A friend mentioned that he’s going to Berlin at the weekend to hear Barenboim conduct Dream of Gerontius with the Philharmonic. Some mistake, surely? I protested.
Elgar is prime Rattle territory. Why would he relinquish it to a local rival?
The answer is more tactical than strategic. Both men are consummate politicians who know how to give a bit here, take a bit there. They have a range of common interests and a need to safeguard their empires.
Knowing that Barenboim learned his Elgar from Sir John Barbirolli and wanted to conduct the Dream in tribute, Rattle graciously consented.
It’s a win-win for him. If Barenboim triumphs, Rattle will be praised for generosity, if he fails the Englishman can show how it’s done next season.
The affinities stretch beyond Berlin. Yesterday, Rattle was announced with Placido Domingo as co-winner of the state of Israel’s biggest arts prize. Barenboim was awarded the Wolf in 2004 and accepted it with a Knesset speech dissenting from the state’s Palestine policies. Will he advise Rattle to so something similar? He has invited Rattle often to conduct at the Berlin Staatsoper. Might he now introduce him at La Scala?
The dance continues, and it’s one of the more entertaining spectacles at a dulled-down classical summit.
photo: Evelyn Taylor, flickr.com