The brilliant British conductor Sir Simon Rattle, who has appeared at Carnegie Hall nearly 40 times since his debut in 1976, launches his two-year Perspectives series at the Hall this November. Presenting what he calls an “extraordinary journey,” this season Sir Simon led the Berliner Philharmoniker in all nine Beethoven symphonies in five concerts over five consecutive days from November 17–21, all at 8:00 p.m. The Beethoven symphonies are arguably some of the finest music in the entire canon of symphonic music, and presenting them in their entirety is a classic rite of passage for major conductors Rattle, who is small of stature, known for his halo of white curls, is one of the greatest conductors ever to grace a podium, and the Berliner Philharmonic one of the finest orchestras playing today.
“For orchestra, conductor, and audience,” Sir Simon says of the Beethoven symphonies, “if you’ve heard these pieces over five days you really get an idea of how the entire 19th century was made—how it was taken from one place and moved to another by the force and genius of one man.”
Sir Simon began his Beethoven symphony cycle with Nos. 1 and 3 on Tuesday, November 17. He continued with the Leonore Overture No. 1 and symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 on Wednesday, November 18; Nos. 8 and 6 on Thursday, November 19; and Nos. 4 and 7 on Friday, November 20. For the last concert on Saturday, November 21, Sir Simon conducted Symphony No. 9 with soloists including soprano Annette Dasch, mezzo-soprano Eva Vogel, tenor Christian Elsner, and bass Dimitry Ivashchenko, along with the Westminster Symphonic Choir.
“To do Beethoven symphonies is hard enough,” Sir Simon continues, “but to do a cycle of Beethoven symphonies is something very different. It’s at the center of music. It’s such a journey through Beethoven’s life. And of course it’s clearly the same composer who’s written the First and who’s written the Ninth, but the distance between them is really astonishing…You can also see someone building a whole edifice that will support the music of the next 150 years.”
The performances were muscular and lyrical, innovative and traditional. And in a justifiably on-edge city, Carnegie Hall was packed to the rafters. The power of music to rally and unite is irrefutable, and after 200 years, the glory of Beethoven’s symphonies is as shining and fresh as the years they were composed.
Details about Sir Simon’s Perspectives events in the 2016-2017 season are to be announced. For more information, visit www.carnegiehall.org/rattle.
About the Artists
Sir Simon Rattle has been chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker and artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonie since September 2002. His repertoire as a concert and opera conductor ranges from Baroque to contemporary music. He is a principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and works with the leading orchestras in Europe and the US. Even before taking office as chief conductor, Sir Simon had worked regularly with the Berliner Philharmoniker for over 15 years. In the later years in particular, numerous—including some award-winning—recordings were made with the orchestra. Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool in 1955 and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. From 1980 to 1998 he worked—first as principal conductor and artistic advisor, then as music director—with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and led it to international prominence.
A particular interest of Sir Simon’s is to bring the work of the Berliner Philharmoniker and its music within reach of young people from different social and cultural backgrounds. To this end, he created the highly successful education program of the Berliner Philharmoniker with which the orchestra has broken new ground in the field of music education. For this commitment, as well as for his artistic work, Sir Simon has won many awards: In 1994, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II; in 2009, he was awarded the Spanish Premio Don Juan de Borbón de la Música, the gold medal “Gloria Artis” from the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Furthermore, in 2010, he was inducted into the Order of Knights of the French Legion of Honour. In February 2013, Sir Simon was awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize from the Danish Léonie Sonning Music Foundation in Copenhagen, and in December 2013, he was appointed Member of the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II.
In January 2013, Sir Simon announced that he would not renew his contract as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker after it expires in 2018. In March 2015, he announced his appointment as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra beginning in September 2017.
The Berliner Philharmoniker, founded in 1882 as a self-governing body, has long been esteemed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras. In 2007, it celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding with a multitude of activities. The 2013–2014 season was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonie, which was designed for the orchestra by the architect Hans Scharoun. Hans von Bülow, Arthur Nikisch, and Wilhelm Furtwängler were the principal conductors who left their distinctive mark in the Berliner Philharmoniker’s early decades. In 1955, Herbert von Karajan became the orchestra’s artistic director and, in the ensuing years, worked with the musicians to develop a unique tonal quality and performing style that made the Berliner Philharmoniker famous all over the world. Claudio Abbado, chief conductor from 1989 to 2002, devised a new type of programming, with increased emphasis on contemporary works, expanded chamber recital series, and performance of operas in concert. When Sir Simon Rattle took the orchestra’s helm in September 2002, an education program was initiated to ensure that the Berliner Philharmoniker reaches a wider and, especially, younger audience. In November 2007, the orchestra and its artistic director Sir Simon Rattle were appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, the first artistic ensemble ever to represent the international children’s organization.