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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Simon Rattle's journey to Berlin
Simon Rattle
Rattle's move to Berlin has raised high expectations
It would be tempting to see Sir Simon's role as chief conductor and artistic advisor to the orchestra as the crowning achievement of a remarkable career.

But at only 46, the energetic Rattle probably has plenty of other ambitions to satisfy.

Simon Rattle
Rattle: won a conducting prize at 19
He has always been precociously talented.

Born in Liverpool in January 1955, he appeared as a percussionist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at just 11 years old.

He joined the National Youth Orchestra and at the age of l6 went to the Royal Academy of Music in London to study conducting.


In 1974 he won first prize in the John Player International Conducting Competition and became assistant conductor of both the Bournemouth Symphony and Sinfonietta for three years.

At just 21, Rattle made his US debut on tour with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Simon Rattle
Rattle has made over sixty recordings
His first professional performance in the US was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra a few years later.

Rattle made his first Glyndebourne Festival appearance in 1977, and in the same year became assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) named him its Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser in 1980, and with a change of title to Music Director, Rattle remained with the ensemble until 2000.

With the advantage of a brand-new and highly regarded venue, the Symphony Hall which opened in 1991, the orchestra went from strength to strength under Rattle's baton.


The conductor took the CBSO on frequent wide-ranging tours, including visits to Europe, Scandinavia, the Far East, and North America.

Simon Rattle
Sir Simon: many honours - beside his knighthood.
But his involvement with the CBSO did not prevent Rattle conducting a wide range of top ensembles - including the Cleveland Orchestra and Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Boston Symphony Orchestras, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra where he was Principal Guest Conductor from 1981 until 1994.

Mainly with EMI, he has made more than sixty recordings, which between them have gained many international awards - especially for Mahler works, one of Rattle's specialities.

His tenure at the CBSO ended in 2000 with the Towards The Millennium concert series which had great success at concerts in Birmingham, London, Frankfurt, Baden Baden and Vienna.


As befits such a career, Rattle has been bestowed with honours.

In the 1987 New Years Honours Simon Rattle was awarded the CBE for his services to Music and in June 1994 he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Birthday Honours List.

He has received the Montblanc de la Culture award for his devotion to cultural endeavour, Honorary Doctorates of Music by the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool - and he was chosen Artist of the Year at the prestigious 1993 Gramophone Awards.

He was also honoured as Officier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in November 1995 and awarded the Toepfer Foundation of Hamburg's 1996 Shakespeare Prize for his outstanding contribution to European arts.

His appointment to Berlin is also an honour for Rattle - but at the same time a sign that the venerable orchestra is ready for fresh thinking and new approaches from the adventurous conductor.

There are always sensitive political considerations involved in taking over an orchestra - but Rattle's successful campaign to improve the salaries at the Berlin Philharmonic before even picking up the baton is likely to stand him in good stead.

See also:

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