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The BRSO’s New Principal Conductor: An Interview with Sir Simon Rattle

As of the 2023/24 season, Sir Simon Rattle will assume the role of Principal Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra (BRSO). Born in Liverpool, he is known for his love of contemporary music and his social and educational commitment. In our interview, he tells us why the arts make the world a better place.

Portrait of the conductor Sir Simon Rattle
Copyright: Castrid Ackermann

Simon Rattle, you were already a fan of the BRSO as a teenager. Now, we will soon hear one of your first concert programmes as its principal conductor in the Isarphilharmonie. What do you consider to be your most important task?

It’s remarkable: On the one hand, I still sense the spirit of Rafael Kubelík in this orchestra, who led the BRSO from 1961 to 1979. So for me it is like a childhood dream come true and an honour to lead the BRSO as principal conductor. On the other hand, I feel such a warm connection with the orchestra’s members; it’s like a family, a homecoming. I feel indebted to these friends, with all their tradition and history, and I’m taking on a great responsibility. I want to keep these traditions, develop the quality and the repertoire and create new ideas – both in terms of the music and beyond. And just as I have a responsibility towards the orchestra, together we have a responsibility towards the audience. One of my tasks is to coordinate this and make it tangible.


You once said that an orchestra should be more like a pirate ship than an ocean liner. What is there to capture in Munich?
Every orchestra in the world has expectations and demands of its principal conductor. It’s always a challenge to discover and nurture the wonderful talent in these orchestras. And to support its development as best you can. We don’t want to chug along like an ocean liner, through calm seas, just enjoying the beautiful view. We want to move, arouse, delve into depths, scale new heights, discover the unknown, always taking the audience with us on our voyages. This can, and indeed should, cause some turbulence at times. In this context, “pirate ship” means being ever flexible and reacting swiftly to any new situation or opportunity. Nothing illegal, I promise!

Portrait shot of Sir Simon Rattle while he conducts.
Copyright: Astrid Ackermann

“In terms of its acoustics, the Isarphilharmonie is the best interim space I know. We are grateful that we can play this concert hall and that great orchestral works can be performed in this city at all.”

Sir Simon Rattle

Your education projects arouses an enthusiasm for music in young people. What makes cultural education so important for you?
Culture has always been a part of what it means to be human, to develop and grow. Every community is shaped by its culture. Without culture, a society ceases to grow. That’s why it is only natural and, indeed, necessary for us creatives to pass on our knowledge and skills. Even before they learn to read and write, children sing and move to music, totally intuitively. This is part and parcel of their personal development, which, ultimately, furthers the development of society. I am convinced that culture, in all of its many forms, makes the world a better place.

The BRSO in the Isarphilharmonie