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.
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.