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Simon Rattle is the seismic, creative shock UK classical music needs

3rd March 2015

Sir Simon Rattle’s return to Britain is a once-in-a-generation opportunity; not just for the London Symphony Orchestra, whose national significance and international profile his appointment raises exponentially, but for the whole of orchestral and classical music in the country. His presence at the top of Britain’s most acclaimed ensemble has the potential to be the catalyst for a revitalisation of classical music, from schools and music hubs to conservatoires and concert halls.

Partly it’s the politics. For the first time in living memory – or at least since Rattle left the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1998, where he was responsible for the finest recent hall for orchestral music in the UK, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall – politicians across the board feel they have to engage with classical music. With Rattle in place, he becomes the most powerful ambassador for music and music education in the country. And his priorities will be the same as they always have throughout his career: to democratise the art form, to shatter the dangerous illusion that the primary function of orchestras is to play concerts in gilt-edged cages around the world, and to connect new audiences with orchestral music. He did it in Birmingham and Berlin, and he will do it in London.

But mostly, of course, it’s the music. And here’s the thing: as his recent week-long residency in London with the Berliner Philharmoniker revealed, Rattle’s partnership with that orchestra has reached powerful heights of intensity and adventure. But his concerts over the last couple of seasons with the LSO have been just as exciting. And I think he has the possibility to go even further in London than he could in Berlin.

Read more on the Guardian website