Let us pray for Simon Rattle

Let us pray for Simon Rattle


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2020

To advertise its return to live performance in the coming week, the London Symphony Orchestra called in its regular shill at the Times for a tame chat with the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sure enough, the newspaper did them proud, adding an unsuspecting clericalism to the function of peripatetic music director.

Peace be upon ye all.


  • V. Lind says:

    Holy Crap.

  • annon says:

    The English press is the best in the world in hyping and promoting its own beyond what they should otherwise achieve purely on their true merits, Simon Rattle being Exhibit A.

    Was Rattle a prodigy? Certainly.
    Is Rattle a good conductor? Undoubtedly.
    Did he deserve Berlin? Questionable.
    Did he accomplish much with Berlin? Even more questionable.
    Is he the best for LSO now? Undoubtedly.
    Will he accomplish much with the LSO? His record argued 50-50 before Covid.

    Yes indeed, pray for him. Not pray to him.

    • Richard Craig says:

      Carlos Klieber was supposed to have commented one that he wasn’t rattled by Rattle

      • MacroV says:

        Much as I love Klieber, Sir Simon stepped up to the challenge of leading the Berlin Phil. Klieber declined.

        • Brettermeier says:

          @Richard Craig: Kleiber, not Klieber.

          @MacroV: Kleiber, not Klieber.

        • mary says:

          Most conductors do better work with their favorite orchestra than with Berlin when given the opportunity to work with Berlin, including, at times, Karajan.

          Berlin gives you Berlin, not what the conductor wants.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          That’s perfectly true (but I still loved Kleiber anyway!).

        • Allen says:

          Who is Klieber? Kleiber was, at the very least, among the greats. And he could spell!
          Rattle is a good conductor with, I think, mixed results in Berlin. And he can probably spell too!

      • Barry Guerreroq says:

        While Kleiber was outstanding, the repertoire that Rattle has under his belt is probably 60 or 70 times that of Kleiber. How’s Kleiber in “Gurre-lieder”. How’s Kleiber in “Le Sacre du Printemps”? How’s Kleiber in Mahler 7? And on and on it goes.

    • Iain says:

      “The English press is the best in the world in hyping and promoting its own beyond what they should otherwise achieve purely on their true merits”

      Well it certainly has some stiff competition, even within the UK.

      Been to Scotland recently?

    • sam says:

      Wrong. Sir John Barbirolli is Exhibit A.

      Somehow, he succeeded Toscanini as music director of the New York Philharmonic.

      • Fliszt says:

        The “somehow” was Arthur Judson” – the tone-deaf despot who controlled the american music scene from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.

        • Novagerio says:

          Fliszt: Tone-deaf maybe, but with a better nose than today’s market rulers!
          Stokowski, Bruno Walter, Klemperer, Koussevitzky, Reiner, Szell, Rodzinski, Bernstein, Ormandy and basically all conductors that ruled musical America between the 30s and 60s were on his roster
          (even Furtwängler was briefly in his roster). And they were there to form the orchestras and the public taste, as opposed to just getting a fanzy gig (!)

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Barbirolli was a marvelous conductor.
        Anyone who had the misfortune to follow Toscanini was in for a rough ride.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Brilliant analysis, annon. I wish you would expand more on your statements though!

  • Player says:

    There is a similarity between conductors and clergy in that both groups believe they have wisdom and knowledge to teach. Also, neither can exist without those who raise them up.

    • Tamino says:

      Your last sentence entails the essence of the dilemma.
      The need of the gullible masses for adulation of something and someone above them.
      People suck.

  • Player says:

    Still not performing to an actual audience where they are playing… Rattle’s first LSO concert at St Luke’s is online only. Quite why is anyone’s guess. Some of the later ones would appear to allow booking (date TBC).

    • Tony says:

      Reasonable guess justifying lack of audience is lack of space, nothing to do with Covid provisions. Distancing means a full orchestra has to spread out a lot and in bigger pieces some players may end up in the balcony. Insufficient left over to deliver many audience seats.

      St. Luke’s main floorspace is about 21m x 15m, which is comparable to the stage performance area of the Barbican Hall on its own.

  • icebreaker says:

    Oh jeez, seriously? This man knows no humility

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    An archbishop, a conductor and a rabbit walk into a bar.
    Says the bartender to the rabbit:
    “You’re an honest-to-god typo.
    The other two are just Acts of God.”

    • Edgar Self says:

      A rabbi, a bishop, and a semi-conductor walk into a bar. the barkeep looks up and says, “What is this, some kind of a joke?”

  • Peter Macklin says:

    Whether or not you enjoy Sir Simon’s performances is a matter of taste. One thing’s for sure though – he’s done a lot more for classical music than any critic that I know of!

  • William Safford says:

    I am glad that he is not ill.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Conductors have become too important, as if they were alone responsible of all the music making in an orchestra concert. The adoration; the image of the powerful and charismatic mysterious man (most of them are ‘hombre’), holding a phallic symbol of music power in his hand, “who extracts music” from an ensemble who would, without him, be lost and uncapable of producing music etc. are only distracting audiences from what really matters: the music. Rattle, with whom I have worked in the past, is a good example of this: please stop looking at him, and listen to what he does and figure out if what he does make the music result better or not….

    In my experience he added little, but the truth is that very few of the living conductors really can make a difference in the performance of a top professional orchestra.

  • Edgar Self says:

    But will he go as husband, father, heart-breaker, deal-maker, date -saver, church layman, conductor, percussionist, or member of the Rattle-Battle-Ax trio?
    His place in historyy is safe: a dull set of Beethoven symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic. Not every conductor can do that, though many have.