PP NAP | Petr Popelka

Petr Popelka announced as next Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker

Petr Popelka has today been announced as the new Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker, following an overwhelming majority vote by the orchestra’s musicians. The forthcoming 2023/24 season will already see him conduct over 20 performances with the orchestra as Chief Conductor Designate in Vienna and on tour, as well as opera at MusikTheater an der Wien.  He will then take up his position from the 2024/25 season for an initial period of five years.

On announcing the appointment, Jan Nast, Intendant of the Wiener Symphoniker said:

‘I am very pleased about the outcome of the musicians’ vote. Following Andrés Orozco-Estrada unexpected departure, it was important for the orchestra to take its time and understand very carefully how his successor could match the Wiener Symphoniker’s personality. As such, the selection was less about names than about the art and the possibilities to bring to life shared visions. The performance of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony with Petr Popelka was memorable for many musicians – and, indeed, for me personally – suddenly we all felt that something unique was in the air. Working with Petr Popelka is inspiring, fruitful, always dialogic and characterised by an unwavering shared creative enthusiasm. I am glad that Petr Popelka will step into the future arm-in-arm with the Wiener Symphoniker. I am firmly convinced that we have found an exceptional artist in him, with whom we can further develop the distinctive spirit of the orchestra in the long term.’

Born in Prague in 1986, Petr Popelka received training as a double bassist in Prague and Freiburg. Before transitioning to conducting, he played as deputy solo bassist with the Sächsischen Staatskapelle Dresden under chief conductor Christian Thielemann. He is Chief Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as being an active composer.

He explained why this appointment is so special to him:

‘Becoming Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker is a dream come true. Even as a teenager, I regularly drove from Prague to Vienna with my parents to listen to the greatest orchestras in the world in this city. To me, the Wiener Symphoniker is the musical embodiment of Vienna, an orchestra that captures and evokes the spirit of the city, an ensemble with a great tradition but, above all, an orchestra that has always encapsulated a modern pioneering spirit – both in terms of repertoire and the role of an orchestra within society. When asked what I imagine my journey with the Wiener Symphoniker to be like, I think of my own little son; What kind of orchestra do we want to pass on to the next generation? How does a modern orchestra function in which we play together and on an equal footing? How can we work together to maintain and strengthen the virtues of the Wiener Symphoniker? In my conducting engagements with the Wiener Symphoniker to date, I have always felt the profound passion of the musicians, the possibility of immersing ourselves collectively in the music in the moment, fuelled by a burning dedication for the cause and for the music! Together, we have the opportunity to invigorate a modern orchestra that stands at the heart of the world.’

Before the summer break, Popelka will be performing Arnold Schönberg’s monumental Gurre-Lieder with both his orchestras from Oslo and Prague at the festivals in Litomyšl and Prague.

From the 2023/2024 season, he will, as Chief Conductor Designate, lead the Wiener Symphoniker in a new production of Weinberger Schwanda the Bagpiper at the MusikTheater an der Wien in addition to joining the orchestra for multiple concerts in Vienna and on two European tours. He makes his debut with a production of Mozart Don Giovanni at the Zurich Opera House, and further orchestral debuts with the Gewandhausorchester, Munich Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.