Five years is a long time in politics, longer than most governments last. Simon Rattle has left the Berlin Philharmonic plenty of time to choose his successor.
A large number of players, and an even larger section of the home audience, would vote outright for Christian Thielemann. He is by far the most popular conductor in Germany today. Whether he is interested, after prior disappointments in Berlin, remains to be seen. My guess is that he will only accept if it is offered to him very promptly. He must be considered the one to beat.
Daniel Barenboim, whom Rattle defeated in a straight fight in 2000, has not taken his eye off the prize. He will be 76 in 2018 and, as a card-carrying Furtwängler admirer, might think that the Berlin Phil would constitute the crowing glory of his lifetime.
Soundings will be taken with Gustavo Dudamel, 31, who is working with the orchestra next month and is contracted to Los Angeles until roughly the time of Rattle’s departure. Dudamel commands the highest global profile of any conductor, bar Barenboim and Gergiev.
Andriss Nelsons, 34, favourite at Lucerne and Bayreuth, will be high in the reckoning.
So will Paavo Järvi, 50, who has made a huge success in Frankfurt.
If Valery Gergiev shows interest he will have to be considered, though he will be 65 at the handover. The same goes for Riccardo Chailly.
Still, five years is a long time…. it’s too soon to tell.