Simon Rattle


Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music.

For some years Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, in 1980 he became Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, stepping up to Music Director from September 1990 until August 1998.  He is also Founding Patron of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and since the early 1990s, has been a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  As guest conductor, he appears regularly in the United States, London and Europe, with close links to a number of orchestras most notably with the Vienna Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestras.

In September 2002 he became Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker where he  leads regular tours in Europe, North America and the Far East and has recently conducted Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Lucerne, Salzburg London's BBC Proms and will be taking the production to New York this Autumn.  His most recent opera includes the Staatsoper Berlin, Wiener Staatsoper,  the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.
For an up-to-date biography please contact Imogen Lewis Holland.

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    Simon Rattle on Dialogues des Carmélites


Barbican Hall, London

SCHUMANN: Das Paradies und die Peri

Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Sally Matthews, Peri
Mark Padmore, narrator
Kate Royal, soprano
Bernarda Fink, alto
Andrew Staples, tenor
Florian Boesch, bass
London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus

Further information here

Barbican, London

WEBERN Six Pieces Op 6
BERG Three Fragments from Wozzeck Op 7 
LIGETI Mysteries of the Macabre 
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

with Barbara Hannigan

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Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra come to London to perform Sibelius

Sir Simon Rattle and the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra are coming to London once again to perform a full 'Sibelius Cycle' including the beautiful Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos, alongside works of Mahler and Lachenmann.

Read the article on the Guardian website for more details

Click here to read Spanish interview in El Pais, 30 July 2011

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Shake, rattle and roll
Arguably the world's greatest orchestra is coming to London, and with Simon Rattle, an English conductor. Ivan Hewett tries to get to the root of the Berlin mystique.
Ivan Hewett / Daily Telegraph / 15 February 2011
To read full article, click here

Berlin Philharmonic: Taming the wild orchestral beast
Lianne Turner and Susannah Palk for CNN / 28 February 2011
To read full article, click here 

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25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Symphony no.9

Philharmonie, Berlin

'Working without a score, Rattle ushered in a full-blooded Ninth with a thunderous first movement that exploded off the stage in a maelstrom and set a rapid tempo for the entire symphony...the momentum that Rattle built was irresistible, culminating in a dazzling rush that had the audience buzzing with excitement in the break after the second movement, as the soloists took their place with the choir.'

'...Rattle’s gift is creating organic music that starts deep in the orchestra and rises with passionate fervor, which worked to magical effect in the Ninth. A packed house leaped to its feet as the final notes still hung in the air, clearly feeling more
than just the excitement of an inspired performance.'

Frank Kuznik/Bachtrack
"The second movement was possibly even better; indeed, the ferocity and agility of the playing was so great that, even if Sir Simon had laid down his baton, it is doubtful he would have been able to stop the music he had set in motion. Rather, the music appeared to be governed by its own will, reaching a level of intensity that the orchestra was just barely able to contain. It was as thrilling a second movement as one might hope to hear. Only with the third movement was a sense of peace restored to the auditorium of the Philharmonie. The strings played with an unparalleled warmth, and there were several moments during which Sir Simon abandoned the baton entirely, preferring to sculpt the contours of the music rather than fixate strictly on pulse. As a result, the movement proceeded with an encompassing sense of inner calm."

Jesse Simon/Mundo Clasico


St. Matthew Passion

The Armory, New York

"...Mr. Rattle drew lovely, transparent performances from a reduced contingent of 50 musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic and 66 eloquent, versatile singers from the Berlin Radio Choir, admirably prepared by chorus master Simon Halsey. The expert solos on oboes da caccia and oboes d’amore lent a period-instrument feel to this modern performance, as did light vibrato in the strings. And the layout of the seating enabled thrilling spatial separation of the choruses and orchestras, echoing in broad terms how Bach arrayed his Leipzig forces..."

Barbara Jepson/Wall Street Journal
"Sir Simon Rattle conducts mostly from his podium in front of one of the orchestra, while occasionally directing the musical action in front of the other orchestra. When soloists are accompanied by solo musicians, Rattle often watches and observes without losing his keen concentration...

