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Tchaikovsky’s music has played an important role in Kirill Petrenko’s work together with the Berliner Philharmoniker from the very start: in their first joint concert after his election as chief conductor, he and the orchestra presented a both confident and passionate performance of the Pathétique. In the years following, Kirill Petrenko’s programmes have included the Fifth Symphony and the Romeo and Juliet overture.

Tchaikovsky’s international breakthrough coincided with the founding of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who played a piece by the composer as early as 1882 in their first concert under their then new name “Philharmonisches Orchester”. Tchaikovsky himself conducted his own works in two Philharmoniker concerts a few years later. Hans von Bülow, chief conductor between 1887 and 1892, was involved elsewhere in the premiere of two compositions that are also represented in our playlist: in Boston, he took the virtuoso solo part in the First Piano Concerto; in St. Petersburg, he conducted the premiere of the now little-known Third Orchestral Suite, whose performance by Kirill Petrenko at the 2021 Europakonzert made a brilliant case for the work.

In German concert life, Tchaikovsky is mainly represented by his last three symphonies, his works for solo instruments and orchestra, and his popular ballet music. Of course, this list includes some of these showpieces. But it also presents a significant contribution by the composer to the genre of programme music with the captivating orchestral fantasy Francesca da Rimini.

Tchaikovsky the opera composer is also very close to Kirill Petrenko’s heart. For 2021 and 2022, he has programmed Mazeppa, The Queen of Spades and Iolanta, three stage works by the composer for concert and partly also staged performances in Berlin and Baden-Baden. This playlist features excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s most famous opera, Eugene Onegin: Claudio Abbado conducted the lively Polonaise at the 1998 New Year’s Eve Concert, as well as the famous “Letter scene”, which soprano Mirella Freni performed at her last appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

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