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Flash: Sir Simon Rattle to leave the Berlin Philharmonic

The conductor told the orchestra this morning that he will step down in 2018. He will have been with them by then for 16 years.

The orchestra’s two chairman promptly shed crocodile tears (see release below).

Things have not been going well between them for some time. We had been hearing rumours since early December of a growing rift between Rattle and a large number of players who felt the orchestra was going backwards, artistically and commercially, under his leadership. He has faced down such rebellions before but, at 58, may have felt that the fight is no longer worth it. He’s at an age when many take early retirement and plan a new career. He won’t be short of offers, whether for guest conducting or as music director. More here.



Who will succeed him? See here.



Sir Simon Rattle beendet mit Ablauf seines Vertrages seine Amtszeit als Chefdirigent der Berliner Philharmoniker in fünf Jahren im Sommer 2018


Im Rahmen einer Orchestervollversammlung hat Sir Simon Rattle bekannt gegeben, dass er mit dem Auslaufen seines derzeitigen Vertrages im Sommer 2018 seine Amtszeit als Chefdirigent der Berliner Philharmoniker beenden wird.


Sir Simon Rattle: “2018 werde ich 16 Jahre mit den Berliner Philharmonikern zusammengearbeitet haben. Davor war ich bereits 18 Jahre Chefdirigent in Birmingham. Außerdem werde ich dann kurz vor meinem 64. Geburtstag stehen. Als ein „Liverpudlian“ kann man diesen besonderen Geburtstag nicht ohne die Frage der Beatles: „Will you still need me, when I’m 64?“ begehen. Ich bin mir sicher, dass es dann an der Zeit ist, dass jemand anderes die große und großartige Herausforderung übernehmen sollte, die Berliner Philharmoniker heißt.

Die Entscheidung ist mir nicht leicht gefallen. Ich liebe dieses Orchester und habe auch deswegen den Musikern meinen Entschluss so früh wie möglich mitgeteilt. Ich hoffe sehr, dass ihnen damit genug Zeit bleibt, um in Ruhe die weitere Planung zu beginnen. Ich freue mich auf viele schöne Konzerte in den kommenden fünf Jahren und darüber hinaus und bin sehr dankbar für die bisherige gemeinsame Zeit.“


Peter Riegelbauer/Stefan Dohr, Orchestervorstand: „Wir bedauern die Entscheidung Simon Rattles, dem Orchester mit seinem Vertragsende 2018 nicht mehr als künstlerischer Leiter zur Verfügung zu stehen. Zugleich respektieren wir seinen persönlichen Entschluss. Die Zusammenarbeit mit ihm ist durch große gegenseitige Sympathie und respektvollen künstlerischen und menschlichen Umgang geprägt. Dies ist für uns eine wunderbare Grundlage für die gemeinsame Arbeit mit Sir Simon als künstlerischem Leiter in den kommenden fünf Jahren. Wir freuen uns auf viele spannende Projekte, die bereits in Planung sind. Auch nach 2018 werden wir ihm freundschaftlich und eng verbunden bleiben.“


Martin Hoffmann, Intendant: „Für die Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker und die Stadt Berlin ist das eine sehr bedauerliche Nachricht. Ich habe großen Respekt vor der Entscheidung Sir Simon Rattles. Mit seiner herausragenden Musikalität und Kreativität begeistert er täglich neue Zuhörer für das Orchester und prägt die nationale und internationale Wahrnehmung der Berliner Philharmoniker als vitaler Kulturbotschafter Berlins. Ich freue mich auf die weitere gemeinsame Arbeit im Sinne des Orchesters und der Stiftung.“




Sir Simon Rattle will end his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker when his contract expires in five years in summer 2018


During an orchestra summit Sir Simon Rattle has announced that he will finish his tenure as chief conductor and artistic director of Berliner Philharmoniker in summer 2018 after fulfilling his current contract with the orchestra.


