As principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Russian-born conductor Vasily Petrenko has built the group into one of Britain's strongest ensembles, both artistically and financially. Assuming the leadership of several other prominent orchestras in the 2010s, Petrenko has been viewed widely as one of the top stars on the European conducting scene.
Vasily Petrenko was born in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia), on July 7, 1976. He is unrelated to Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko. He attended the Boys' Music School of the venerable St. Petersburg Capella and then went on to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where his principal teacher was Ravil Martynov. Although he had master classes with Mariss Jansons and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Petrenko's musical education was otherwise completed entirely in Russia. He began his career as an opera conductor, serving as resident conductor of the St. Petersburg State Opera and Ballet Theatre from 1994 to 1997, and quickly developing a repertory of some 30 theatrical works. He also served as conductor of the State Academy Orchestra of St. Petersburg from 1994 to 2007. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Petrenko began winning competitions, some of them, like Spain's Cadaques International Conducting Competition (2003), outside Russia, and those led to new opportunities.
A guest conducting debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 2004 turned into a three-year appointment as principal conductor the following year; at 29, Petrenko was the youngest conductor ever to hold the post. He increased audience sizes, made strong recordings, and improved the orchestra's financial footing. His contract was extended to 2012, then to 2015 (with a promotion to chief conductor), and finally to an open-ended arrangement where Petrenko was required only to give three years' notice before stepping down. At the same time, he was taking on guest conducting assignments with orchestras in Britain, Russia, and Scandinavia, and these led to appointment as principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2009, and as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic in 2011. He has also held guest conducting positions at various European opera houses. In 2015, Petrenko added the conductorship of the European Union Youth Orchestra to his portfolio. In 2018, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London announced Petrenko's appointment as its new chief conductor, effective in 2021.
With the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Petrenko made several critically acclaimed recordings, including an award-winning 2007 reading of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony and a series devoted to the symphonies of Shostakovich that concluded in 2015. In the late 2010s, Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have recorded for the Onyx and Warner Classics labels; with the Oslo Philharmonic he has recorded for Lawo Classics. In 2019, Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic issued a recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations on Onyx.