After Rattle, where does the LSO turn?

After Rattle, where does the LSO turn?


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2021

Spin as they might, the London Symphony Orchestra are now in a hole sixty feet deeper than the Barbican Hall.

They’ve had six months to get used to the idea that Simon Rattle had bought a parachute and was bailing out over Munich, and they’ll still enjoy his services as music director for the next two years and a half.

But the LSO’s entire business plan was predicated on Rattle bringing them profitable international tours, a high profile and wealthy donors. Covid and Brexit have killed the tours and their profile takes a fatal hit with Rattle’s departure.

The options are:

– to go for another well-connected conductor – Antonio Pappano and Gianandrea Noseda are two internal favourites;

– to grab a young talent who’s ready for the next step – Mirga, if she’s willing;

– or to completely change course and devise a survival plan for post-Brexit Britain.

Time is short and they desperately need fresh thinking.


  • Rogerio says:

    Please, no more Rattle!
    Give us a break.

  • Dennis Davis says:

    Surely it must now be Daniel Harding’s turn!

  • pjl says:

    Surely Mirga will not give up the great CBSO family and its superb concert hall for the Barbican? Will Rattle advocate fort his protegee Karina CANNELAKIS? Just before lockdown on March 9th her debut with the LSO was impressive and the programming was interesting. She works a lot with Tiberghien, one of the finest of today’s pianists: their Saint-Saens 5 in Oxford (Jan 2017) was superb. Problem is her jobs in the Netherlands, Berlin and with the LPO, of which she would need to leave two, I presume. Daniel Harding is another obvious possibility and Rattle protegee; pilot duties permitting. Given the risk they took with Previn would another conductor with such wide musical interests be a commercial success for them: John Wilson?

    • Karl says:

      Karina Canellakis is cool. I’ve seen her several times with different orchestras. They always play great for her. She seems too young for the position, but I would think she still merits consideration.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I’m not understanding why the LPO would be considered a lower step than the LSO. Both are very good, but slightly different.

  • Appleby says:

    The very idea that a London orchestra – disengaged and fragmented audiences, mediocre venues, rat-race lifestyles, stuggling managements, endless inartistic competition – is “the next step” from the CBSO or any of the major regional UK orchestras…I mean, wow.

    Wow. As if Rattle himself didn’t comprehensively demolish that whole notion three decades ago. Welcome to 1970, people…

    • Helen says:

      The chip-on-shoulder CBSO fan mentality is not a good look.

      Better hope that Mirga doesn’t move south…

    • M Ahern says:

      Appleby – Rattle moved from Birmingham to Berlin to London, not the other way around. Nor is he returning to Birmingham. I also seem to recall that he took the Birmingham job because he believed that he had been snubbed by one of the London orchestras. Not his first choice then?

      Promote Birmingham by all means but silly generalisations do not impress.

    • BruceB says:

      “endless inartistic competition”

      Can’t tell if that was a typo or not.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    The John Wilson suggestion was novel and thought-provoking.

  • RW2013 says:

    Do people really decide to go to a concert on the basis of who the chief conductor of the orchestra is?

    • J Barcelo says:

      Yes. And orchestra management, too. They all need to read a great book, The Maestro Myth, and open their eyes. One thing that the CD era did was let us hear some great music from obscure places with conductors most people have never heard of – and they’re just as good as the big names. The German label CPO has uncovered many fine conductors. But people are stuck in the Star System mentality. As it turns out, some of “great” conductors really aren’t.

    • henry williams says:

      some do. they used to que for hours to see karajan.
      or Bernstein. when abbado took over the BPO not
      such a long que.

      • RW2013 says:

        There were lots of things we did when we lived in a Golden Age.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Back in the 1970s and 1980s, for some events with superstars, I remember having queued for hours or having used connections to find tickets. And I fondly remember a corrupt usher at the Vienna Musikverein… Now I am more likely to worry about finding an empty auditorium.

      • Alexander T says:

        Can’t think why.

    • BruceB says:

      Actually, very often the answer is yes. If the conductor is a celebrity, people will buy tickets just to see him (still usually a him, when it comes to celebrities at least) and to be able to say they did. There aren’t very many of those, but Rattle is definitely one of them.

      (Sometimes they are also great conductors, although there is usually endless disagreement about that.)

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      Of course most people go to a concert based on who is conducting, in the same way people will go to an opera performance based on who is singing: it’s why when Netrebko (insert other star names here….) is singing the performances sell out. Why would you not go? The first opera I saw when I was a kid was ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ and I went because Lucia was sung by Joan Sutherland. She was amazing: at the curtain she got a standing ovation & daffodils, thrown by some of the audience, rained down and filled the forestage. The calls went on for ever. Later I learned that it was her last ever performance of the role.

  • Gustavo says:



  • Kevin B. says:

    I tip on Daniele Gatti.
    His rendition fo Mahler’s Seventh has been the best concert of LSO in the last decade by far (

  • Rob says:

    Dima Slobodeniouk.

    Needs a youngish person and Dima is pretty brilliant.

    Lahav Shani very talented too.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Not Noseda, please! We need him badly in Washington, where, yes, he indeed made a difference. And, in any case, his contract there is until 2026 I think.

