Sir Simon Rattle appointed Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra

Gramophone Tue 3rd March 2015

It's official: Rattle's five-year contract begins in 2017

Sir Simon Rattle (photo Mat Hennek/EMI)

Sir Simon Rattle (photo Mat Hennek/EMI)

Sir Simon Rattle has been appointed Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, a role he assumes on 2017. Rattle, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, is currently Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he has held since 2002 and which he will relinquish when his contract expires in 2018. Rattle will be the second conductor to have held the top job with both orchestras – Claudio Abbado was the LSO’s Principal Conductor from 1977 to 1988 and the BPO’s from 1989 to 2002. 

At the announcement, Rattle said: 'During my work with the LSO over the last years, I noticed that despite the orchestra’s long and illustrious history, they almost never refer to it. Instead, refreshingly, they talk about the future, what can they make anew, what can they improve, how can they reach further into the community. In terms of musical excellence, it is clear that the sky's the limit, but equally important, in terms of philosophy, they constantly strive to be a twenty-first century orchestra. We share a dream in which performing, teaching and learning are indivisible, with wider dissemination of our art at its centre. I cannot imagine a better or more inspiring way to spend my next years, and feel immensely fortunate to have the LSO as my musical family and co-conspirators.'

'A feasibility study for a new concert hall in London is underway, but Rattle said that his appointment wasn't contingent on a new hall'

When asked about the tenure at today's press conference, Rattle replied, 'this is my last big job.'

The contract is initially for five years but with the potential for rolling on for longer. Rattle said, 'it's obvious in all our minds that this is a long-term thing.'

Rattle will remain resident in Berlin, where his children attend school, but will spend four months a year in London.

A feasibility study for a new concert hall in London is underway, but Rattle said that his appointment wasn't contingent on a new hall. 

Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the LSO, said: 'This is the realisation of a dream, to bring Simon Rattle back to his home country to lead the extraordinary musicians of the LSO. We look forward to a new chapter of ambitious music-making that reaches deep into the communities we serve and touches people’s lives with the power of music.'

Rattle’s reputation was built during his tenure as, first, Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser and then Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1980-98), during which time he made a huge number of recordings for EMI, including a number of Gramophone Award-winners. Rattle’s relationship with the LSO on disc dates back to July 1977 when he recorded piano concertos by Prokofiev and Ravel with Andrei Gavrilov for EMI (‘at no time was there any doubt in my mind that there was a strong musical personality at the helm and a conductor of keen responsiveness and sensitivity,’ wrote Robert Layton in September 1978).

The LSO, London’s oldest symphony orchestra, was founded in 1904 and has operated as a self-governing body ever since. It also claims to be the world’s most recorded ensemble with an output that ranges from film scores to games soundtracks, to symphonic work and opera. Its current Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev, who has held the post since 2007, relinquishes the role later this year to focus on working with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

The LSO was also one of the first ensembles to launch its own record label and LSO Live has become a major force in the classical recording industry. Rattle’s first recording with the LSO for LSO Live is of Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri, due for release later this year; he will also be releasing, on the BPO’s own label, a cycle of the Sibelius symphonies recorded last month in Berlin.

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