Berlin cover-up

Berlin cover-up


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2008

The BBC are running a bought-in film tonight in Alan Yentob’s Imagine series on Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. It offers ‘intimate’ insights into the workings of the crack band and its fabulous maestro as they are cheered to the rafters on a Far East tour.


Well, believe that if you like. Rattle was recently re-elected chief conductor by a political manoeuvre and a narrow margin that some of his opponents in the orchestra are continuing to question. As for the Far East raves, did anyone look at the ticket prices? They were ten times above the means of ordinary Japanese, Korean and Chinese working people, even more expensive than in Berlin.


A tour by the Berlin Phil in the Far East is an occasion for Asian corporate society to congratulate itself on cultural refinment, and for the orchestra to augment its copper-bottomed salaries and expense account.


These issues will understandably not be raised in Alan Yentob’s egregious series, a corner of television that is notorious for soft-focus, cuddly profiles of ‘Al’s Pals’ and is the BBC’s only documentary insight into the arts.


Notwithstanding all these reservations, the inclusion of Rattle and Berlin at this stage seems strangely off the pace, given that their progress has stagnated while a new conducting generation is striking sparks in London, Liverpool, L.A., Birmingham, Toulouse and Paris. That’s where the current action is. The BBC has lost its nose for cultural reporting.




  • blazerbadge says:

    My apologies if this is off-topic (it is!): Did you hear about their outreach program for high school students in NYC? I saw a documentary on TV about Rattle/BPhil performing Le Sacre with a group of kids. A famous choreographer created a dance just for the occasion & coached the kids himself. It was really impressive, actually. I thought it was a great way to introduce teens to classical music, dance, & Art in general.
    NL: I did. It’s a very effective program that he’s done before in Berlin and before that in Birmingham.