Simon Rattle appointed music director of London Symphony Orchestra

Conductor to follow in footsteps of André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas, Colin Davis and current incumbent, Valery Gergiev

Sir Simon Rattle has been appointed as the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.

The news, as big as it gets in the world of classical music, ends months of speculation that Rattle would return to the UK when his tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic finished.

The conductor will take up the appointment in September 2017, following in the footsteps of principal conductors including André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Colin Davis and the current incumbent, Valery Gergiev, who is heading to the Munich Philharmonic.

Rattle appeared at a press conference at the Barbican, where the LSO is resident, on Tuesday morning.

He said: “During my work with the LSO over the last years, I noticed that despite the orchestra’s long and illustrious history, they almost never refer to it. Instead, refreshingly, they talk about the future, what can they make anew, what can they improve, how can they reach further into the community.

“In terms of musical excellence, it is clear that the sky’s the limit, but equally important, in terms of philosophy, they constantly strive to be a 21st-century orchestra.

“We share a dream in which performing, teaching and learning are indivisible, with wider dissemination of our art at its centre. I cannot imagine a better or more inspiring way to spend my next years, and feel immensely fortunate to have the LSO as my musical family and co-conspirators.”

A deciding factor in Rattle agreeing to take the baton of the LSO would appear to be the enthusiasm of the chancellor, George Osborne, for a new concert hall in London.

Rattle has made it clear that he believes London lacks a truly outstanding concert hall. He once said of the Royal Festival Hall: “The will to live slips away in the first half-hour of rehearsal.” And the Barbican’s hall has been described by him as serviceable.

In an interview with the BBC last month he said London and Munich were the two great cities in the world which did not have proper concert halls.“The music lovers of London and the country deserve to have something where also the orchestras can flourish. You have no idea how wonderful an orchestra like the London Symphony Orchestra can sound in a great concert hall.”

He said the schedule of the LSO was too brutal, sparking speculation that he would come back to the UK only on his own terms.

Within weeks of his concert hall comments the government announced a feasibility study into a new venue to be chaired by the departing director of the National Theatre, Sir Nicholas Hytner.

If it happened, some have speculated it could cost up to £200m. How much of that might come from the public purse is unknown.

Osborne told the Evening Standard he had made his decision after speaking to “the likes of Sir Simon Rattle” who had impressed on him “the significant artistic, educational and economic benefits that a modern concert hall would bring not just to London but the whole country”.

Rattle was expected to talk at the press conference about his vision for universal access to music, with children and young people at its heart.

Kathryn McDowell, managing director of the LSO, said: “This is the realisation of a dream, to bring Simon Rattle back to his home country to lead the extraordinary musicians of the LSO. We look forward to a new chapter of ambitious music-making that reaches deep into the communities we serve and touches people’s lives with the power of music.”

Rattle has been in charge at Berlin since 2002, after making his name through the brilliant and transformative leadership of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra between 1980 and 1998.

He first appeared with the LSO as a 22-year-old in 1977 and conducted the orchestra – and Rowan Atkinson – at the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony.

In January he conducted the LSO’s concerts of Schumann, Stravinsky, Webern, Berg and Ligeti at the Barbican.

• This article was amended on 3 March 2015. An earlier version said that Rattle first conducted the LSO at the age of 22 in 2002.


Mark Brown

The GuardianTramp

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