ONE of Liverpool's most popular signings has announced he is staying in the city indefinitely.
Thinking girl's poster boy Vasily Petrenko, whose musical leadership has earned him an international reputation - and made him one of the most sought after conductors in the world - is extending his contract as chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which is due to expire in Summer 2015.
A new, on-going agreement will see the charismatic Russian maestro stay at the helm of the UK’s oldest professional symphony orchestra for the foreseeable future, with a minimum three-year notice period.
This new contract will make Petrenko the RLPO's longest serving conductor since Sir Charles Groves, who was principal conductor from 1963-1977.
Could his decision to stay in Liverpool be to do with the fact that he was declared an "honorary scouser" in 2009, by Parliament's own prince of pop, Walton MP Steve Rotherham? Could it be his LFC season ticket? Or could it be the prospect of conducting the orchestra at Sefton Park this August as part of LIMF (Liverpool International Music Festival)?
Whatever the case, it has certainly beeen welcomed and is spiffing cultural news for the city and Hope Street.
Lorraine Rogers, chairman of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, said as much: “Vasily has forged a special bond with our brilliant musicians and staff, our audiences, partners and the city which has produced a golden era for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, so this new long-term agreement with him as our chief conductor is fantastic news.
“As we develop our long-term strategy beyond 2015, Vasily’s musical leadership, vision and ambition for the development of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic will continue to be inspirational.”
The blond, blue-eyed Russian took up the baton as principal conductor of the RLPO in 2006, and has twice extended his contract. He became chief conductor in 2009, in recognition of his commitment to the orchestra and Liverpool.
He said: “It’s a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to stay in Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Philharmonic family. I am looking forward very much to continuing my relationship with our great orchestra, and also with our wonderful audiences whose commitment to our music-making, along with our many partners, we are always grateful for. I really believe, as do our musicians and all our colleagues, that while we have such brilliant support, there is still so much that we can achieve together.”
In what the RLPO says is one of the most substantial commitments of any chief conductor of a UK orchestra, Petrenko will continue his current commitment to conduct the orchestra in 25 concerts a year in Liverpool and on national and international touring dates, as well as recordings and other special concerts and events.
Petrenko's dynamic musical partnership with the RLPO has attracted international critical acclaim, plaudits and awards.
Amongst many musical highlights have been their on-going explorations of the music of Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Mahler; world premiere performances including Sir John Tavener’s Requiem, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies Symphony No. 9 which they also took to the BBC Proms in 2012, and Proms in 2008 and 2010.
Since coming to Liverpool, Petrenko's galvanising impact has drawn new audiences to classical music. In 2013, audience numbers for concerts by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Liverpool are 17pc higher than they were before he walked in.
Away from Liverpool, Petrenko is principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Chief Conductor Designate of the Oslo Symphony for the 2013/14 season and Principal Guest Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre (formerly the Mussorgsky Memorial Theatre) in St. Petersburg, Russia, his native city and where his professional career began in the mid-1990s.
Liverpool City Council’s culture and tourism supremo, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “This is fantastic news for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the city.
“As a city council, we’re delighted to have worked closely with Vasily over the years, helping bring his music to thousands of people as part of free events such as Music on the Waterfront. We’ll be continuing this partnership during this year’s August bank holiday weekend, when for the first time, Vasily will lead the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a free performance in beautiful Sefton Park at the first ever Liverpool International Music Festival.”
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