Kirill Petrenko is new Berlin Phil chief conductor

Russian to take over from Sir Simon Rattle in the German capital

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Kirill Petrenko has been named as the new chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.


In a press conference broadcast live on the web at 12pm (BST) today, members of the orchestra's board announced that they have elected the Russian, who is currently music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, by a sizeable margin. Petrenko will take over from Sir Simon Rattle, who leaves the ensemble in 2018.

The conference was rapidly called after word of Petrenko's appointment had apparently somehow been leaked to the German radio station RBB – the election is traditionally one of the most closely guarded secrets in classical music. Tasked with announcing the good news was the Berlin Philharmonic double bassist and board member Peter Riegelbauer.

Petrenko's appointment may come as a little bit of a surprise to some. Of those who were believed to be favourites for the post – Petrenko, Andris Nelsons and Christian Thielemann – Petrenko is the least familiar to British audiences, having forged his career largely in Russia and Germany. However, as well has his Munich post, he has also been music director at Berlin's Komische Oper and has guest conducted the Berlin Philharmonic on three occasions.


The rapidity of the decision may also have taken many by surprise. When, early last month, the Berlin players met to elect their new man in charge, only to emerge with no agreement, it was believed that the matter would not be resolved until December. On that occasion, Andris Nelsons was widely reported to have been elected, but the 'announcement' was soon revealed to have been a hoax.