Simon Rattle offers up musical 'tapas bar' for first season in London

FILE PHOTO - 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/File Photo
FILE PHOTO – 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/File Photo


By Estelle Shirbon
| LONDON

Conductor Simon Rattle unveiled what he described as a musical “tapas bar” on Tuesday as he presented an eclectic program for his first season with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO).

Rattle, the outgoing chief conductor of the prestigious Berliner Philharmoniker, will take up his new role as music director of the LSO in September and will be running both orchestras concurrently for the 2017-2018 season.

“I’m doing the insane thing for one year that I promised I would never do in my life, run two orchestras at the same time,” Rattle told a news conference in London.

“I hope the season is like a tapas bar of the type of things I have in mind,” he said of his plans for the LSO.

The season will range from challenging contemporary works and new commissions by young composers to old favorites by the likes of Edward Elgar, Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy, Dmitri Shostakovich and Ludwig van Beethoven.

The season will culminate with a performance of German modernist Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Gruppen”, a work for 120 musicians divided into three orchestras, in the monumental Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern gallery, a former power station.

An instantly recognizable figure with his shock of white curls, Rattle, 61, is one of the biggest names in classical music.

He has worked with the LSO many times as a guest conductor. They reached an audience of hundreds of millions when they performed Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics with comedy character Mr Bean.

Rattle brings star power to the 113-year-old LSO as it tries to get a proposed new concert hall off the ground. The project is costed at 278 million pounds ($345 million), a daunting sum at a time of government budget austerity and economic uncertainty.

The orchestra is currently based at the Barbican Centre, which is considered by music lovers to have too small a stage and flawed acoustics.

“It’s very clear that we can do a lot of wonderful work in the Barbican, but it’s also clear that there’s about 20 percent of the repertoire that we can’t,” Rattle said.

The project to build a new venue suffered a setback in November when the government pulled funding for a business plan to be completed by 2018, but the City of London corporation, which runs the financial district, announced last week it would plug the gap.

“There are so many questions. It’s an if not a when,” Rattle said of the proposed new venue, adding that the project was “terribly important”.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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