Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
When Simon Rattle was eleven years old, he had an epiphany of sorts. Listening to a live performance of Mahler's Second Symphony, under the direction of conductor George Hurst, Rattle felt sensations not experienced previously;
That was it, that was a totally transfiguring experience. It was the road to Damascus, and it knocked me for six...I think in serious terms that is where the seed was planted.
Today as Rattle conducts "his" orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, he still has those same feelings of wonder and those feelings reverberate from todays listener back to him. Composer Nicholas May applaudes Rattle's spiritual and intellectual curiosity, appetite, dedication, concentration, and the ability of all great conductors to make musicians give the best of thenselves - to make them want to play. All are attributes that Rattle has brought to the table through years of dedication and his tireless efforts to make musical relationships work on a long-term basis; a task at which he's been extremely successful.
Born in Liverpool in 1955, Rattle was raised in a family of "music enthusiasts"; parents who shared with him their love for music and a sister who introduced him to musical scores, were primal forces in Rattle's musical development. Absorbing all he could from records and radio, Rattle began organizing concerts consisting of family and friends. Rattle, himself, became a competent violinist and an even better pianist, but his most essential talent seemed to be his ability to bring other talents together in order to perform. At 15, Rattle put together his first professional orchestra, in Liverpool, and at 16, he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London, to study the fine art of conducting. And sure enough, it wasn't long before Rattle became the conductor of the Merseyside Youth Orchestra. But it was his direction of a performance in December of 1973, of Mahler's Second Symphony, the same score he heard as a child, that brought the work of this musical prodigy/genius to the public eye.
In 1974, Rattle won the prestigious John Player Conducting Competition in Bournemouth and it was here that the epiphany became a reality. And as with most introductions to the real world, Rattle's was no different; I faced the whole difficulty of the young professional in coming to terms with the limits of one's ability...I very seriously toyed with the idea of giving up all together. We can all be grateful that he didn't. His journey and development since that time has been one of tremendous discovery, development, range, bravery, and impassioned zeal and talent. It would take a large journal to properly document that journey; one which I won't attempt. But with brevity in mind, I offer the following.
In the late seventies, Rattle honed his trade while working with the London Philharmonic, and the London Sinfonietta and Nash Ensemble. He became the assistant conductor with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and also, later, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. In 1980, Rattle began his long and sometimes tumultuous tenure as the conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. For eighteen years, his rapport with his audience was one of mutual love and admiration, a relationship which would obviously prove stormy if and when he ever decided to leave, which he eventually did. But, first he toured the world , so to speak. He made a somewhat prophetic appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1980 and in 1983 conducted the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time. While remaining loyal to the CBSO, Rattle conducted in Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston, and everywhere he went he received overtures or offerings of employment; i.e.,Would you like to be our conductor?
A new Symphony Hall was built in Birmingham in 1991 and a decade by decade repertoire of twentieth century music was performed by Rattle and the CBSO, which ever increased their already bright international star. Personally, the nineties were a time of transition, not only for his music but for his life. His first marriage ended and in 1996, Rattle married the writer Candace Allen. In 1998, after over 1000 hours of rehearsal time and 934 concerts, Rattle ended his association with the Birmingham Orchestra. Hugh Canning of the London Times echoed the sentiments of many when he wrote:
What this young conductor has achieved in Birmingham should-but probably won't-serve as a model for running a symphony orchestra and galvanising a musical public in favour of a wide-ranging and progressive repertory.
Today Simon Rattle is the music director of the Berliner Philharmoniker, a position he was elected to in June of 1999, but a position he only began to assume in September of 2002, when he conducted his first concert there. That evening began with performances of Thomas Ades Asyla and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5. A fascinating and challenging opportunity awaits this principally British conductor and this very German orchestra as they chart new scores in the 21st century.
A sampling of the Works of Sir Simon RattleMahler : Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection' /Auger, Baker; CBSO:1990Mahler : Symphony 10/ Berliner PhilharmonikerBeethoven: The 5 Piano ConcertosGershwin; Porgy and BessGershwin: Rhapsody; Concerto for Piano in FMahler: The Song Of The EarthMahler: Das Klagende LiedMahler;Symphonie No. 3 thru 8 Lieder aus "Das Knaben Wunderhorn"Dmitri Shostakovich/Benjamin Britten:Symphony No.4, Op. 43/ Russian FuneralStravinsky: Symphony in C; Baiser de la feeClassic Ellington