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October 29, 2009

Simon Rattle renews through 2018 with Berlin Philharmonic

So much for all the periodic nay-saying: Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic will remain hitched through 2018. The British conductor, who took the helm of the famed orchestra in 2002, signed a new contract Wednesday, the AP reports.

His tenure has had its share of criticism, but it appears that Rattle has retained the support of the players, who have veto power over their music director. Reports have surfaced over the years that Rattle was in trouble with the orchestra, mostly because of his adventuresome programming, and in danger of being voted out. Some critics, especially in the German press, have carped that the Philharmonic has lost some of its luster with this conductor.

But none of that seems to have stuck. Besides, I think everyone agrees that Rattle has done wonders in the area of educational and community outreach with the Philharmonic (including on tour), and that's exceptionally valuable. There's obviously a lot of potential left in the relationship between one of the world's most gifted conductors and one of the world most sensational orchestras.

To salute the new contract, here's a taste of Rattle and the Philharmonic in action. First, the conclusion of "Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody" by Frederick Delius -- a composer, I suspect, the Berliners had little or no experience with until Rattle arrived. (We could use more exposure to Delius around here, too, but that's another story.) And then, as a reminder that Rattle and his ensemble can make beautiful German music together, too, the sublime "Liebestod" from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde":

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:14 AM | | Comments (4)


They could do worse ... however, lately I've been disappointed in Rattle. I'm not finding his remakes of, for instance, Mahler any more convincing than his earlier recordings, despite some undeniable merit. Perhaps his marital situation has been distracting, and this long-term security will help him to refocus and fulfill the enormous potential he has shown.

The announcement from the Berlin Phil's webpage is here, for those who want to brush up on their German. This news would also seem mildly one-upping to a certain Philly critic who's kept saying "What's taken Berlin so long on this?". Of course, he has his own agenda for the guy he wants as the new music director there. Ironically enough, said preferred candidate (initials VJ) also lives in Berlin.

Just did a search in the Archives of the Berlin Philharmonic (wonderful thing, ALL orchestras should have this) and I saw that Delius' music was played only 3 times by the BPO: in 1979 Yehudi Menuhin played the Violin Concerto, in 2005 Sir Charles Mackerras conducted A Walk to the Paradise Garden,, and the 3rd time is the "Brigg Fair."

Congratulations to Sir Simon.

I should have thought to check. Thanks for the info. TIM

I'm a big fan of Simon Rattle.
I think that Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic are a match made in heaven. Glad the relationship will continue.
I enjoyed the clips and couldn't help but notice the HUGE audience that included a younger crowd than we typically see here in the US at classical concerts. It was heartwarming to see.

Thanks for commenting. I, too, was struck by all those young folks. We should be so lucky here. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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