Rattle’s rants sound futile from afarNews
The conductor Sir Simon Rattle occupies page 3 of the Times today, attacking Arts Council England and the BBC for their anti-classical bias.
The thrust of his argument: “So many decisions seem to have been made by people who don’t have a clue how the classical music business works,” Rattle asserts. “So of course many of those decisions are starting to unravel — which may almost be a mercy.”
“It’s certainly strange,” Rattle says. “Nicholas Serota [ACE’s chairman] is an extremely intelligent and cultured person, but it’s very clear he has no idea how the music business operates. But what really puzzles people in the music sector is why we aren’t being consulted and asked for input.”
These barbs are as unfocussed as the anti-classical policies he deplores. Rattle has not lived in England this century. He is just giving up a fly-in post with the London Symphony Orchestra to devote the next stage of his life to Munich. He is a German citizen, with a German family, and it’s no surprise to read that his vision of Albion has become blurred by distance.
To deal briskly with his points. Serota is knowledgeable about music and does consult within the industry (though perhaps not with single-issue conductors). In any event, it is not the ACE chairman who makes the decisions or even the chief exec, Darren Henley, who is a lifelong classical freak. Recommendations come from grassroots boards and are passed upwards by activist executives in London. To reverse ACE policy, Serota and Henley would have to sack senior staff.
Much has changed in arts administration since Rattle last lived here. ACE is just another dumb state bureaucracy, not a nursemaid to the arts. Rattle has clearly not kept up with the pace, nor has his Times interviewer dared to challenge his views.
Rattle, 68, still cares about England but no longer knows where the levers of power lie, or whether a storm phoned in from Berlin will have any effect on the BBC weather forecast. The political lobbying that Rattle once conducted so successfully from Birmingham has lost its cutting edge – as he should have learned when his demand for a new concert hall in London fell on deaf ears. Rattle, sad to say, is a spent force in Britain. He needs now to turn his considerable intelligence and attention to the German future.
Read the Times interview for yourselves here.