The BBC goes OTT on Simon Rattle

The conductor turns 60 tomorrow. He was a driving force in national life as music director in Birmingham for 18 years, a pioneer in music education and the hurricane behind the building of an exemplary hall. He went on to win the conductorship of the Berlin Philharmonic.

As such Rattle can lay claim to being the most successful British-born conductor that ever lived, although Beecham, Wood and Boult made a greater contribution to national activity and John Barbirolli served as chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic. You may wish to consider the relative merits at leisure. Certainly, Simon Rattle is the most acclaimed British conductor of modern times.

We congratulate Simon on his 60th birthday and wish him many more years of fruitful activity. We look forward also to his possible return as chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He has much more to give to the world.

That said, the BBC jamboree around his 60th birthday – see press release, just landed, below – seem just a trifle excessive. A performing musician is turning 60. That’s all you need to know.

rattle Berlin Philharmonic Prom 64_CR_BBC Chris Christodoulou_3

EXPLORING THE CULTURAL IMPACT OF SIMON RATTLE

 ON BBC TWO, BBC FOUR AND BBC RADIO 3

 

THE FIRST TELEVISION BIOGRAPHY FOR 15 YEARS, REDISCOVERED RECORDINGS AND A SERIES OF LIVE CONCERT BROADCASTS

 

  • A major new BBC Two documentary, Simon Rattle: The Making of a Maestro, the first television biography of the British conductor for 15 years, charts Rattle’s career through the lens of new and archive footage and an in-depth interview with the maestro himself (Saturday 14 February). An extended version of Rattle’s interview will also be available on BBC Arts Online (bbc.co.uk/arts).

 

  • BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four broadcast Rattle’s major London Residency  with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Barbican and Southbank Centre in February 2015. The Residency is showcased by BBC Radio 3’s Live in Concert (Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Saturday 14 February) and a BBC Four broadcast from the Barbican (Sunday 15 February) as part of the BBC Arts initiative to bring significant cultural events from the greatest cultural venues to its audiences. Additional content will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

 

  • BBC Radio 3 broadcasts previously unheard recordings of Rattle conducting his first ever Beethoven symphony cycle in 1995 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Frankfurt (Monday 19 – Friday 23 January).

 

BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 mark the 60th birthday of Sir Simon Rattle, one of Britain’s best-loved and arguably one of the world’s greatest living conductors, with a month of special programming across January and February 2015.

 

A major new BBC Two documentary Simon Rattle: The Making of a Maestro (Saturday 14 February), the first television biography of the British conductor for 15 years, charts Rattle’s formidable career spanning four decades through the lens of new and archive footage and an in-depth interview with the maestro himself. The documentary follows the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker for a year, gaining unrivalled insights and access into the life of a world-leading conductor, observing Rattle in rehearsals and performance with five different orchestras, and exploring what makes and drives a great conductor. From his early days with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the tender age of 22 to becoming a household name whose dynamic leadership of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is said to have inspired the rebuilding of a city, Simon Rattle: The Making of a Maestro follows a remarkable journey. It shows Rattle talking candidly about his life and beliefs with contributions from artists and friends who have worked closely with him including violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, composer Thomas Adès, singers Roderick Williams, Mark Padmore, director Peter Sellars and Managing Director of the Barbican, Sir Nicholas Kenyon. BBC Arts Online (bbc.co.uk/arts) will also feature an extended interview with Rattle drawn from the documentary, and a film archive collection which charts Rattle’s career as documented by the BBC and his significant creative commitment to television as a medium for drawing a new audience to classical music.

 

BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four broadcast Rattle’s upcoming major London Residency with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Barbican and Southbank Centre in February 2015. BBC Radio 3’s Live in Concert broadcasts Rattle conducting the complete Sibelius symphony cycle in the 150th anniversary year of the composer’s birth (Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11 & Thursday 12 February – Barbican), Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 ‘Resurrection’ and Helmut Lachenmann’s Tableau (Saturday 14 February – Southbank Centre). As part of the BBC Arts initiative to bring significant cultural events from the greatest cultural venues to audiences, presenter Kirsty Wark hosts a BBC Four broadcast of Rattle conducting Sibelius’ Symphonies 5, 6 & 7 (recorded at the Barbican on 12 February) on Sunday 15 February, and Sibelius’s Symphonies 1, 2, 3 & 4 (recorded at the Barbican on 10 & 11 February) will be available on BBC iPlayer.

 

Previously unheard archive recordings of Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra twenty years ago are broadcast for the first time on BBC Radio 3 across Rattle’s birthday week (Monday 19 – Friday 23 January). Listeners will be the first to hear the recordings when they are broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s In Concert, presented by Tom Service. Recorded over five days at the Alte Oper Frankfurt in the autumn of 1995, listeners have the opportunity to hear Rattle conducting his first ever Beethoven symphony cycle with the orchestra he led for eighteen years. A unique record of one of the great partnerships between conductor and orchestra in British music, the recordings also include Beethoven’s Overture toFidelio, his Leonore Overtures No.’s 1 & 2 and the Funeral March for Leonore Prohaska.

