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Sir Simon Rattle ©Oliver Helbig

Portrait Sir Simon Rattle

At the start of 2021 a seismic announcement sent a pretty powerful shockwave around the world of classical music. To the astonishment of many music lovers on both sides of the Channel, Sir Simon Rattle gave notice that he will leave London, his new musical home, again in 2023 to become chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich. He had only recently returned to the UK to lead the very fine and long-established London Symphony Orchestra into a successful future as its music director. But Rattle simply wishes to be closer to his family – his wife Magdalena Kožená and the children, who have continued to live in Berlin.

Until the Liverpool-born Rattle officially bids farewell to the LSO, the orchestra with which he made his debut aged just 22, its musicians and conductor have big plans to fulfil together. They include two guest appearances in Cologne as part of the new season's three Rattle portraits. And if we add in the third concert, when the charismatic conductor directs the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, we discern German and Austrian Romanticism and Modernism as the musical thread running through this concert series.

Sir Simon has known all of the works inside out for years. And his remarkable instinct for the religious and tonal worlds that Anton Bruckner unfolds in his symphonies has been evident since he performed the famous 'Romantic' Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic as long ago as 2007. Now Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra present this Fourth Symphony from a new, exciting perspective inspired by historical performance practice as they invite us to step inside the workshop of an extremely self-critical composer. Firstly they perform two movements from the first version of the Fourth Symphony and, in the second half of the concert, the revised, second version of the symphony with its lush horn calls, the version that is most frequently played.

For their second concert Simon Rattle and the LSO leave behind late-nineteenth century Vienna, where Bruckner died in 1896, and travel to two other music metropolises of the time, Leipzig and Paris. The first piece in this concert is Robert Schumann's Second Symphony, which was premiered by the composer's friend Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig in October 1846. Rattle came slightly late to Schumann the symphonist but had already proved himself in 2014 to be a mesmerising and knowledgeable Schumann interpreter with his complete recording of the four symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. "He is the echt Romantic", says Rattle, in his funny and charming mix of English and German. For the second work in this concert we then cross to Paris where Kurt Weill composed The Seven Deadly Sins to a text by Bertolt Brecht in 1933. This music with its jazz elements is another perfect fit for Simon Rattle – for him genres are a boundary-free zone.

For his third portrait concert Rattle turns finally to Gustav Mahler, a composer he took dearly to heart even during his years with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Rattle first recorded Mahler's The Song of the Earth way back in 1995. He recorded this important late work for a second time in 2018 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and his wife, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená. Rattle will be joined in Cologne by Kožená and by tenor Andrew Staples as he delves once more into the tonal and expressive depths of this moving orchestral song cycle. For this performance he has chosen Glen Cortese's arrangement for chamber orchestra, which reflects the intimacy of this music even more intensely. Beforehand we hear a performance of Richard Strauss's Metamorphoses in which the emotional affinity between the two friends Strauss and Mahler is unmistakable, as is that between Simon Rattle and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Portrait Sir Simon Rattle Concerts





Magdalena Kožená | Andrew Staples | Chamber Orchestra of Europe | Sir Simon Rattle

Mahler | Strauss

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