March 3, 2015 / 11:14 AM / 4 years ago

Conductor Rattle heads to London, wants 'theatrical' concerts

LONDON (Reuters) - International conducting star Simon Rattle said he hoped to make the concert experience more theatrical to attract younger audiences, as the London Symphony Orchestra announced on Tuesday he would become its fulltime music director in 2017.

Conductor Simon Rattle takes part in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Rattle, 60, who will combine his new job with his current role as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic until 2018, said he had learned a lot since joining the German ensemble more than a decade ago.

“It’s been fascinating to work in such a different type of culture,” Rattle, whose move to London was one of the worst kept secrets in music, said at a news conference announcing his appointment by the LSO.

“I’ve learned an enormous amount and probably the orchestra has taken on a few things,” Rattle said of the Berlin ensemble, often ranked as the world’s best orchestra.

Rattle said he planned to keep a home in the German capital where he lives with his Czech mezzo-soprano wife Magdalena Kozena and their three children.

He said his posting in London, where he takes over from Russian maestro Valery Gergiev, who ends his stint as principal conductor this year, would probably be his last.

“This is my last job, this is my last big job,” Rattle said, adding that he expected to work beyond an initial five-year contract.

He said he and the LSO musicians and management saw eye-to-eye on the need for more music education and community outreach, and on making classical music more exciting and accessible.

“There are all kinds of possibilities of how we can change the concert experience and make things more theatrical,” Rattle said, noting that he had been in touch with directors like Peter Sellars and Simon McBurney to work on semi-staged productions.

Rattle, who joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002, would not be drawn on who he thought his successor might be. He also sidestepped the issue of whether London needed a new concert hall, for which a feasibility study has been announced.

“I think it’s going to be incredibly important not only for the orchestra and the city but the country as a whole to bring a new vision to music, one that includes as many people as possible...but now we await with interest what comes next,” he said.

Rattle, born in Liverpool, earned a reputation as a whiz-kid conductor following his graduation from London’s Royal Academy of Music in 1974, where he won a prestigious conducting competition.

From 1980-1998 he was principal conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He pushed for a new Symphony Hall which opened in 1991 and is considered one of the best in Britain.

Editing by Jon Boyle

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