 

Other highlights include BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics featuring Rattle as its Artist of the Week (Monday 19 – Friday 23 January) and BBC Radio 3’s Through the Night offers the chance to listen again to Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker presenting Peter Sellars’ staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the first time in the UK at the BBC Proms 2014 (Sunday 18 January).

 

Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, says: “With definitive biography on BBC TWO, and brilliant performances on both BBC FOUR and Radio 3, this will be a fitting testament to one of the UK’s greatest musical talents. I’m delighted that we’re able to celebrate Sir Simon’s life and achievements across so many BBC channels and services.”

 

Emma Bloxham, Editor, BBC Radio 3, says: “As the home of classical music, BBC Radio 3 will offer some unique insights into Rattle’s development as an artist, and the programming represents a feast of music-making of the very highest quality. We will bring Radio 3 listeners the opportunity to not only hear Rattle live with two of the world’s greatest orchestras, the LSO and the Berliner Philharmoniker, but also recorded in the wonderful Beethoven cycle with the CBSO.”

 

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican Centre, says: “Sir Simon Rattle has been one of our most inspirational musicians for so long that it is a shock to realise he is reaching sixty! His energy and his musical leadership are stronger than ever, and we are delighted to be welcoming him back to the Barbican with both the LSO and the Berliner Philharmoniker. It is great that the BBC, with its renewed commitment to the arts, is marking the occasion so fully across its networks and relaying the concerts from the Barbican Centre during The London Residency 2015.”

 

 

BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 Simon Rattle programming:

 

BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert

  

Tuesday 10 February

Barbican

 

Sibelius: Symphony No.1
Sibelius: Symphony No.2

 

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Wednesday 11 February

Barbican

 

Sibelius: Symphony No.3
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Sibelius: Symphony No.4

 

Leonidas Kavakos violin

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Thursday 12 February

Barbican

 

Sibelius: Symphony No.5
Sibelius: Symphony No.6
Sibelius: Symphony No.7

 

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Saturday 14 February

Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall

 

Lachenmann: Tableau
Mahler: Symphony No.2 (Resurrection)

 

Kate Royal Soprano
Magdalena Koženà Mezzo-soprano
London Symphony Chorus
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle Conductor

BBC Radio 3 In Concert – Rattle conducting his first ever Beethoven symphony cycle in 1995 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Frankfurt

 

Monday 19 January

Beethoven: Symphony No.1

Beethoven: Symphony No.3

 

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Tuesday 20 January:

Beethoven: Fidelio Overture

Beethoven: Leonora No.1 Overture

Beethoven: Leonora No.2 Overture

Beethoven: Symphony No.2

 

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Wednesday 21 January:

Beethoven: Symphony No.4

Beethoven: Funeral March from Leonora Prohaska

Beethoven: Symphony No.5

 

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Thursday 22 January:

Beethoven: Symphony No.6

Beethoven: Symphony No.7

 

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

Friday 23 January:

Beethoven: Symphony No.8

Beethoven: Symphony No.9

 

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle Conductor

 Other highlights include a BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert broadcast of Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and soloists in a performance of Schumann’s 1843 oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri at the Barbican (Sunday 11 January), BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classicsfeaturing Rattle as its Artist of the Week (Monday 19 – Friday 23 January) and BBC Radio 3’s Through the Night offers the chance to listen again to Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker presenting Peter Sellars’ staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the first time in the UK at the BBC Proms 2014 (Sunday 18 January).

 

 

BBC Radio 3 Through The Night

 

Sunday 18 January

A chance to listen again to Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker presenting Peter Sellars’s staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the time in the UK at the BBC Proms 2014

 

 

BBC Radio 3 Essential Classics

 

Monday 19 January-Friday 23 January:

Essential Classics features Simon Rattle as its Artist of the Week throughout the week.

 

 

BBC Two

 

Saturday 14 February

Simon Rattle: The Making of a Maestro

 

 

BBC Four

 

Sunday 15 February

Broadcast of 12 February The London Residency concert at the Barbican, presented by Kirsty Wark

 

Sibelius: Symphony No.5
Sibelius: Symphony No.6
Sibelius: Symphony No.7

 

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle Conductor

 

ENDS

 

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  • If Sir Simon’s 60th birthday is what it takes to get more classical music on BBC TV, then all that needs to be said is “Happy Birthday, Simon”

    • Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.

      I was present at the LSO/Hannigan/Rattle concert in the Barbican last Thursday and it was music-making of an altogether special kind. Simply superb and if Rattle is indeed to be the next LSO chief then a treat lies in store if this sort of standard is what we can expect.

