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Sunday 23 April 2017

London Symphony Orchestra director Sir Simon Rattle hits out at Barbican

Sir Simon Rattle will pick up the baton with the London Symphony Orchestra in September
Sir Simon Rattle will pick up the baton with the London Symphony Orchestra in September

Sir Simon Rattle has announced his first season as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra while complaining that its Barbican home is not large enough and that some of the concerts held there could even breach health and safety rules.

The celebrated conductor, 61, is returning to Britain after spending several years in Germany as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

His remarks came after the Corporation of London pledged up to £2.5 million to fund a detailed business case for plans to build a new, world class Centre For Music in London.

Announcing his first season at the Barbican, the conductor said that around 20% of the repertoire in his "wish list" could not work in the orchestra's London home.

"When we sat down to look at a lot of the big masterpieces of the last 15 years. I realised, 'OK, this will not be possible here, maybe this we have to take to the Royal Albert Hall and this to another place or we can't do it at all'," he said.

"There are pieces that we do play in the Barbican that we probably shouldn't for health and safety reasons.

"Obviously the stage was beautifully designed for a certain size of orchestra, but not for a very large orchestra and certainly it was made without a chorus in mind. Anything you want to do which is theatrical is a problem."

Citing health and safety issues, Sir Simon said there is a huge "amount of sound that comes out of a small space with an orchestra crammed too close to each other".

He joked: "It might be fun to listen to the Alpine Symphony in the Barbican. But I don't think (the animal charity) the RSPCA, if they were dealing with the orchestra, would allow it. And sometimes you need some space for sound to expand and develop."

His comments come after the City of London pledged up to £2.5 million in funding to complete a detailed business case for the music centre near London Wall, after the Government withdrew funding.

Sir Simon suggested that he was glad that the centre, originally projected to cost £278 million, would not be Government-funded.

"There are wonderful arguments for this project and wonderful arguments against it as well, but the minute you feel this could be spent by the Government on something else, this is a very difficult area," he said.

"Anybody with half a brain would agree with that, even a conductor. It's very important that we are now looking at other ways of funding it.

"Of course, one of the things we have to look at is the cost. This will be enormously important. We are all aware that we are in straitened times and straitened circumstances.

"The figure is realistically too high. There is a lot of work to do. We have to see what its possible. We have to find out what we can do for what."

Sir Simon announced his first season as music director of the orchestra with a concert featuring an all-British line-up.

He will also be directing a Stockhausen piece in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall and a Silent Symphony, a live broadcast to personal headsets, in the Barbican Sculpture Court.

Sir Simon said the concert of British names was a "no-brainer" and there was a "goldmine" of music to choose from.

Asked if he was responding to Ukip, he joked: "I have a whole mailbox full of Ukip begging for a (British composer) Harrison Birtwistle cycle."

He added: "Here we are in this country with maybe the most gifted group of living composers in any country in the world and not to celebrate it would be idiocy. It's a goldmine to explore, so of course this will be what we do."

Press Association

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