Simon Rattle, English conductor: “At this time music has been a source of comfort and joy”

The British may not have a gallery of musical patron saints like Bach and Beethoven in Germany or Verdi and Vivaldi in Italy, but their interpreters have always known how to spread music like no one else. Handel made that country his second homeland and created The Messiah there, while Haydn came out of his Austro-Hungarian ostracism when he was commissioned from the great island with his last symphonies. And if it weren’t for directors like Thomas Beecham or Colin Davis, the French composer Hector Berlioz would still be almost unknown.

In the XXI century, that post of musical evangelization was picked up by Simon Rattle, a man who was born in impoverished post-war Liverpool in 1955 and who was immune to The Beatles pop virus, at age 15 he was already conducting his own orchestra at school .

His biography seems like a career of successes transferred to the classical world and at the age of 47 he was already the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the most prestigious in the world. Today and after being in the German group for 16 years, Rattle is the conductor of the London Symphony, the most emblematic of his country.

With it, he continues streaming concerts, an initiative that he pioneered in Berlin and which in times of pandemic became the de facto format for watching music. Gentle in his manners and democratic in dealing with musicians, Rattle is the opposite of the traditional figure of the irascible and authoritarian teacher in the style of Toscanini, Reiner or Karajan.

After giving two concerts with the London Symphony in May 2019 at the CorpArtes Theater, Rattle and his group renewed their relationship with the foundation to offer 12 streaming concerts from Monday the 16th. The so-called Always Playing season will be given on the website by CorpArtes ( and their tickets are already on sale.

From London, the musician gave a written interview to Culto.

-What do you think of the music scene in the pandemic?

-First of all, I think it must be said that this is an extraordinary moment. I know now it feels like we can’t tour again. Yet it has been so encouraging and inspiring to see how musicians and technicians have not been intimidated by the pandemic and have quickly adapted to continue making music in our homes or in the recording studio. It is also gratifying to see how the London Symphony Orchestra has successfully brought much of its educational work online, greatly expanding our digital presence. We have found ways to continue doing what we do best.


-The London Symphony and other orchestras have made great strides in bringing classical music closer through education and outreach work. But what is encouraging in this period is that people’s interest, curiosity and love of music is not diminished. In these difficult times, music has become a source of comfort, joy, and encouragement. I was surprised this weekend by the annual Remembrance Sunday parade in central London when those who have lost their lives in a military conflict are remembered. It is a noble and dignified occasion conducted purely through live music, the profound impact of two minutes of silence, and the sound of a cannon. Speechless. Music and sound communicating everything.

-In the crisis, some governments reduced spending on culture, what is your opinion on this?

-The government of each country will inevitably have a different approach to culture and the arts. In the UK, in recent years, the creative and cultural sectors have responded to the government’s desire for the industry to become more self-sufficient. British cultural organizations have developed business models that provide sources of income from a variety of sources, be it box office, movie rights, broadcast rights, restaurants, bars and retail that can work in conjunction with events. cultural. The government provides money for the artistic seedbed, which in turn generates multiple secondary income. The culture sector has proven adept at adapting to this and is also a magnet for other businesses, creating a vibrant mini-economy. But that is also the reason why the impact of the pandemic has been so profound in the cultural sector and associated industries. The UK government’s response has been to help financially where possible to enable the sector to survive. They believe that a vibrant and robust culture contributes to a healthy society.

-The pandemic prevented the celebrations for the 250 years of Beethoven …

-The point is that Beethoven’s music will be relevant and resonant in all years and times, not just on the anniversary. Somehow I am glad that the pandemic has prevented an excess of Beethoven. So we can comfortably continue to explore his works on concert programs in the future: his influence is everywhere.

-Among the concerts that will be given at CorpArtes you direct Stravinsky. What captivates you about him?

-Igor Stravinsky wrote masterpieces in almost every genre and his ability to reinvent himself meant that the music he composed at age 80 sounded as new as when he stunned the world in 1913 with The Rite of Spring. His influence was enormous, from Aaron Copland to Maurice Ravel. Listening to Stravinsky’s music, one is carried away by his dazzling invention. He unleashed the rhythm as an organizing force, constructing music from small blocks of sound artfully woven into combinations that play with our ears.

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