Entertainment & Arts

Simon Rattle to join London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in the Barbican Hall in 2012 Image copyright LSO
Image caption Sir Simon Rattle recently lobbied for a 'proper' concert venue to be built in London

Conductor Sir Simon Rattle is to join the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) as its music director.

Sir Simon said it was "a very obvious step - and the idea of coming home and having a position in this fantastic city is also a thrill for me".

He is currently director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has been since 2002 and has three years left on his contract.

He will take up the position at the LSO from September 2017.

'Proper' London venues

The announcement, made on Tuesday at the LSO's Barbican home, follows months of speculation Sir Simon would take up the post.

His first appearance with the orchestra was in October 1977, at the age of 22.

Sir Simon, now 60, made headlines last month when he told the BBC London's concert halls were not up to international standards.

Speaking ahead of a sold-out London residency with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Barbican, the revered conductor said he would consider a London move if there was a "proper" venue.

"You have no idea how great the London Symphony Orchestra can sound in a great concert hall," he told BBC arts editor Will Gompertz.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRumours are circulating in the music world that Sir Simon Rattle could be heading for London, as Will Gompertz reports

The following week, UK Chancellor George Osborne ordered an official feasibility study into the building of a new concert hall in the capital.

However Sir Simon said on Tuesday his move to London was not contingent on the city getting a new hall.

He told reporters he had met the orchestra a few minutes ahead of Tuesday's announcement: "I said to the orchestra this is my last job.

"At the moment this is a normal five year term with a rolling possibility. We will look on each other as a family and will see where it goes.

"It is on all our minds that it is a long term thing."

He later tweeted via the LSO: "I can't imagine a more inspiring way to spend my next years, and feel immensely fortunate to have the LSO as my musical family."

The orchestra added: "We are thrilled that Sir Simon has accepted our invitation to lead the LSO into the future and welcome him as our music director."


Analysis: Rebecca Jones, arts correspondent

This appointment is a coup for the LSO. Sir Simon Rattle is one of the top three conductors in the world. The orchestra has a powerful personality and it needs a big beast at its helm.

Sir Simon has a long, if not always harmonious, association with the LSO. As a young conductor in the 1970s he was so incensed by the orchestra's haughty attitude towards him that he said he would never work with them again.

But in the words of Dickens, "never say never". Since then, the relationship has flourished.

But as well as being good news for the LSO, Sir Simon's appointment is a boost for the British music scene. His call for an outstanding concert hall in London has shown the power he has to galvanise public opinion.

And he will be a champion for putting music back in schools. He is passionate about education and has said it will be a "huge priority" for him.


The conductor also outlined his vision for his role, calling for "universal access to music, with children and young people at its heart".

The LSO is regarded as one of the UK's flagship orchestras and its principal conductor is one of the most high-profile roles in classical music. Others to have held the title previously include Andre Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas and Sir Colin Davis.

Its current principal conductor, Valery Gergiev, is to stand down at the end of 2015.

Living in Berlin

Image copyright ken morse
Image caption Simon Rattle at his first LSO recording session in 1977

Sir Simon announced in January 2013 he would leave the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra after his contract expires in 2018. At the time he admitted it had not been an "easy decision".

The conductor said once he takes up his role at the LSO, his family would probably not relocate to London.

"We imagine still living in Berlin. I will be with orchestra for four months in the year and I will have a home in London," he said.

He has a number of concerts with the LSO - which he first directed in 1977 - lined up for July 2015 and 2016.

Sir Simon was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He made his Proms debut in 1976 and his opera debut in 1977 at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Between 1980 and 1998, he made his name at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He was knighted in 1994.

Sir Simon appeared at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, when he and the LSO were upstaged by Mr Bean while playing the theme to Chariots of Fire.

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 commented: "We welcome the return to these shores of Simon Rattle and are looking forward to working with him in championing classical music."


Timeline: London Symphony Orchestra

1904 - LSO founded and plays its first concert on 9 June conducted by Hans Richter at the Queen's Hall

1906 - First British orchestra to tour abroad - to Paris

1912 - First British orchestra to visit the US

1913/14 - LSO makes its first recordings for HMV

1924 - First radio broadcast on the BBC from Southwark Cathedral, with Vaughan Williams conducting his Pastoral Symphony

1935 - Records film score for Things to Come, based on the book by H G Wells - the first symphonic score composed for a film recording

1940 - Sir Henry Wood conducts the LSO in its first Prom season at the Queen's Hall followed by a UK tour during the war years

1964 - LSO undertakes its first world tour, which includes a concert at the United Nations HQ in New York

1968 - Andre Previn conducts his first concert as principal conductor (he held the role from 1968-79)

1978 - LSO shares three Grammy awards for the score to Star Wars

1982 - Takes up residency at the newly opened Barbican Centre

2000 - Launch of LSO Live, the orchestra's own record label

2004/05 - Centenary Gala Concert on 9 June is attended by the LSO's patron, Her Majesty The Queen

2007 - Valery Gergiev announced as principal conductor

2012 - LSO records the soundtracks to the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and performs with Rowan Atkinson (as Mr Bean) in a segment of the opening ceremony on 27 July in front of a TV audience of four billion

2014 - LSO launches its first iPad app

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