Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Denis Rattle, CBE, FRSA, (born January 19, 1955) is an English conductor. He rose to prominence as conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and is currently principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic (BPO).


Early life

Rattle was born in Liverpool, the son of Pauline Lila Violet (Greening) and Denis Guttridge Rattle, a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves. [cite news | author=Nick Barratt | title=Family detective | url= | work=Telegraph | date=1 September 2007 | accessdate=2007-09-27] He studied at Liverpool College. He learned the piano and violin, but his early work with orchestras was as a percussionist. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1971. There, his teachers included John Carewe. In 1974, his graduation year, Rattle won the John Player Conductor Competition. After organising and conducting a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony whilst still at the Academy, he was talent-spotted by the music agent Martin Campell-White, of Harold Holt Ltd. (now Askonas Holt Ltd.), who has since managed Rattle's career. [cite web | author= | title=Artist Details: Sir Simon Rattle | url= | publisher=Askonas Holt | date= | accessdate=2007-08-17] He spent the academic year 1980/81 at St Anne's College, Oxford studying English Language and Literature. [cite news | author=Sholto Byrnes | title=Simon Rattle: Marching to a revolutionary beat | url= | work=The Independent | date=4 August 2006 | accessdate=2007-08-06] He had been attracted to the college by the reputation of Dorothy Bednarowska, Fellow and Tutor in English. [ [ Elisabeth Jay, 'Obituary: Dorothy Bednarowska', "The Independent" (17 January 2003), paragraph 6] ] He was elected an Honorary Fellow of St Anne's in 1991. [cite news | author= | title=Muriel Spark and Simon Rattle in honorands list | url= | work=Oxford University Gazette | date=21 January 1999 | accessdate=2007-08-06] He was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Music "honoris causa" of the University of Oxford in 1999. [cite news | author= | title=Conferment of Honorary Degrees: Degree of Doctor of Music, Sir Simon Rattle, CBE | url= | work=Oxford University Gazette (Encaenia 1999, Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4517) | date=25 June 1999 | accessdate=2007-08-06]

UK career

In 1974, he was made assistant conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and in 1977 assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

His time with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) from 1980 to 1998 drew him to the attention of critics and the public. In 1980, Rattle became the CBSO's Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser, and in 1990, Music Director. Rattle increased both his profile and that of the orchestra over his tenure. One of his long-term concert projects was the series of concerts of 20th century music titled "Towards the Millennium". One other major achievement during his time was the move of the CBSO from its former venue, the Town Hall, to a newly built concert hall, Symphony Hall, in 1991. The BBC commissioned film director Jaine Green to follow him in his final year with the CBSO to make "Simon Rattle — Moving On".

Rattle was awarded a CBE in 1987 and made a Knight Bachelor in 1994. In 1992, Rattle was named a Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), along with Frans Brüggen. Rattle now has the title of Principal Artist with the OAE. In 2001, Rattle conducted the OAE at Glyndebourne in their first production of "Fidelio" with a period-instrument orchestra. [cite news | author=Peter Conrad | title=What's so funny about Beethoven? | url=,,479986,00.html | work=The Observer | date=29 April 2001 | accessdate=2007-03-29]

In May 2006 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Arts.

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Rattle made his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic (BPO) in 1987, in a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6. In 1999, Rattle was appointed as successor to Claudio Abbado as the orchestra's principal conductor. [cite news | author=Andrew Clements | title=Picking up the baton | url=,,288989,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=24 June 1999 | accessdate=2007-03-22] The appointment, decided on in a June 23 vote by the orchestra's members, was somewhat controversial, as several members of the orchestra were earlier reported to have preferred Daniel Barenboim for the post. [cite news | author=Fiachra Gibbons and Kate Connolly | title=Rattle set for classic music's top job | url=,,292499,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=12 June 1999 | accessdate=2007-03-22] Nevertheless, Rattle won the post and proceeded to win over his detractors by refusing to sign the contract until he had ensured that every member of the orchestra was paid fairly, and also that the orchestra would gain artistic independence from the Berlin Senate. [cite news | author=Ivan Hewett | title=Wilkommen Sir Simon! | url= | work=Telegraph | date=7 September 2002 | accessdate=2007-02-23]

Before leaving for Germany and on his arrival, Rattle controversially attacked the British attitude to culture in general, and in particular the artists of the Britart movement, [cite news | author=Kate Connolly and Amelia Hill | title=Rattle fires parting shot at Brit Art bratpack | url=,,780924,00.html | work=The Observer | date=25 August 2002 | accessdate=2007-01-30] together with the state funding of culture in the UK. [cite news | author=Vanessa Thorpe | title=Rattle's rage at 'amateur' Arts Council | url=,,560610,00.html | work=The Observer | date=30 Sept 2001 | accessdate=2007-01-30]

