Simon Rattle, Conductor



Photo by RubyGoes

In rehearsal: Simon Rattle conducts 6 Berlin school orchestras


Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Rattle


Simon Rattle on Herbert von Karajan

Simon Rattle, Biography

Sir Simon Rattle (England, born 19 January 1955) is a conductor who rose to international prominence while being Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic which is one of the world’s top orchestras.

Sir Simon Rattle (England, born 19 January 1955) is a conductor who rose to international prominence while Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1980 until 1998. He has been principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic since 2002, and plans to leave his position in 2018. Rattle will become Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017. The Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra are among the world’s top four orchestras in a 2008 critics' poll by Gramophone. The other two are the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Childhood and Youth

Rattle was born in Liverpool, the son of Pauline Lila Violet and Denis Guttridge Rattle, a Commander in the Royal Navy. He was educated at Liverpool College. Although Rattle studied piano and violin, his early work with orchestras was as a percussionist. He entered the Royal Academy of Music, University of London, in 1971 at age 16. After organizing and conducting a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony whilst still at the Academy, he was talent-spotted by the music agent Martin Campbell-White, of Harold Holt Ltd (now Askonas Holt Ltd), who has since managed Rattle's career.
In 1974, his graduation year, Rattle won the John Player International Conducting Competition. In the same year, he became assistant conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. His first conducting appearance at the Prom, was in 1976 at age 21. In 1977 he became assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. In 1980, he enrolled for one year at St Anne's College, Oxford studying English Language and Literature.

Adult Life and Career

In 1980, at age 25, Simon Rattle became the Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). During his 18 years with the CBSO from 1980 to 1998, Rattle increased both his profile and that of the orchestra. One of his long-term concert projects was the series of concerts of 20th-century music titled "Towards the Millennium". In 1990, Rattle became Music Director of the CBSO. One major achievement during his time was the move of the CBSO from its former venue, Birmingham 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 strongly supported youth music. He led two attempts at gaining the record for the World's Largest Orchestra, both designed to raise awareness of youth music in schools. The first, in 1996, was unsuccessful. The second, in 1998, did succeed and the record held at nearly 4,000 musicians until it was broken in 2000 by a group in Vancouver.
In 1987, Rattle was awarded a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1994, he was made a Knight Bachelor.
In 1999, Rattle was appointed as successor to Claudio Abbado as the Berlin Philharmonic’s (BPO) principal conductor. The appointment, decided on in a vote by the orchestra's members, was somewhat controversial, as several members of the orchestra had preferred Daniel Barenboim for the post. 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. Rattle also controversially attacked the British attitude to culture in general, and the state funding of culture in the UK. 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, after falling over the previous few years. Rattle will end his contract in 2018.
In March 2015, Rattle accepted the post of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) starting September 2017.
In the 2014 New Year Honors, Rattle was appointed Member of the Order of Merit (OM). The Order of Merit is a dynastic order recognizing distinguished service. Admission into the order remains the personal gift of its Sovereign—currently Edward VII's great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. The members are awarded the right to use the post-nominal letters OM and a medallion for life.
Rattle was guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2000, Rattle was the Music Director of the esteemed Ojai Music Festival and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra at the Opening of the London Olympics 2012.
Rattle is best known for his interpretations of late 19th- and early 20th-century composers such as Gustav Mahler, with a recording of Mahler's Second Symphony winning several awards on its release and being regarded by some music critics as Rattle's finest recording to date. His recordings with the Berlin Orchestra include Claude Debussy's La Mer which was praised as a "magnificent disc" and compared with interpretations of the piece by Rattle's immediate predecessors, Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan. In 2007, the BPO/Rattle recording of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem received the Classic FM Gramophone best choral disc award. He has won two other Grammy Awards, one Choral Performance Award for a recording of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms in 2007, and another for Best Orchestral Performance for a recording of Mahler's unfinished Symphony No. 10 in 2000.
Among many other records, Rattle and the BPO also recorded a film project with Mark-Anthony Turnage's Blood on the Floor. The recorded Gustav Holst's The Planets (EMI) became the BBC Music Magazine Orchestra Choice. In addition, Rattle's acclaimed complete 1989 recording of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess was used as the soundtrack for the equally acclaimed 1993 television production of the work. It was the first made-for-television production of Porgy and Bess ever presented. He has also championed much contemporary music, an example of this being the 1996 TV series Leaving Home, where he presents a 7-part survey of musical styles and conductors.
From 1980 to 1995, Rattle was married to Elise Ross, an American soprano. They have two sons: Sacha, who is a clarinetist, and Eliot, who is a painter. In 1996 he married his second wife, Candace Allen, a Boston-born writer. This second marriage ended in 2004, and in 2008 Rattle married the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená. The couple have three children, Jonas (2005) and Milos (2008), and Anežka (2014).
UNICEF appointed Rattle and the BPO as Goodwill Ambassadors in November 2007. He is a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a fan of Liverpool Football Club.

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