    • The View from America says:

      What, Eschenbach wasn’t your cup of tea?

      Join the throngs.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        Actually, I enjoyed a number of Eschenbach concerts, the Bruckner 6 and the Fidelio being especially memorable. And Eschenbach has that spontaneity that maddens the musicians but yields some exciting if sloppy concerts. He is a good musician, even though his stick technique is problematic. Plus he hired some good musicians.

        But Noseda is the right person to take the National Symphony to the next level and, as I said, already made a difference. So it’s not a matter of damn Eschenbach, hail Noseda. Just that it is Noseda is more consistent, and his concerts were wonderful for the most part.

  • Mystic Chord says:

    As a Barbican regular (yes, I love the venue and architecture) and fan of the LSO I would be very happy to see more of Gianandrea Noseda – he delivered a captivating Tchaikovsky 5 at the end of 2019 and I really liked the way he engaged the audience, who really responded to his personality and performance.

    I’d be very interested to know what the LSO feel about Rattle ‘hanging around’ now and who they might favour themselves as a replacement.


    May I make a few comments?

    1. The LSO has always toured extensively long before Rattle came.
    2. The LSO had a high international profile long before Rattle came. It still does.
    3. Rattle has been in post for some time now and I’m not aware of the appearance of any wealthy donors.
    4. Covid has stopped touring for all orchestras. Once we get back to “normal”, touring may become possible again and no doubt the LSO will be out there.
    5. Rattle is going to be around for some time and the LSO, as Norman says, has known of the possibility of his departure for months.
    6. No conductor can be considered bigger than his orchestra (not since Karajan anyway). The LSO will survive this and a new MD/PC will be appointed. (For what it’s worth, my suggestion is Pappano.)
    7. I don’t believe Brexit will have nearly as adverse an effect on orchestras as has been predicted.

    • Tristan says:

      Can’t agree more and it’s absolutely hilarious to cry for the overrated SR! He did a poor job in Berlin, a disastrous one at the Salzburg Easter Festival and Munich definitely should have gone for the next generation!
      They get at least Jurowski at the Opera after the Maestro du jour has finally taken over Berlin and since then the orchestra is back to its greatness
      Rattle is the most overrated conductor of our time

  • IP says:

    Easy: if there is no Venezuelan female available, then go for either.

  • Gustavo says:

    Andris Nelsons

  • David says:


  • Rob says:

    Sian Edwards, she’s pretty good!

  • Gustavo says:

    Elim Chan

  • phf655 says:

    Am I missing something? The journey from London to Munich by air is shorter than the journey from Berlin to Munich by train (about 4 hours now). By air it is 2 hours (London to Munich) as against 1 hour (Berlin to Munich). The new Berlin airport is a long way out of town as is the Munich airport, and there are no high speed rail connections. In short, I’m surprised that there isn’t more speculation about the real reason why Rattle is leaving the LSO.

    • 5566hh says:

      How is the journey from London to Munich relevant? Rattle lives in Berlin; there would be no need for him to commute from London to Munich

    • Greg Bottini says:

      “….the real reason why Rattle is leaving the LSO”?
      MONEY. it’s the MONEY.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Airports have longer commutes and waiting times than railway stations. Moreover, for many people a train ride is more relaxing, physically and mentally. Arguably a Berlin/Munich commute between is more manageable than Berlin/London, but that alone shouldn’t be the primary criterion.

    • Tomas says:

      He’s been pretty clear: he wants to live in Berlin with his wife and kids. He still conducts in Berlin, he’s got the Czech orchestra 2-3 hours away and they adore him, and who knows – he may pick up invites from Dresden and Leipzig, plus Vienna is just down the road if they want to see if again – and all that without even mentioning Munich.
      I’m not a huge Rattle fan but I am of Czech descent and I can tell you – with a Czech wife and lots of cash London just cannot compete…

  • Karl says:

    John Storgårds. He can play violin too.

  • Gustavo says:


  • Herr Doktor says:

    Alondra de la Parra


  • Orin says:

    Rouvali of Finland would be a good choice….

  • Mark (London) says:

    Mark Wigglesworth..went to many of his BBCNOW concerts and he TVdoes 20th century music with great insight

    • Karl says:

      And he’s a Brit. I don’t know hm that well though. I only saw him once that I recall when he filled in for Temirkanov in Boston.

  • AWT says:

    Francois Xavier Roth.

    • Karl says:

      Roth is good, but can he draw an audience? Best Heldenleben I ever heard was him conducting last season in Montreal. The hall was only half full though.

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    I agree about Mirga. Another conductor who should be at the top of the list is Edward Gardner.

  • Walter says:

    God! This must be the elite forum in the world. Everyone knows the answer to everything. All established practitioners are always overrated. One thing defeats me – I haven’t heard of any of you! Tell us what you do so we can slag you off as well.

  • Walter says:

    This is easy but I’m sure you’ll all tell me why not. Manfred Honeck. If you don’t know why then you haven’t been paying attention in Pittsburgh. Fulfills all criteria and then some.

  • Player says:

    This is the list: Honeck, Thielemann, Pappano.