Since his appointment, Rattle has reorganized the Berlin Philharmonic into a foundation, meaning its activities are more under the control of the members rather than politicians. He has also ensured that orchestra members' wages have increased quite dramatically, having fallen over the past few years. [cite news | author=Kate Connolly | title=Roll over Beethoven, here comes Sir Simon | url=,,788189,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=8 Sep 2002 | accessdate=2007-08-17] He gave his first concert as principal conductor of the BPO on September 7, 2002, leading performances of Thomas Adès' "Asyla" and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, performances which received rave reviews from the press worldwide [cite news | author=Kate Connolly | title=Rattle's rapturous debut | url=,,788529,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=9 September 2002 | accessdate=2007-03-22] and were recorded for CD and DVD release by EMI. Early collaborative projects in the Berlin community with Rattle and the BPO involved a choreographed performance of Stravinsky's "Le sacre du printemps" and a film project with Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Blood on the Floor". [cite news | author=Martin Kettle | title=My crazy idea | url=,,782379,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=30 August 2002 | accessdate=2007-03-22] He has also continued to champion contemporary music in Berlin. [cite news | author=Peter G. Davis | title=German Reengineering | url= | work=New York | date=13 February 2006 | accessdate=2007-04-03] The orchestra has established its first education department during Rattle's tenure. [cite news | author=Tom Service | title=The mighty 'wuah' | url=,,2076511,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=11 May 2007 | accessdate=2008-04-24]

Criticism of Rattle's tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic began to appear after their first season together, [cite news | author=Stephen Everson | title=The end of the affair | url=,,1045683,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=20 September 2003 | accessdate=2007-01-30] and continued in their second season. [cite news | author=Charlotte Higgins and Ben Aris | title=Is Rattle's Berlin honeymoon over? | url=,,1205606,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=29 April 2004 | accessdate=2007-01-30] The German critic Klaus Geitel was reported in 2004 to have described Rattle as "the weakest musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic he's ever seen". [cite news | author=Ivan Hewett | title=Can Rattle rival the greats?" | url= | work=Telegraph | date=21 December 2004 | accessdate=2007-02-23] Rattle himself stated in 2005 that his relationship with the BPO musicians could sometimes be "turbulent", but also "never destructively so". [cite news | author=Charlotte Higgins | title=Karaoke, wild tigers, hysteria: Rattle on his turbulent affair with the Berlin Philharmonic | url=,,1385041,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=7 January 2005 | accessdate=2007-03-22]

In 2006, a new controversy began in the German press as to the quality of Rattle's concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, with criticism from the German critic Manuel Brug in "Die Welt". [cite news | author=Manuel Brug | title=Überwältigungsmusik, aber kaum Durchdringung | url= | work=Die Welt | date=11 May 2006 | language=German | accessdate=2007-08-17 [ en icon] ] One musician who wrote to the press to defend Rattle was the pianist Alfred Brendel. [cite news | author=Alfred Brendel | title=Criticism of Rattle is really out of tune | url=,,1786769,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=31 May 2006 | accessdate=2007-08-17] In 2007, the BPO/Rattle recording of Brahms's "Ein deutsches Requiem" received the Classic FM Gramophone best choral disc award. [cite news | author=Erica Jeal | title=Batons at dawn | url=,,2183736,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=5 October 2007 | accessdate=2007-11-22] Ironically criticism of Rattle may stem from his meticulous realisation of some Romantic and Classical works - his attention to detail lending itself more to the direction of modern and contemporary music. By deconstructing many traditional boundaries of communication - often using his whole body and all the features of his face - he is able to control the orchestra in an extraordinary way. It is possible that this inability to take a step back hinders his interpretation of music which requires a less direct input from the conductor.

Rattle was originally contracted to lead the BPO through 2012, but in April 2008 the BPO musicians voted to extend his contract as chief conductor for an additional ten years past the next season, to 2019-2020. [cite news | author=Charlotte Higgins | title=Berlin Philharmonic keeps Rattle | url=,,2276770,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=29 April 2008 | accessdate=2008-04-30]

UNICEF appointed Rattle and the BPO as Goodwill Ambassadors in November 2007. [UNICEF: [ UNICEF appoints Berliner Philharmoniker Goodwill Ambassador] 2007-11-17.]

Conducting in North America

Rattle made his North American conducting debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (LAP) in 1979, and was their Principal Guest Conductor from 1981–1994. He also guest-conducted the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Boston Symphony Orchestra. His New York City debut was with the LAP in 1985.

