Simon Rattle conducts Ginastera and Britten

29 May 2021

Berliner Philharmoniker
Sir Simon Rattle

Andrew Staples, Stefan Dohr

  • Alberto Ginastera
    Variaciones concertantes, op. 23 (25 min.)

  • Benjamin Britten
    Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, op. 31 (27 min.)

    Andrew Staples tenor, Stefan Dohr french horn

  • Benjamin Britten
    The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, op. 34 (18 min.)

  • free

    Sir Simon Rattle, Andrew Staples and Stefan Dohr in conversation (14 min.)

Benjamin Britten wrote numerous works for his partner, the tenor Peter Pears. This also includes the intensely atmospheric Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. The work also owes its unusual instrumentation to an encounter the composer had with Dennis Brain, a horn player who impressed Britten with his virtuosity and expressiveness. The performers in this concert were the Philharmoniker’s principal horn Stefan Dohr, and tenor Andrew Staples, who has worked with Sir Simon Rattle on many occasions.

In the Serenade, Britten set six poems from five centuries. As a prologue and epilogue, a horn solo frames the sung texts, which are linked by the theme of the night. William Blake’s Elegy about a disease-stricken rose is particularly haunting.

Britten wrote the Serenade during the Second World War, while The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was written shortly after its end. In the both witty and brilliant variations, based on a theme by Henry Purcell, Britten first introduces the individual instruments and instrumental groups of the orchestra one after the other, and then has them compete against each other in a fugue. The Variaciones concertantes by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera show a similar dramaturgical progression and virtuosity in instrumentation. The work, which opens only with solo cello and harp, was performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time in this concert.

Sir Simon Rattle was chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker and artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonie from September 2002 until June 2018. Even before taking up his post as principal conductor, Simon Rattle had already collaborated regularly with the Berliner Philharmoniker for fifteen years: he conducted the orchestra for the first time in November 1987 in Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. In September 2017, Simon Rattle took up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra. Rattle is also principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, chief conductor designate of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (from the 2023/24 season) and works with leading orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic.
Born in Liverpool in 1955, Simon Rattle studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music. In 1980 he became principal conductor and artistic adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, stepping up to music director from September 1990 until August 1998. In the concert hall and opera house, Simon Rattle’s extensive repertoire covers compositions ranging from the Baroque era to contemporary music. He has conducted operas by Rameau, Mozart, Puccini, Wagner, Debussy and Poulenc in Aix-en-Provence, London, Salzburg, New York, Baden-Baden and Berlin. Music education is an important part of Sir Simon’s work; the Education Programme of the Berliner Philharmoniker was established on his initiative. For this commitment, as well as for his artistic work, Simon Rattle has won many awards: In 1994 Simon Rattle was knighted by the Queen of England. He also received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, a knighthood in the French Legion of Honour and the British Order of Merit.

Andrew Staples sang as a boy in the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London before studying music at King’s College in Cambridge. With a grant from the Britten Pears Foundation, he continued his studies at the Royal College of Music in London and at the Britten International Opera School. With a repertoire which includes works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Britten and Tavener, Andrew Staples is a guest artist at leading opera houses and concert halls, and at renowned festivals. At the Royal Opera House in London he has appeared as Jaquino (Fidelio), Flamand (Capriccio), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Narraboth (Salome) and Artabenes (Arne’s Artaxerxes) among other roles there. He has also sung at the National Theatre in Prague, the Hamburg State Opera, Lyric Opera Chicago and at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) at the Salzburg Festival. He performed Tamino for the Lucerne Festival and in Drottningholm with Daniel Harding and most recently at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. On the concert stage, Andrew Staples has sung with orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, working with conductors such as Semyon Bychkov, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Robin Ticciati. In Berliner Philharmoniker concerts, Andrew Staples has been a regular guest since his debut in February 2009 under the direction of Simon Rattle.

Stefan Dohr studied in Essen and Cologne, starting his professional career at the age of 19 as principal horn of the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra. Further positions took him to the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester of Berlin. In 1993, he joined the Berliner Philharmoniker in the same position. In addition, he has collaborated as a soloist with leading conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Marc Albrecht, Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, Daniel Harding, Sir Simon Rattle, John Storgårds and Christian Thielemann, and has performed with orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo, Shanghai and Osaka Philharmonic Orchestras and the NHK Symphony Orchestra (Tokyo). As well as performing the Classical and Romantic works for horn, he has been the dedicatee and given the world premieres of many horn concertos, for instance by Herbert Willi (2008), Jorge E. López (2009), Johannes Wallmann (2010), Toshio Hosokawa (2011) and Wolfgang Rihm (2014). Stefan Dohr is a member of the Ensemble Wien-Berlin as well as the Berlin Philharmonic Octet and has performed alongside artists such as Ian Bostridge, Mark Padmore, Maurizio Pollini, Lars Vogt, Kirill Gerstein, Kolja Blacher and Guy Braunstein. A passionate teacher, Stefan Dohr is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music, the Sibelius Academy, and at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin.

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