Berlin Philharmonic considers extending Rattle contract

23rd April 2008, Comments 0 comments

While the 53-year-old Rattle contract with the orchestra runs until 2012, the members of the famously democratic orchestra will consider next year whether to agree to extend the Liverpool-born conductor's tenure at the helm of the Philharmonic.

While the 53-year-old Rattle contract with the orchestra runs until 2012, the members of the famously democratic orchestra will consider next year whether to agree to extend the Liverpool-born conductor's tenure at the helm of the Philharmonic.

Berlin -- Berlin Philharmonic chief conductor Simon Rattle unveiled Tuesday the orchestra's program for the coming 12 months with its release coming at a critical time in his career with what is often judged to be the world's greatest orchestra.

While the 53-year-old Rattle contract with the orchestra runs until 2012, the members of the famously democratic orchestra will consider next year whether to agree to extend the Liverpool-born conductor's tenure at the helm of the Philharmonic.

"This is a perfectly normal process," Rattle said at a press conference to set out the philharmonic's 2008-2009 program with elections for the Berlin Philharmonic chief conductor post similar to selecting a pope.

However, next year will essentially mark one of the rare occasions that the orchestra members will be called upon to evaluate the performance of their principal conductor.

Rattle's predecessor, Italian-born Claudio Abbado bowed out due to illness.

The orchestra's Los Angeles-born artistic director Pamela Rosenberg also said Tuesday she planned to leave the philharmonic before her contract expires to pursue personal projects. The orchestra at the moment also has to fill a large number of vacancies in the ranks of its musicians.

Certainly Rattle's time at the philharmonic has not been without some criticism. In 2006, the legendary pianist Alfred Brendel wrote to the London Guardian newspaper to defend Rattle against criticism that he had not lived up to expectations.

"The journalist who asked Simon whether he was failing to live up to his predecessors should, both for his lack of manners and his lack of better judgment, rather than be quoted, hide in shame," wrote the 77-year-old Brendel, who is to make final performance in Berlin during the next season.

Moreover, at what is about midway point in his time as chief conductor in Berlin, Rattle insisted Tuesday that he still had much he wanted to do at the philharmonic.

"There is always much to explore - what is new, what is neglected and what is the core," said Rattle. "It's never boring here," he said, but stepped back from setting out any specific musical ambitions for orchestra, which last year marked its 125th anniversary.

Rattle also expressed an enthusiasm for life in Berlin, which with three opera houses, seven major orchestras and a vast network of museums as well as theatres has a cultural heritage that is the envy of many cities.

"I am blessed to be in a city that is changing so fast," said Rattle who once dubbed by the German media as the Musikalischer Feuerkopf (musical firebrand). "It's still the wild west and the wild east." The program included what he said were "a range of masterpieces and neglected masterpieces" such as Robert Schumann's oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri (neglected) and works by Johannes Brahms (not neglected.)

The forthcoming season, Rosenberg said, also included "the who's who of pianists", such as Murray Perahia and Maria Joao Pires and a raft of violinists that was "not too shabby." This included Moscow- born Viktoria Mullova and US-born Gil Shaham.

Tokyo-born Mitsuko Uchida will during the 2008-2009 season become the philharmonic's first woman pianist in residence.

The orchestra is also planning to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and the 100th birthday of the American composer Eliott Carter.

As well, Berlin's historic Tempelhof Airport, which is currently at the center of a political controversy about its future, is to be the venue for a philharmonic concert later this year featuring music by Karlheinz Stockhausen --who died last December, and would have celebrated his 80th birthday this year.

Apart from the philharmonic's regular annual tour of duty to the world's leading music festivals including Salzburg and Aix-En- Province, the orchestra is also planning to visit Japan and Korea later this year where it will perform a core part of its repertoire - Brahms, Mahler and Beethoven.

In September, the philharmonic is to mount a concert in Dublin, where it has never performed and in Liverpool, which a member of the orchestra described as a home match for Rattle.

DPA

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