Rattle to Barenboim: ‘You’re family!’

Rattle to Barenboim: ‘You’re family!’


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2014

One music director conducted the other in Brahms’s first piano concerto. It was the 50th anniversary of Barenboim’s first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle played up the emotion with a dramatic embrace.

Barenboim has since appeared with the orchestra 260 times, as pianist and conductor. He narrowly lost out to Rattle for the music director’s post when Abbado resigned in the late 1990s.

He is still being talked of as a stopgap successor when Rattle leaves in 2018.

Long after both have gone, history will have to decide which of the two left a greater mark on Berlin and the Philharmonic.




  • sdReader says:

    Neither one of them will leave much of a “mark on Berlin and the Philharmonic” because they are generic, albeit gifted, artists.

    I can’t think of a single reading of anything by DB or Rattle that has been in any way definitive or specially stamped, and I’ve attended concerts by both men for 30+ years.

    They do of course guarantee a performance of a certain quality, which is a different matter.

    • thad says:

      Ackk! Are you nuts?

      Whenever someone asks me “what does a conductor do, really?” I play for them one of Barenboim’s Schumann symphony recordings with his Staatskapelle Berlin. Masterful performances in the original sense of that word, those musicians don’t breathe without a cue from him. It would all be oppressive in the hands of a musician of less taste than Barenboim, but we (and his orchestra) follow him willingly, to our and Schumann’s benefit.

      With Wand having passed, Barenboim is by far our greatest living Bruckner interpreter. His Beethoven set is not to my taste, but it is magnificent in its own way, and clearly a deeply personal interpretation.

      • sdReader says:

        Thad, you know, you are right. Barenboim *is* good with Schumann. Also with Brahms! I am quite surprised to see your comment because people rarely bring up his work in this repertory, and it is not such easy terrain. As for his Bruckner, I agree there too, but as one of five strong Brucknerians around these days.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    You are of course entitled to your opinions but I, and countless others, have been enthralled and entranced by the music-making Barenboim has given us, not least the magnificent interpretations of Bruckner symphonies and the complete Ring Cycle at last summer’s Proms. There isn’t another musician of his depth and range of repertory to match him.

    • sdReader says:

      But “range of repertory” does not guarantee greatness or memorability. Quite the opposite, usually!

      I do feel comfortable with his Bruckner, in the sense of being in good hands. What is shocking is how *easy* it seems to be for him.

      There is a reason why Solti called him a genius.

      • thad says:

        And none of this even considers Barenboim the pianist! Someone asked me the other day to name the best pianists before the public today. I rattled off my favorites: Pollini, Perahia, Argerich, Andsnes, Hough, Ax, Zimerman. An hour later I thought “I forgot Barenboim!” He’s such a fine conductor, we sometimes forget what a remarkable pianist he is.