...Sellars and Rattle are to be commended for their vision and courage to bring Bach’s music out of church and concert hall into a live theater, with each musician actively engaged in the drama of the music. This performance even made the boundary between the performers and audience obscure as the audience was given a gift not only of a superb musical performance but of an opportunity to contemplate on life and death."

Von Ako Imamura/Bachtrack
"...Overseeing it all, leaping across the stage from one orchestra or chorus to another, mouth wide open as if singing along, was Rattle, setting a pace as sensitive to the text as could be imagined. Experiential? The images, both musical and theatrical, remain burned in the brain."

Susan Elliott/Classical Voice America


with Anne Sophie Mutter

Carnegie Hall, New York

"The great Berlin Philharmonic, an ensemble that has been especially innovative and exciting since Simon Rattle became chief conductor in 2002, opened the new season at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday night with a program that on paper seemed intended to be short and festive...
...the musically inquisitive Mr. Rattle drew fresh and intriguing performances from his players. Ms. Mutter was inspired. The program, however short and familiar, wound up feeling musically substantive...
...The performance Mr. Rattle drew from the Berlin players brought out the music’s mercurial, complex and intricate elements. There was nothing flashy here. He did not try to sell the piece, or pump it up. Rather, he trusted the score and, in a sense, just laid it out for us through articulate, nuanced and textured playing by the orchestra..."

Anthony Tommasini/NY Times
"..From the very beginning of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, you could hear why this orchestra has such a formidable reputation. A huge, meaty texture and sharp articulation in the early going captured the piece’s bombastic side. There was something just the slightest bit grungy about their playing, as Rattle allowed his players to dig deep into the strings. Crackling warmth established the melancholy nostalgia of the waltz before the flighty finale as plush sound reached out into the auditorium.

...Finishing off with the closing scenes of Stravinsky’s Firebird, Rattle brought his players in on a powerful, almost ear-splitting opening chord. The orchestra maintained a crisp, cackling marcato throughout the “Infernal dance” before weaving a thick carpet of sound in the final transitional bars. The Berceuse was rapturous, from the haunting solo passed among the winds at the start to the ethereal transition into the finale. The pianissimo tremolo was about the softest you’ll ever hear a string section play while still producing a consistent tone. The effect was astonishing, and set up a stirring and majestic finale."

New York Classical Review/Eric C Simpson

Brahms + Schumann

Cycle of the Symphonies



"...Rattle is a master of sound, and he draws a range of colours from this virtuoso orchestra which few can match. From the strident opening of Rhenish to the stoic chorale in the second movement of the Brahms there is an attention to detail in the sound itself which impresses instantly. The pianissimos are particularly noteworthy, providing truly transformative moments in the Schumann; in Rattle’s hands Schumann is definitively a romantic composer, and not the classically minded extension of Beethoven, which many see him as..."

Max Woods/Bachtrack

"...With each of the Brahms symphonies Sir Simon’s interpretations felt urgently spontaneous with playing that conveyed a late-romantic power of unfailing  intensity. In the C minor score what sticks strongest in the mind is the grave and threatening timpani stokes that open the first movement and I fondly recall Albrecht Mayer’s beautiful oboe playing. Throughout this critical movement Sir Simon successfully provided liberal quantities of both beauty and menace. In the D major symphony once again it was the opening movement that made the greatest impression leaving a feeling of restrained joy with an undercurrent of dark foreboding. This dramatic music felt as if it had been hewn out of the granite of an Alpine peak tinged with a beautiful soft edge that evoked a picturesque Tyrolean scene of verdant pastures..."
Michael Cookson/Musicweb International

Rachmaninov + Stravinsky

Symphonic Dances + The Firebird

Berlin Philharmonic/Royal Albert Hall

"Ever one to plunge in even when the danger flags are out, Simon Rattle brought two wildly contrasting concerts to the Proms last week, each played with dazzling brilliance by the Berlin Philharmonic. In this worldleading ensemble every musician is an artist-gymnast of supreme skill. Rattle demanded everything of them. They delivered..."

