Berlin to fire Rattle?

An article in the Daily Telegraph suggests that the musicians of the
Berlin Philharmonic may be about to fire their music director, Sir
Simon Rattle:

Sir Simon Rattle’s future as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic could be in doubt because of his own musicians.

Rumours of unrest emerged after Sir Simon announced the orchestra’s programme for the year.

They are reportedly going to vote on whether to keep him in the next few days.

Sir Simon took over in 2002 and is under contract until 2012 despite
describing his relationship with the players as "turbulent".

"The orchestra and Sir Simon are in the process of negotiating," said Stefan Stahnke, a spokesman for the Philharmonic.

"The orchestra has a very democratic tradition. It’s often called the
orchestra republic – the musicians decide their chief conductor

A positive vote could pave the way for Sir Simon’s contract to be
extended but a rejection could force him into the arms of competing

The editor of the British Gramaphone magazine warns the musicians they would be making a big mistake if they voted Rattle out:

"It would be a tragedy and reflect incredibly badly on the Berlin Philharmonic if they did it," Mr (James) Jolly said.

Jolly must have a unique definition of "tragedy." But perhaps the Elders of Gramaphone get to decide what’s "tragic" in our business.

I have no idea what’s going on in Berlin. But this article seems like a pre-emptive strike by Sir Simon’s supporters. The give-away is the imputation of motives to the musicians; Jolly was quoted as saying:

"The musicians like an autocratic approach but he’s very collegial. The fact that he’s English and not Teutonic can’t help.

"I suspect this comes from the old guard harking back to Karajan."

Or it simply could be that they’ve decided they’re just not that into him. I have a hard time believing that they don’t like being treated “collegially,” whatever that means when applied to a conductor. And I believe the fact that he was English and most of the orchestra was German was known even when he was hired.

If their feelings about him have changed, they have my sympathy. I’m not that into him myself. After having seen him conduct Berlin in a Mozart program at Carnegie a couple of years ago, I wanted to throttle him for conducting the most gimmicky Mozart performances I had ever heard. There might as well have been neon signs over the orchestra flashing “another brilliant idea from Simon” every 10 seconds or so. I know semplice is a hard concept, but he’s old enough to know better than to jerk around a great Mozart symphony that way. Mozart doesn’t need that kind of help.

Fortunately Alfred Brendel was playing K. 595 that night, and that was breathtakingly beautiful – and semplice to the point of self-abnegation. Even Rattle got on board – for that piece at least. In the Prague symphony, self-indulgence once again ruled the roost.

I have no doubt, as Jolly suggests elsewhere in the article, that Rattle would have no trouble landing a major position elsewhere. I also have no doubt that Berlin would somehow make do without Rattle and might even find a competent replacement. And of course the Brits would get to beat up on the Germans yet again, which has got to be an attractive prospect for Mr. Jolly and his cohorts. One would have a hard time, reading the English press, figuring out just who won WW2.


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