Russian Kirill Petrenko has been confirmed as the new chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, confirmed in a live press conference.
The announcement was made in a press conference from the foyer of the Berlin Phiharmonie. According to the Berlin Philharmonic website, the orchestra elected Petrenko with a large majority of votes. Petrenko commented:
“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. Above all, however, I hope for many moments of artistic happiness in our music-making together which will reward our hard work and fill our lives as artists with meaning.”
Petrenko will succeed Sir Simon Rattle, who leaves in 2018 to take up leadership of the London Symphony Orchestra. He currently has no official start date. Pretrenko is contracted to the Bavarian State Opera until 2020.
The orchestra's official social media accounts originally posted news of a press conference taking place at 1pm CET (12pm GMT):
The Russian has held several key posts in European opera. He was Kappellmeister at the Vienna Volksoper from 1997 to 1999, before taking a post in Meiningen and then to the Komische Oper Berlin from 2002 - 2007.
Rumours earlier today on Twitter initially suggested that Petrenko would be the new conductor, but nothing was officially confirmed until after midday UK time, despite some news outlets running the story. Petrenko is currently the music director of the Bavarian State Opera, a post he has held since 2013.
Speculation on Twitter in May suggested that Andris Nelsons has been chosen as the new artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, but the orchestra's official account told everyone to calm down:
No news on the election of the chief conductor yet - disregard rumours! We will keep you posted.— Berlin Philharmonic (@BerlinPhil) May 11, 2015
The rumours were apparently kick-started by an orchestra member tweeting the result of the orchestra's deliberations without official confirmation, but the tweet later proved to be faked.
With speculation at an all-time high, members from the Berlin Philharmonic went into a period of secret voting to determine who will replace Sir Simon Rattle in 2017. The 124 members of the orchestra went to a secret location and thrashed out exactly which conductor will fulfil the role that Sir Simon Rattle has held since 2002.
Orchestra members were denied access to mobile phones and are given a slip of paper on which to write the name of their choice for conductor. They were allowed to vote for any living conductor they wish, with rounds of voting continuing until a consensus is formed.
Gustavo Dudamel initially ruled himself out of the race to become conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic when Sir Simon Rattle leaves in 2018 by extending his contract with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra.
Dudamel will now be contracted to the LA Phil until 2022. His initial deal was to stay until mid-2019. This means that the popular Venezuelan will have spent a sizeable 13 seasons with the orchestra before he leaves.