"...the first of the Berlin Phil's Proms - Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances and Stravinsky's The Firebird - [I] had no reservations, only superlatives. These two grand orchestral showpieces revealed the orchestra at its most flexible and virtuosic, with Rattle the magician conjuring maximum concentration and energy from all..."

Fiona Maddocks/The Observer
"A high point of the Proms season has come, once again, courtesy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The first of two Proms under its artistic director saw Simon Rattle welcomed like a hero on his home turf, and the players reminded us why many consider BPO to be the world's benchmark symphony orchestra."

"Some of that was to do with crispness and precision, something that infused Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. Rattle made the most of everything these eclectic pieces have in them. The first dance was an orchestral masterclass."

"A sumptuous encore, the Intermezzo from Puccini's Manon Lescaut, showcased gorgeous solo string playing. In this orchestra, it seems, everyone is a soloist; yet everyone, even Rattle, is one of the team."

Erica Jeal/The Guardian
"First came the Rachmaninov, a work which opens with the dizzying energy of a tarantella and the edge of a danse
macabre. The second movement waltz is the aural equivalent of the gothic stories of Edgar Allen Poe: Sir Simon
Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic wove glittering cobwebs as they led us through the ghostly dancers conjured by
Rachmaninov’s music."

"I could talk about the unbelievable pianissimos Rattle coaxed from the orchestra or the nice touch of positioning the
trumpet section around the Royal Albert Hall arena or the glint of dark magic which infused the piece. But what made
this performance so exceptional was the undeniable sense that the players were enjoying the concert as much as we

BBC Music Magazine/Elizabeth Davis


London Symphony Orchestra

The Barbican

"...Yet it was Rattle everyone wanted to see, and in Schumann’s Symphony No 2 the conductor’s instincts for lean, muscular textures and lithe tempos in early Romantic repertory met the plush playing of the LSO, with infectious results. Schumann’s mental state (never exactly level) was particularly fevered during the symphony’s composition, and the music flickers between elation and nervous exhaustion. Thinning down the strings, Rattle led an utterly beguiling performance full of entrancing details. Most importantly, the orchestra sounded extremely happy without being allowed to run away with the music.

Works by Beethoven and Henze were equally deftly sculpted. Henze’s striking cantata Being Beauteous sets a perfumed Rimbaud text to evanescent music for four cellos and harp, and Prohaska’s clean, silvery soprano soared evocatively around the text. After a few intonation slips in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Eberle relaxed into a poised, affectionate performance, although a little small-scale in dramatic scope..."

To read the article in full, please follow the link below:

Neil Fisher, The Times


Dialogues des Carmélites

Royal Opera House

"...The conductor was Simon Rattle, no less – addressing the score in a reading that was gently inflected, warmly coloured and delicately understated (more Ravel than Stravinsky, as my companion perceptively noted). Only in the final terrible march to the scaffold did he let his splendid orchestra rip, with gut-churning, heart-stopping results..."

To read the article in full please follow the link below to The Telegraph's website:

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

"...listening to Dialogues in this radiant account conducted by Simon Rattle, you can’t mistake its uplifting sincerity and devotional inspiration, as if the composer had simply translated to the theatre the Catholic piety of his liturgical works. Rattle moves from scene to scene with admirable urgency and expressive buoyancy, never letting the music sound sentimental...."

To read the article in full please follow the link below to The Financial Times' website:

Andrew Clarke, The FT


The Creation/OAE

The National Concert Hall, Dublin & Royal Festival Hall, London

A Rattling Good Creation


"...If there were such a thing as a Fantasy Orchestral League, the combination of Sir Simon Rattle, one of the world’s most imaginative, outstanding conductors, and the quirky, creative Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) would definitively be one of my top choices. The additional forces of the Choir of the Enlightenment with soloists Sally Matthews, John Mark Ainsley and Peter Rose made for a majestic performance of Haydn’s greatest work, The Creation. As this was the final International Concert of the 2013/2014 season, it was clear, to borrow a biblical comparison, that the best wine was left till last....

