Czech conductor Petr Popelka will become the new Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker. The orchestra’s musicians voted in favour of appointing Popelka by an overwhelming majority. In the 2023/24 season, he will make a number of appearances as Chief Conductor Designate, before taking up his position for an initial period of five years, beginning with the orchestra’s anniversary season in 2024/25.
“I am very pleased about the outcome of the musicians’ vote” said Jan Nast, Intendant of the Wiener Symphoniker. “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.”
Popelka was born in Prague in 1986, and received training as a double bassist in Prague and Freiburg. He played as deputy solo bassist with the Sächsischen Staatskapelle Dresden under chief conductor Christian Thielemann. Popelka is Chief Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is also active as a composer.
“Becoming Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker is a dream come true” said Petr Popelka. “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.”
Julia Wesely / Wiener Symphoniker