Sir Simon Rattle


Following his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker 15 years earlier, Sir Simon Rattle took up his post as chief conductor in 2002. In doing so, he took over an inheritance which is not only demanding, but which requires a delicate balance of tradition and innovation to maintain it. Simon Rattle is a renowned conductor of Mahler and the composers of the Second Viennese School like his direct predecessor Claudio Abbado, whose chamber music-like sound ideal Rattle has honed – not only in symphony concerts, but also in the series of intimate Late Night programmes which he introduced. Sir Simon also continues the core repertoire of the Karajan era, with acclaimed performances of great works of the Classical and Romantic periods. With the Easter Festival in Salzburg and, since 2013, in Baden-Baden, he has upheld the music theatre tradition of the Berliner Philharmoniker, including the first complete performance of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen since the days of Karajan.

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At the same time, the name of Rattle is connected with significant innovations. For example, the Liverpool-born artist has enriched the Anglo-American repertoire of the Berliner Philharmoniker with works by Britten, Elgar, Gershwin and Bernstein. Secondly, Rattle has long been at home in historical performance practice, as shown in the knowledge he brought to highly acclaimed performances of Haydn’s symphonies and Bach’s Passions. Finally, the Berliner Philharmoniker under Rattle have increased their involvement with more contemporary and new works; in addition to regular world premières, there have been concerts with works of composers from Lutosławski to Ligeti, to Adès, Widman, Gubaidulina and Goebbels. In addition to his artistic work, the promotion of classical music to young people is a central concern of Simon Rattle. Consequently, he initiated a philharmonic education programme after taking up office in Berlin which, among other things, caused a stir worldwide with the film Rhythm Is It!

Sir Simon is characterised by a rare combination of curiosity, stylistic versatility and attention to detail – qualities that have followed his entire career. He won the 1971 John Player International Conducting Competition when he was not yet 20 years old. This was followed by engagements in the UK and the USA. Simon Rattle came to international attention as director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra between 1980 and 1988, bringing the ensemble from the periphery to the centre of musical life, an effect which lasts to this day. Not least because of this, Simon Rattle received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. in 1994. In 2007 he was appointed International Ambassador for UNICEF jointly with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In addition to numerous other awards he received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2009.


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Sun, 20 Dec 2015, 8 p.m. (Berlin time)
»Pelléas et Mélisande« with Simon Rattle, Christian Gerhaher and Magdalena Kožená

“All the stars are falling,” Pelléas sings in the fourth act of Claude Debussy’s Maeterlinck opera Pelléas et Mélisande. “On you and me!” Mélisande answers. A short time before, the two confessed their forbidden love to each other. What follows is the showdown: the couple sees – emerging from the darkness – Mélisande’s husband Golaud, rushing towards them with a drawn sword. Inflamed with rage, he strikes down his half-brother Pelléas, while Mélisande flees wounded.

A new chapter was opened in music history when Debussy’s drame lyrique was staged on 30 April 1902 at the Paris Opéra-Comique. For in the through-composed dramatic work, in which is told the strange story of the two lovers in a mysterious and timeless dream world, there are neither arias nor ensembles. And even the orchestral interludes are organically integrated into the whole – despite the fact that Debussy extended them to their current length only during rehearsals for the premiere, as in their original version they were not long enough for the necessary set changes. Their function is not only to usher the listeners from one scene to the next but also to articulate everything the sung text is not able to articulate. After all, Debussy had in mind for the composition “a dramatic form” in which “the music begins at the point where the word becomes powerless as an expressive force”.

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Watch a concert video with Mahler's Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 4, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

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Interviews with Sir Simon Rattle

free 28/02/2014 - Sir Simon Rattle and Peter Sellars with Andy King-Dabbs (32:46) To the interview
free 08/09/2013 - Sir Simon Rattle about Witold Lutosławski (10:09) To the interview
free 23/08/2013 - Sir Simon Rattle talks about the new season (18:23) To the interview
free 18/01/2013 - Sir Simon Rattle talks about in vain by Georg Friedrich Haas (00:13:06) To the interview
free 15/06/2013 - Sir Simon Rattle in conversation with James Jolly (24:46) To the interview
free 07/04/2013 - Sir Simon Rattle talks about Mozart's »Magic Flute« (00:20:18) To the interview
free 09/11/2012 - Interview with Sir Simon Rattle and Simon Halsey (00:15:12) To the interview
free 15/09/2012 - Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Willard White in conversation with Sarah Willis (17:49) To the interview

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