...From cosmic chaos to prelapsarian idyll, this performance had it all. As Heaven and earth sang praise to the Lord in the final chorus, the sonic crescendo achieved by both choir and orchestra, coupled with the raw energy of Rattle was spine-tingling. An immediate and thoroughly merited standing ovation followed. What a blessing to witness such a creation!"

To read the article in full please follow the link below to the BachTrack website:

Andrew Larkin, BackTrack
***** - The Guardian

..."There wasn't a dull moment, because Simon Rattle simply never allowed one. Something was happening in every bar. Sometimes the interesting points were the obvious ones, usually Haydn's gleeful depictions of the newly created animals: roaring trombone lions that almost startled us out of our seats, or the juddering rasp of the contrabassoon for the heavy beasts. But there were also small details, or hidden countermelodies – and it took Rattle's searching, driven conducting and the orchestra's imaginative responsiveness to draw them out."

To read the article in full please follow the link below to the Guardian website:

Erica Jeal
"...Rattle has long championed this least-played of great composers, and this cracking performance of The Creation showed that his interpretations have lost none of their zest or boldness.."

To read the article in full, please follow the link below:

Richard Morrison, The Times


Manon Lescaut

Berlin Philharmonic/Festspielhaus Baden Baden

Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon perform Puccini's Manon Lescaut at Baden Baden

'The true protagonist of the evening is Simon Rattle...Where Puccini's score is the hardest , Rattle and his troupe are best: in the bustling Amien's picture , or even at the end of Act 2 , when Lescaut rushes to tell his sister that the police are approaching... It is virtuosic, symphonic like the tone poems of Richard Strauss.  The Berlin Philharmonic let these passages sparkle in a thousand colours, like a cut diamond. Technically brilliant' 

Frederik Hanssen/Der Tagesspiegel
"Sir Simon Rattle motivated the singers with exceptional colours and musical intensity inspired by the Berliner Philharmoniker - both Final Acts are incredibly gripping... (Rattle) lights up the intermezzo 'The trip to le Havre' (here as a prelude after the second break), reflects the prisoners and the despair of Des Grieux in sharp dissonances, and finally the hopelessness and end of the two lovers without overblown sentimentality in pure, expressive sound."

Dietholf Zerweck/Esslinger Zeitung
"Strong emotions, grand opera, spacious setting, and above all, great music. Whoever automatically categorises Italian opera into the "kitsch corner" will be disappointed with this most pleasant way to kick off the Easter Festival at Festspielhaus. Simon Rattle takes his Puccini seriously. He leaves "Manon Lescaut" fresh with a new sound - with major theatrical clout as well as a highly emotional soundscapes. Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic throws a passionate look at the music with echoes of Wagner and Verdi and above all, the music of Puccini is pure, far away from sugary sweetness, but refined to the smallest detail. The grandiose prelude to the third act shows how exciting - and most of all enjoyable - it can be to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play opera."

Sandra Pfäfflin/Pforzheimer Zeitung

"While the playing amply captures the music’s sparkle and ardor in Acts I and II, the orchestra and conductor (Rattle) take over alone in the gorgeous intermezzo that opens Act III and continue to hold sway when the action resumes. Especially shattering is the return of themes associated with happier times. And Manon’s lengthy death scene has uncommon vibrancy because of Mr. Rattle’s sensitivity to harmonic and instrumental colors. This is striking considering that this is Mr. Rattle’s first time conducting a Puccini opera..."

George Loomis/NY Times


'dark dreams' and 'La Mer'

Berlin Philharmonic

"...The orchestra gave an excellent performance of a very good piece of music, which was particularly vivid in the theater-in-the-round architecture of the Philharmonie and was brilliantly programmed just before Debussy’s “La Mer.” The two works have nearly identical orchestral forces, and the opening of the Debussy — involving two harps, quivering scales in the strings and a timpani roll — is like a 30-second summary of “dark dreams.”

