George Petrou becomes new Artistic Director as of 2021/22 Festival season
– Press release – Göttingen, October 16, 2018
Appointed successor to Laurence Cummings, George Petrou will assume the artistic directorship of the Göttingen International Handel Festival at the beginning of the Festival season 2021/22. The Greek conductor has made a name for himself worldwide as a renowned Handel and Baroque music specialist. The Supervisory Board's most preferred candidate was chosen by the Selection Committee from the prevailing leading representatives within the international early music scene.
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Krull, Chairman of the Supervisory Board and Head of the Selection Committee is extremely satisfied with the decision: “In George Petrou we were able to gain an outstanding, internationally highly-respected successor to Laurence Cummings. He has the potential to make the Festival a continuing, visible highlight within the international music scene in the 2020s.” Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Sandberger, Chairman of the Göttinger Händel-Gesellschaft e. V., emphasises: “George Petrou is an excellent and vibrant Handel interpreter. I am thrilled that with Petrou as elected Artistic Director of the Festival, wonderful perspectives are already opening up beyond the anniversary year 2020.”
George Petrou looks forward to his future assignment in Göttingen: “I have long been aware of the Göttingen International Handel Festival and it is a great honour for me to be able to lead this tradition-steeped and internationally-renowned Baroque Festival. I hope I am able to contribute to the further development of the Festival and to create unforgettable performances of Handel's music.”
The leading politicians are also pleased about the decision. The Minister of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, Björn Thümler, states: “With George Petrou as new Artistic Director, the Göttingen International Handel Festival looks at a hopeful future. It is a great opportunity that George Petrou, with his wide-ranging experience and his international network, is able to artistically develop the Festival and extend its profile far beyond our state borders.” The mayor of the city of Göttingen, Rolf-Georg Köhler, adds: “Under the new Artistic Director, George Petrou, the Göttingen International Handel Festival with its immense appeal, fortunately maintains its diversity. I wish him a successful start and extend a warm welcome on behalf of the city.” Bernhard Reuter, Landrat of the Göttingen District, also welcomes the new artistic directorship: “The Göttingen International Handel Festival unites an artistically world-class standard with regional roots. The artistic directorship is the heart of the Festival. The District of Göttingen supports the professional staff so that this heart continues to beat strongly.” Prof. Dr. Martin Balleer, Chairman of the Stiftung Internationale Händel-Festspiele Göttingen, explains: “Since 2004, the Stiftung supports the Festival through profits from foundation capital that has increased in recent years through additional endowment contributions. Sustainable support of the Festival is thereby guaranteed. And thus we are pleased that with George Petrou, the artistic continuity is also ensured.”
The current Artistic Director, Laurence Cummings, also applauds the committee's decision: “I am absolutely delighted about the appointment and am certain that the Festival and orchestra are in the best of hands under his direction. I am looking forward to working closely together with George Petrou to ensure a smooth transition”. It was important to the current Festival Management that the Festival is able to be successfully led by its subsequent management team. Thus, already at the beginning of 2018, Laurence Cummings announced to the Supervisory Board of the Göttingen International Handel Festival GmbH that, after a decade at the top of the Baroque Festival, it was his wish not to renew his existing contract past the year 2021: “It was and is a great pleasure and honour for me to lead this renowned Festival, to collaborate with such an outstanding ensemble as the FestspielOrchester Göttingen and to be able to be a part of the cultural life of this wonderful city. However, after a decade, it is time to pass on the baton. I would like to hand the Festival over into the best of hands and because of the extremely long planning stages in the classical music market, it was important to me that I involve the Supervisory Board in my plans early on.”
Born in Athens, George Petrou studied piano at the Conservatoire in his native city, at the Royal College and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He initially pursued a career as a pianist before turning to conducting. As a conductor, he quickly gained international attention. Numerous awards and award-winning recordings are a testimony to his extraordinary artistic success. In his work, particular emphasis is placed on historical performance practice that is not limited to Baroque music but also includes repertoire from later epochs. Since 2012, he has held the Artistic Director position of the acclaimed orchestra, Armonia Atenea, which performs on both period and modern instruments. He was appointed as a member of the Royal Academy of Music in London (ARAM) and was distinguished with the title “Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the Government of France.
Photo of George Petrou by Frank Stefan Kimmel.