News: Sir Simon Rattle, the London Concerts & the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus

Classical news

21 December 2009

Sir Simon RattleWhen some months ago the entire future of the Easter Festival by the Berlin Philharmonic, traditionally held in Salzburg, was for technical reasons in jeopardy, Sir Simon Rattle and the Management of the orchestra approached Dr. Andreas Molich-Zebhauser, Intendant of the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, to ask whether they could offer their house for the continuation of the Festival.

The venue in Baden-Baden, quite apart from its superb
facilities, lies in a most favourable geographical position, at a point where communications with France, Switzerland and virtually all parts of Germany and Austria connect it by train, motorways and an airport only a few minutes away from the House.

It has already often been mooted that a major Festival in the Festspielhaus would create a new focal point between Salzburg and Bayreuth.

It happens that the difficulties in Salzburg have now been resolved, but the groundwork has already been laid for potential new projects to be planned in co-operation between Sir Simon and Dr. Molich-Zebhauser.

The news comes a week after Rattle announced he is to return to London in 2011 in an unprecedented collaboration between the Barbican Centre and the Southbank Centre. The Berlin Philharmonic will appear in a series of concerts under Rattle, straddling both venues - which are traditionally seen as rivals.

Once the darling of the British music establishment, Rattle has had a rough ride from the critics since joining the Berlin Philharmonic, though the orchestra itself has shown its approval by recently extending his contract to 2020.

The four-part London concert series starts on 20 February 2011 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where Rattle will conduct Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony. The concert will also include smaller works by Schubert and Schoenberg.

The Barbican concerts feature Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète and Mahler's Symphony No 4 (with German soprano Christine Schäfer) on 21 February and Haydn's Symphony No 99, Schubert's Symphony No 9 and the UK premiere of Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa's Horn concerto, co-commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker, The ZaterdagMatinee and the Barbican, on 22 February. At the Royal Festival Hall finale the orchestra performs, together with French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann, Wolf's Elfenlied, Brahms' Es tönt ein voller Harfenklang and Mahler's Symphony No. 3.

Rattle himself commented: 'I am delighted to be returning to London with the Berliner Philharmoniker in February 2011 for this major four-day project at the Barbican and Southbank Centre. This is a rare opportunity for us to perform four concerts over consecutive days, and will enable us to share with London audiences the heart of our work, from Austro-Germanic composers such as Schubert and Mahler, to new work such as the Barbican co-commission of Hosokawa’s Horn Concerto. I am particularly pleased that our visit opens with a chamber music concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, spotlighting individual talents from the Orchestra.'

Whether or not they will be a critical success seems irrelevant, since the London concerts are already approaching sell-out, demonstrating the excitement Rattle still holds over his home audience.

by Francis Shelton and Dominic McHugh

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