Vasily Petrenko was born in 1976 and started his music education at the St Petersburg Capella Boys Music School – the oldest music school in Russia. He then studied at the St Petersburg Conservatoire and has also participated in masterclasses with such major figures as Ilya Musin, Mariss Jansons, Yuri Temirkanov and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Between 1994 and 1997, Petrenko was Resident Conductor at the St Petersburg State Opera and Ballet Theatre in the Mussorgsky Memorial Theatre. Following considerable success in a number of international conducting competitions including the Fourth Prokofiev Conducting Competition in St Petersburg (2003), First Prize in the Shostakovich Choral Conducting Competition in St Petersburg (1997) and First Prize in the Sixth Cadaques International Conducting Competition in Spain, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the State Academy Orchestra of St Petersburg from 2004 to 2007.
During recent seasons Petrenko has conducted many key orchestras in Russia including the St Petersburg Philharmonic and the Moscow Philharmonic. He commenced his position as Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2006 and six months into his first season this contract was extended to 2012. In 2009, the contract was again extended to 2015, and he also assumed the title of Chief Conductor. Also in 2009, following his tremendous debut with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which for the Guardian “deliver[ed] a clarity of expression that sounds as if he has been at the helm of the NYO for years”, he was appointed their Principal Conductor to work with the orchestra each season. In February 2011 it was announced that Petrenko will take up the position of Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra from the 2013/14 season.
In recent seasons, Petrenko has made numerous critically acclaimed debuts with major orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Russian National Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic and Budapest Festival Orchestras. He has appeared at the BBC Proms with both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the National Youth Orchestra, and toured with the European Union Youth Orchestra. Recent years have seen a series of highly successful North American debuts, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Baltimore and St Louis Symphony Orchestras. Highlights of the 2010/11 season included his debuts with the London Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Finnish Radio Symphony, Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, NHK Symphony Tokyo, Sydney Symphony and Accademia di Santa Cecilia. The 2011/12 season and beyond includes tour periods in Europe and the US with the Russian National and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestras, return visits to the Philharmonia, Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, and debuts with the Czech Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Chicago Symphony and National Symphony Washington.
Equally at home in opera house, and with over thirty operas in his repertoire, Petrenko made his debuts in 2010 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera with Verdi’s Macbeth and at the Opera de Paris (Eugene Onegin), and has conducted three productions in recent seasons at the Netherlands Reisopera (Puccini’s Le Villi and Messa da Gloria, I due Foscari and Boris Godounov) and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame at Hamburg State Opera. Future plans include his debut at the Zurich Opera (Carmen).
Recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra include a rare double bill of Fleishman’s Rothschild’s Violin and Shostakovich’s The Gamblers, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos, Symphonic Dances and Isle of the Dead, and a critically acclaimed series of recordings for Naxos including Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony (winner of the 2009 Gramophone Award for Best Orchestral Recording), the Liszt Piano Concertos, and a number of discs of an ongoing Shostakovich symphony cycle.
In October 2007 Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year at the annual Gramophone Awards, and in 2010 he won the Male Artist of the Year at the Classical Brit Awards. In 2009 he was awarded Honorary Doctorates by both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University, in recognition of the immense impact he has had on the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the city’s cultural scene.
© Mark McNulty