Sir Simon Rattle: “In 2018 I will have been with the orchestra for 16 years. Before this I was Chief Conductor in Birmingham for 18 years. In 2018 I will be nearly 64 years old. As a Liverpool boy, it is impossible not to think of the Beatles’ question, “Will you still need me.., when I’m 64?” and I am sure that then it will be time for somebody else to take on the magnificent challenge that is the Berliner Philharmoniker.

This was not an easy decision. I love this orchestra and therefore wanted to tell them my decision as early as possible. I deeply hope that this will give them enough time to start new plans. I look forward with great pleasure to our next five years together and hopefully many years afterwards. I am thankful for the time that we have spent together so far. “


Peter Riegelbauer/Stefan Dohr, Orchestra Chairmen: “We regret Simon Rattle’s decision not to continue as Artistic Director of the orchestra when his contract expires in 2018. At the same time, we respect his personal decision. Our collaboration with him is characterized by great mutual sympathy and a respectful artistic and human relationship. This is a wonderful basis for our work with Sir Simon as Artistic Director during the coming five years. We look forward to many exciting projects which are already in the planning stage. After 2018 we will continue our close and friendly relationship with him.”


Martin Hoffmann, General Manager: “This is very sad news for the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the city of Berlin. I have great respect for Sir Simon Rattle’s decision. With his outstanding musicality and creativity he has filled new listeners with enthusiasm for the orchestra every day and has shaped the national and international perception of the Berliner Philharmoniker as a vital cultural ambassador for Berlin. I look forward to our future collaboration on behalf of the orchestra and the Foundation.”



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  1. This means that as of 2018 Christian Thielemann will be a happy man… Patience is a rewarding virtue.

    • Lord Montague says:

      I’m not so sure Thielemann would be happier in Berlin than in Dresden. In Dresden he is the undisputed King and can easily shuffle between Salzburg, Vienna and his artistic home Dresden, a few Berlin Phil engagements on the side. In Berlin he would be a smaller fish in a much bigger pond.
      Also in 2018 Thielemann will be 59 years old, in his prime for a conductor, but the oldest of any previous Berlin Phil chief conductors at their inauguration. Karajan was 47, Abbado 56, Rattle 47.
      You never know, but I could see the Berlin Phil actually choosing Andris Nelsons or Kyrill Petrenko as their new chief. Thielemann is too Germano-centric for this globalized orchestra in the year 2018. He is a much better match for Dresden and Vienna.

      • I could not agree more. But I cannot help thinking that whether elected or not, Thielemann will be quite happy to see Rattle step down.

  2. Kara McKechnie says:

    From reading the release, I don’t think that crocodile tears are evident.
    Is your assessment that things have not been going well based on other information?

  3. Robert Berger says:

    Sixteen years is longer than many eminent conductors have spent as chief conductors of top orchestras .
    Let’s all hope a worthy successor will not be difficult to find .

  4. Gary Carpenter says:

    I thought the controversy over Rattle’s appointment went away a long time ago; his original contract was due to expire in 2012 but the players voted in 2008 to extend it to 2018; hardly a vote of no confidence. He will be conducting Georg Friedrich Haas’s ‘In Vain’ next week – a piece no British management or orchestra will go near – and if that’s backwards…

    • Hear hear – Rattle’s achievement is stupendous, and even in late middle-age, he’s an artist who represents plurality, open-mindedness and the future. The teenage musicians I work with revere him. But there’s still a chippy and very persistent “tall poppy” mentality about Rattle in the UK…or at least, one particular corner of the UK…

      It’s gratifying to see the fresher, younger names that are being discussed on this thread, as against the rather depressing fixation on ageing Germanic dinosaurs on Norman’s FB comment streams. Genuinely depressing to see how many people still seem to think that the main role of a world-leading orchestra in 2013 (or 2018) is to keep churning out risk-free, CD-ready performances of a limited C19th / early C20th symphonic canon. Tradition is slovenliness…Beethoven, Brahms, Karajan and Furtwangler can no longer be the measure of all things. Admiring talk of a conductor’s “authority”, or of “definitive” performances, is often very revealing. It’s not a musical world I recognize, though.

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