THE ROYAL Liverpool Philharmonic’s Russian maestro, Vasily Petrenko is on the way to becoming the longest-serving conductor in the history of the illustrious orchestra after signing a new “open-ended” contract.
It means he will be staying as chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) for the foreseeable future, with a minimum three-year notice period. His contract was due to expire in Summer 2015.
It is another first for the St Petersburg-born maestro, who became the youngest principal conductor in the country when he was first appointed to the RLPO - the UK’s oldest professional symphony orchestra - at the age of 29 in 2005.
Since then, Petrenko has guided the orchestra to even greater heights, with a series of landmark recordings and audience numbers for concerts 17% higher than they were when he took up the baton.
The football-loving conductor - he is passionate about his home side, Zenit St Petersburg and also plays in a five-a-side team made up of fellow orchestra members and backstage staff, said he wanted to stay to oversee some of the big developments taking place at the Hope Street concert venue over the next few years.
This includes a major £10m refurbishment of the Philharmonic Hall, due to start next year and be completed in time for the Phil’s 175th anniversary in 2015.
Plans are also well advanced to take the orchestra to Asia in 2015. This follows on from its 2010 tour of China, during which it played a leading role in a gala concert to celebrate Liverpool’s presence at the World Expo held in Shanghai.
Petrenko said he had turned down invitations from a number of other world-class orchestras to remain in Liverpool. He added: “I would like to give a gesture by this extension, that there are endless opportunities for the orchestra, for the building itself, and for what we are doing musically. It is a three-way relationship between us, the city, and the audience.
“The major reason to stay is I feel at home here in Liverpool. It’s like a family, and you don’t live in a family by three-year deals.”
As well as his work with the RLPO, Petrenko’s international reputation as a conductor takes him all over the world to wield the baton at different orchestras. In addition to the planned tour of Asia with the RLPO, he will be going to Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
He said: “It’s global work but that is a feature of the job.”
Michael Eakin, chief executive of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, said: “We’ve achieved a huge amount over the last few years, but there is a shared view that there is a great deal more we want to do.”