent that 1300 people even turned up earlier this year just to hear details of the 2014/15 season. In times gone by, the number of interested patrons might have fitted in to the foyer. Now the
You could call it the Petrenko Effect. Empirically proven, this is the process by which Vasily Petrenko is appointed to an orchestra that has slightly lost its way in terms of confidence and artistic standing; he turns it round, points to new horizons and sets off on an adventure that rejuvenates the musicians and excites the public. In the era before Petrenko, it is no secret that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra had fallen out of love with its American Music Director, Gerard Schwarz. Morale was low. Then along comes Petrenko as Chief Conductor in 2006. Spirits rise, as do playing standards. In concerts at Philharmonic Hall, audience figures become healthier, and within a few years the orchestra is remaking its name more widely with the first disc in a cycle of Shostakovich symphonies for Naxos. It was in 2009 that the Eleventh Symphony was released as Volume 1. Now the series has just been completed with Symphony No 13. When Petrenko was in London in August to conduct the European Union Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms, I put it to
Relationships old and new: Petrenko with the RLPO (top), and the Oslo Philharmonic auditorium itself has to be opened up.
It had been Petrenko’s dream that a new hall might be built for the RLPO, closer to Liverpool’s city centre and its major transport hubs. However, the economic situation being what it is, that idea has had to be put on hold: as Petrenko said a few years ago, ‘I believe at some point it will be built. It’s just a question of whether it will be in my lifetime or my son’s.’ But in the meantime the RLPO’s classic art deco home is being substantially refurbished. In the hall itself,
14 GRAMOPHONE OCTOBER 2014
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