“La Mer,” too, involves a delicate balance between true power and mere garishness. Mr. Rattle avoided the latter by conducting the work with a feverish edge and abrupt bendings of the tempo that kept it sounding unexpected and fresh. He emphasized the same intensity in Brahms’s Third Symphony, which opened the concert: The end of the first movement was a burst of released tension, and even the noble pastoral of the Andante had raw emotion.

I have never heard an effect quite like the vocal quality Mr. Rattle drew from the strings in the exhalations near the end of “La Mer.” It was, simply, as if an invisible choir were singing from the orchestra: astonishing. The passage is marked “calmer and very expressive,” but this was deeper than that, a peace which passeth understanding."

NY Times/Zachary Woolfe
"...For sheer excitement, this was the finest Brahms I've ever heard. Rattle kept the first movement moving forward with an unarguable sense of momentum so that everything felt just right, and the finale had a real harum-scarum sense of urgency to it. It was never just display for its own sake, however: behind the energy lay some tremendously exciting musicianship. Right from that opening fanfare, for example, the strings tore down the arpeggio that opens the main theme, but as soon as that phrase was completed Rattle drew them back, always holding something in reserve for later.

That “later” came at the start of the coda, where that same violin theme was let loose with a fantastic sense of urgency that made the scalp prickle. Here was the work of a true musical architect doing his best with his home team on their home turf. That Berlin sound, so clear and so bright, felt as though they were putting Brahms under a microscope, showing up every glinting detail in the most precise manner. That wasn’t at the expense of subtlety, however: other moments, such as the clarinet themes of both the first and second movements, moved with thoughtfulness and, in the Andante, magical beauty. The cellos, so important to this symphony’s tonal colour, surged with the pulsing, urgent quality for which the Berliners are so famous. They were the particular beneficiaries of Rattle’s use of vibrato, unafraid to embrace it so that it pulsed through the sound like blood through veins, lending energy to that chocolatey, mahogany string sound that is the orchestra’s own...

...The curiosity of the programme was the world premiere of George Friedrich Haas’ dark dreams. Rattle has championed Haas’ music during his time in Berlin, and a Philharmonie premiere is just about the highest compliment that can be paid to a contemporary composer. Haas didn’t let them down. Dark dreams is an enormously atmospheric work, full of suggestion, brilliant colour and also plenty of melody."

Simon Thompson/Seenandheard-international


Lang Lang/Rattle: Prokofiev/Bartók

Berlin Philharmonic


Lang Lang/Rattle: Prokofiev/Bartók 
(Sony Classical) 

It’s hard to imagine two pianists more contrasted than Lang Lang and András Schiff. One is a global phenomenon, captured in 19 colour images in his new album’s typically glossy packaging. Schiff, meanwhile, is a favourite of connoisseurs; for him, one grainy black-and-white picture suffices. It’s hard to imagine them sharing a recital, even shaking hands. Happily, both these releases find them close to their best, and in well-suited repertoire.

As with his clothes and wristwatch, Lang Lang surrounds himself with nothing but the best. The orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic with Simon Rattle conducting, and their tone at the start of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 2 is ravishing. Possibly too much so: this is a performance that glides by, impeccably beautiful and fleet, yet a trifle short of character. Still, Lang Lang’s easy virtuosity is delicious; so is the absence of keyboard thumping.

Bartók’s Third Concerto balances things out. Orchestral niceties are finer still — try the second movement’s diaphanous night music — but this time they don’t seem de trop. The music making also offers genuine bite, whether from Lang Lang’s fingers or the bracing snarl of the Berlin brass. More penetrating accounts of both works may exist, but this album comes top for sonic splendour.



The Second Viennese School

Berg, Schönberg, Webern

Sofie von Otter
Rundfunkchor Berlin, MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Ernst Sennf Chor, Berliner Philharmoniker + City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Warner Classics

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Christine Brewer
Soile Isokoski
Juliane Banse
Birgit Remmert
Jane Henschel
Jon Villars
David Wilson-Johnson
John Relyea
London Symphony Chorus, City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus + Toronto Children's Chorus
Warner Classics