In 1993, Rattle made his conducting debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra. [cite news | author=Allan Kozinn | title=Rattle Leads the Philadelphia In Mahler's Ninth Symphony | url= | work=New York Times | date=16 December 1993 | accessdate=2007-01-30] He returned for guest conducting engagements in 1999 [cite news | author=Anthony Tommasini | title=Did Briton, Wielding Sibelius, Audition For a Job? | url= | work=New York Times | date=28 January 1999 | accessdate=2007-01-30] and 2000. [cite news | author=Bernard Holland | title=A Sense of Gluttony But an Easy Surrender | url= | work=New York Times | date=26 January 2000 | accessdate=2007-01-30] . The musical relationship between Rattle and The Philadelphia Orchestra was reported to be such that Philadelphia wanted to hire Rattle as its next music director after Wolfgang Sawallisch, but Rattle declined. [cite news | author=Allan Kozinn | title=Top Conductors, Top Orchestras, Brahms in Common | url= | work=New York Times | date=30 January 2004 | accessdate=2007-01-30] However, Rattle continues to guest-conduct with The Philadelphia Orchestra in what is currently his sole North American guest-conducting engagement, [David Patrick Stearns, "Rattle's rocky road". "Philadelphia Inquirer", 2 February 2006.] including appearances in 2006 [cite news | author=Allan Kozinn | title=Bruckner's Seventh and Painterly Tableaus in Song | url= | work=New York Times | date=9 February 2006 | accessdate=2007-01-30] and the Philadelphia Orchestra's first performances of Robert Schumann's "Das Paradies und die Peri" in November 2007. [cite news | author=Peter Dobrin | title=Passionate about "Paradise" | url= | work=Philadelphia Inquirer | date=25 November 2007 | accessdate=2008-04-24] [cite news | author=Bernard Holland | title=Repentance as the Key to Open Pearly Gates | url= | work=New York Times | date=3 December 2007 | accessdate=2008-04-24]

Musical styles and recordings

Rattle has conducted a wide variety of music, including some with period instruments (musical instruments contemporary with the music being played), but he is best known for his interpretations of late-19th and early 20th century composers such as Mahler, with a recording of Mahler's Second Symphony winning several awards on its releaseFact|date=April 2008 and being regarded by someWho|date=April 2008 as Rattle's finest recording to date. He has also championed much contemporary music, an example of this being the TV series "Leaving Home", where he presents a 7-part survey of musical styles and conductors with excerpts recorded by the CBSO. His newest recordings with the Berlin orchestra (as of 2006) have, on the whole, been favourably received, notably his recordings of the Dvorak tone poems and Debussy's "La Mer". The "Gramophone Magazine" praised the latter as a "magnificent disc" and drew favourable comparisons with interpretations of the piece by Rattle's immediate predecessors, Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan. He has also worked with the Toronto Children's Chorus. Rattle and the BPO also recorded Holst's "Planets" (EMI), which was the "BBC Music Magazine" Orchestra Choice. In addition, Rattle's complete 1989 recording of George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess" was used as the soundtrack for the 1993 television production of the work. It was the first made-for-television production of "Porgy and Bess" ever presented. Rattle's 2007 recording of Brahms' "Ein deutsches Requiem" received praise from "BBC Music Magazine", as "Disc of the Month" for April 2007, "as probably the best new version of the "Requiem" I've heard in quite some years." Rattle and the BPO have also released recordings of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, "Romantic", and Haydn's Symphonies Nos. 88-92 and Sinfonia concertante, and Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

Simon Rattle's recording of Brahms' "Ein deutsches Requiem" with the BPO received the Choral Performance Grammy Award in 2008.

Personal life

Rattle's first marriage was to Elise Ross, an American soprano, with whom he had two sons, one of whom, Sacha, is a clarinettist. [ [ Ed Vulliamy, "Simon Rattle: bringing Berlin home to Liverpool," The Observer, 31 August 2008] ] They were divorced in 1995 after 15 years of marriage. His second wife was Candace Allen, a Boston-born writer. [cite news | author=Jan Moir | title=I hate to see myself conducting | url= | work=Telegraph | date=21 March 2003 | accessdate=2007-02-24] This second marriage ended after Rattle and the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená began a relationship. [cite news | url= | title=Magdalena and the men in her life | publisher="The Times" | author=Neil Fisher | date=21 October 2006 | accessdate=2007-11-22] Kožená and Rattle have two sons, Jonas and Milos.



External links

* [ Simon Rattle official website]
* [ Berliner Philharmoniker website]
* [ Simon Rattle Recordings on EMI Classics]
* [ Website of the film and education project "Rhythm is it!]
* [ The Planets microsite]
* [,,1800806,00.html Phillipa Ibbotson, "He won't play the game". Essay from "The Guardian", 19 June 2006.]
* [ Norman Lebrecht, "Rattle has a battle on his hands". "La Scena Musicale", 23 August 2006.]
* [ Ed Vulliamy, "Simon Rattle: bringing Berlin home to Liverpool," The Observer, 31 August 2008]

NAME=Rattle, Simon Dennis
DATE OF BIRTH=January 19, 1955

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