Kirill Petrenko has been named Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. A surprise, to those who know who is he (as opposed to those who mix him up with Vasily and Mikhail, who is a buddy of Kirill but not of Vasily). It's also a surprise because Petrenko has only conducted Berlin three times, the last time being in 2012. The choice was made, according to the publicity material, because the orchestra loved working with him and were eager to have him back as soon as possible. But Petrenko is based in Munich, hardly a major commute to Berlin, and his Munich schedule, even allowing for Bayreuth, isn't so onerous that he couldn't have fitted something in during the last three years. The Berliner's schedule is tight too, but is it really that tight that they couldn't fit him in if they liked him so much ?
Moreover, he's primarily an opera conductor. Perhaps the Berliners want to move more in that direction, as they have been doing so under Rattle, and the two main contenders for Chefdirigent were Andris Nelsons and Christian Thielemann, true masters of the genre. He's no Furtwängler either. There are dozens of conductors who can make an orchestra feel good and sound good, but Berlin is already one of the best in the world: It doesn't need ego massage, quite the contrary. Rattle brought exceptional gifts of communication and outreach from his years of experience in Birmingham. The situation doesn't apply in |Munich, which has in some ways become a duller place since Nagano left. So why Petrenko? To most of the world, he's a blank sheet, and will be loved precisely because he's not a Nelsons or Thielemann. Safe is fine, and usually popular, but it's not quite the same as artistic vision. A blank sheet is easiyto remodel to suit a brand image. The repackaging has already started, for better or worse.