  • I don’t think this is OTT. It’s disproportionate compared to typical BBC TV coverage of classical music but I think this just highlights how poorly BBC TV normally covers serious music. It might reflect the influence of the new BBC director (Tony Hall is his name I think) in which case perhaps we’ll see increased exposure generally. I live in hope…

    • The most interesting words in the press release:

      “It is great that the BBC, with its renewed commitment to the arts, is marking the occasion so fully across its networks…”

  • A fortnight of R3 broadcasts, one BBC2 documentary and a single televised concert on BBC4. You said it yourself: the most successful British conductor who ever lived. And outside the tiny bubble of the classical music establishment, he’s pretty much the only classical musician most British people can actually name: no-one in the pub has heard of Dudamel, Gergiev, Abbado or Barenboim.

    So why, exactly, is this excessive?

  • We can all name the maestri who move on after three or four years and/or hold a few posts simultaneously. Rattle has staying power – necessary with the BPO – and his two orchestras over the years have shown the benefits of that. Of course, it’s also possible to stay too long; I recall members of the then Leningrad Phil expressing exasperation with Mravinski in the 80s and it could even be argued that Barbirolli (another Brit who was lauded in Berlin and Vienna) stayed too long with the Halle. Whereas JB more or less rebuilt the Halle, Rattle inherited an orchestra in decent form from Louis Fremaux. Rattle’s return can only be beneficial, especially if he manages to get “classical” music back on the telly.

  • It’s difficult to comment on this without sounding churlish. The BBC does this – classical music is ignored in much of its programming – the sort that “non-classical” people watch (for lack of a better phrase – you know what I mean) – and then we have huge great dollops of “culture” like this.

    Saw the BBC assembly of extracts covering Plácido Domingo the other day. I was struck by the fact that most of the clips were at least a couple of decades old, when opera singers were allowed to invade the sort of programme that “non-classical” people watch.

    Large dollops of culture like the current Rattle offerings, good though they are, do not IMO encourage the idea amongst the general public that listening to classical music can, believe it or not, be normal.

  • It is not excessive, just amazing and wonderful and so parochial. There are lots of concerts and opera on German, French and Austrian TV. Really it is shocking how little of classical culture we have in the UK. We have the proms and very little else. Even “Symphony” with Simon Russell Beale, whilst interesting, only had little dollops of various symphonies. It’s as if the BBC thinks that the TV viewer cannot sit through a whole piece of music.

    • Couldn’t agree more with your observation about how well classical music is served in most of continental Europe, where thankfully politicians are not such obvious philistines as in the UK. The Franco-German arts channel Arte has just shown an hour long documentary about the new Philharmonie de Paris plus 90 minutes of highlights from the two opening galas. Does the new Paris concert-hall merit so much as a brief mention in any of the BBC’s news programmes? You have to be joking!

      • Did the opening of Harpa in Reykjavik get much coverage in Germany or France, out of curiosity? Parochialism cuts both ways…

        • Take a look at the coverage of world events in any of the German quality newspapers, for instance, or the airtime devoted on news and information stations to what is happening in the rest of the world, and then compare that with what passes for “news” on the BBC and in the dumbed-down so-called quality newspapers in the UK. A missing child somewhere in the UK or yet another celebrity story is deemed to be of much greater importance than, say, elections in Slovenia or a virus affecting herds of reindeer in Scandinavia.

      • Just watched it too! What a stunning venue!

        And last night watched Verdi’s Othello from Salzburg on 3Sat. It’s a quality of life issue for me, these programmes put me on a different planet and really enhance my life. I thought that was supposed to be the BBC’s mission, rather than what it does do, which is depress me utterly with mindless drivel or squabbling journalists and politicians.

        Classical music is reduced to the trasj we got at the Olympic opening ceremony. It had to be comic???

  • It is absolutely appropriate that someone who came from nowhere, became an icon in the UK, then won the accolade of taking over the best orchestra in the world and is now likely to become more visible in the UK – to quote from Aida, “ritorna vincitor” – should be accorded this amount of exposure.

  • Just typical reaction from Brits – unncecessary criticism of something that will be just great. Simon is one of the best and one of the nicest conductors we in Britain have had of any worth, and not only that from Birmingham – not from the London-centred brigade – and I speak as a Londoner so it’s not sour grapes on my part. Americans don’t seem to have any problem with celebrating achievement, and look at the wonderful music we are going to be presented with him conducting. Bring it on … he deserves every bit of it. And who knows how long any of us will be on this earth? Celebrate while people are here, not when they’re dead! Happy birthday Simon!

  • Well said, Graham and Una. I’m heartedly sick of the callow sniping that passes for ‘informed debate’ on blogs like this. I remember Previn once saying that the music will always be better than the best performance a musician can give – and, so, available for others to tackle to the best of their abilities.
    Thank goodness for Rattle, a real pro, and others like him – and let’s celebrate.

  • Una and Mike: Seems to me that the criticism here is mainly concerned with the distribution of classical coverage throughout the year, not Simon Rattle in particular. I find it hard to believe that you have actually read what has been said.

    Everybody here seems to want better coverage on radio and TV. Nothing negative or “sniping” about that, unless sniping is expressing an opinion you disagree with.

    Lastly, the “nice” conductor is from Liverpool, not Birmingham.

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