Rattle, Sir Simon
Rattle, Sir Simon
Rattle, Sir Simon , eminent English conductor; b. Liverpool, Jan. 19, 1955. He began playing percussion and piano in his youth. At age 11, he played percussion with the Merseyside Youth Orch. He also took up conducting, and made his debut with his own Orch. in Liverpool when he was only 15. In 1971 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London on a piano scholarship, but his interest in conducting led him to follow that career choice. While still at the Academy, he won notice as a conductor before completing his studies in 1974. After winning first prize in the John Player International Conducting Competition in 1974, he served as asst. conductor of the Bournemouth Sym. Orch. from 1974 to 1976. In 1975 he made his professional debut as an opera conductor with The Rake’s Progress with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera. He made his first appearance with the Philharmonia Orch. in London in 1976 with notable success, and then made his first tour of the U.S. in 1977 conducting the London Schools Sym. Orch. In 1977 he also made his debut at the Glyndebourne Festival conducting The Cunning Little Vixen. From 1977 to 1980 he was assoc. conductor of the Royal Liverpool Phil, and asst. conductor of the BBC Scottish Sym. Orch. in Glasgow. He made his first appearance as a guest conductor of a U.S. Orch. in 1979 with the Los Angeles Phil. From 1979 to 1984 he was principal conductor of the London Choral Soc. In 1980 he became principal conductor and artistic advisor of the City of Birmingham Sym. Orch., which he proceeded to mold into one of England’s leading Orch.s. He also served as artistic director of the South Bank Music Festival in London from 1981 to 1983, and as principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Phil, from 1981 to 1984 and of the Los Angeles Phil, from 1981 to 1992. In 1985 he made his debut with the English National Opera in London conducting Kát’a Kabanová; . He led the City of Birmingham Sym. Orch. on its first tour of the U.S. in 1988, the same year in which he made his U.S. debut as an opera conductor with Wozzeck in Los Angeles. In 1990 he made his first appearance at London’s Covent Garden conducting The Cunning Little Vixen. Rattle was named music director of the City of Birmingham Sym. Orch. in 1990 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to its success. In 1991 he conducted it in the gala opening concert of Birmingham’s new Sym. Hall. From 1992 he also was principal guest conductor of the Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment in London. During these years, he appeared as a guest conductor with several of the world’s major Orch.s. In 1998 he concluded his tenure with the City of Birmingham Sym. Orch., and became one of the most sought after guest conductors in the world. In 2002 he was to assume the position of artistic director of the Berlin Phil. During his extensive tenure in Birmingham, Rattle became known for his eclectic programming that paid special regard to the music of the 20th century. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the Univ. of Birmingham (1985), Birmingham Polytechnic (1985), and the Univ. of Oxford (1999). In 1987 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1994 he was knighted. He was made an honorary fellow of St. Anne’s Coll., Oxford, in 1991. In 1995 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. He received the Albert Medal of the Royal Soc. of Arts in 1997.
N. Kenyon, S. R.: The Making of a Conductor (London, 1987).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire