Conductors? ‘We’re just waving our hands’
In person, outspoken Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko has a self-confidence that comes across as disarmingly matter-of-fact
Making the accidents invisible
The rough and tumble of the theatre “gives you the ability to be very, very flexible, and to know how to hide the accidents which can happen, and make them invisible. The next stage is how to avoid the accidents, how to predict them. Because that’s the ultimate goal. When you’re able to predict, and you feel that the s*** can happen soon, you can avoid it by changing something just before it. That’s mastery.”
He describes himself as a highly self-critical person, “very perfectionist in how I live my life. Quite often I think that was okay, a good concert, not something amazing. But the orchestra and audience they go crazy, calling it the best ever.
“It’s the orchestra that takes the main role. We’re just waving our hands without making any sound. They play the music, and the audience takes a massive role, too.
“Human nature is to work less and earn more. Quite often, especially with very well-established orchestras, the thing they expect from a conductor is that they finish rehearsals early. It’s a way to nowhere. It’s a way to not improve, to not go forward, to not progress. It’s stagnation.”
He talks with great satisfaction about his work in Liverpool, about shaping what is now “a very fine band” where nearly all the technical aspects are sorted. He feels a great sense of anticipation for Oslo.
“I see massive potential. I see that the work has to be done. I see ambitions in the organisation, which is the most important [thing]. Here it will be faster. In general, the quality of the musical instruments is higher than in the UK; it’s a wealthier country. The orchestra at the moment here in Oslo is in much better shape than when I began in Liverpool.”
His long-term ambition? “To be number one. I went to a school where if you were second you were a loser.”
Vasily Petrenko conducts the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in Sibelius’s Finlandia, Grieg’s Piano Concerto (with Christian Ihle Hadland) and Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony (Winter Dreams) at the NCH tonight, 01-417 0000, nch.ie