“Words cannot express my feelings – everything from euphoria and great joy to awe and disbelief. I am aware of the responsibility and high expectations of me, and I will do everything in my power to be a worthy conductor of this outstanding orchestra.” On 21 June 2015, the Berliner Philharmoniker voted by a large majority to elect Kirill Petrenko their new chief conductor – a head of orchestra who, with his meticulous and nonetheless passionate and thrilling way of making music, had already left a lasting impression at his Philharmonic debut in February 2006: “When you step in front of an orchestra as a conductor, you encounter so many possibilities in sound. If you don’t have your own sound ideal, you founder.” Since his first Philharmonic performance, Kirill Petrenko has until now presented himself with the orchestra as an interpreter of Russian masters, as well as with works by Béla Bartók, Edward Elgar and Rudi Stephan.
Here Kirill Petrenko presents his perspective in matters of the Viennese classics: with Mozart’s Haffner Symphony, a work that originated in a serenade from the same time commissioned by Siegmund Haffner, wealthy citizen of Salzburg: without further ado, Mozart expanded the instrumentation to include flutes and clarinets in the first and last movements of the serenade, and cut out the framing march and one of the two minuets. That its origin as a serenade is clearly noticeable is hardly surprising: framed by two showy brilliant movements, one of which is to be played “really fiery” and the other “as fast as possible” (Mozart), the middle movements, each structured in three parts, develop a lyrical tone that expands in restrained emphasis.
With the Pathétique, Kirill Petrenko has then programmed the most frequently played Tchaikovsky symphony, a symphonic requiem: an opening movement permeated with lamento figures, followed by a typically Russian waltz in 5/4 which spreads a strange melancholy in a never-ending flow of music; Tchaikovsky had already associated the waltz with the theme of death in his Romance op. 57 No. 5, based on a text by the symbolist Dmitry Merezhkovsky, in which reference is made to death, promising “delightful rest”. After a breathless danse macabre, the funereal work ends with an instrumental lament that fades away “as though bleeding to death” (Hans Mayer).