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Sir Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the Barbican

Sir Simon Rattle: The 2024/25 Season

Our Conductor Emeritus introduces his 2024/25 season and the musical celebrations planned for his 70th birthday.


3-minute read

New Music for Sir Simon

‘It’s my 70th birthday in January 2025, and George Benjamin said he wanted to write a piece for it. When a composer is writing operas, you might not see them for years at a time – and George said, ‘I can’t write a new piece from scratch, but I can make you a version of part of my opera Lessons in Love and Violence’. He’s said he wants to create a little journey, a kind of ‘bonsai opera’ for Barbara Hannigan, one of our greatest singers.

Jump to the 2024/25 season concerts

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There’s also a world premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage, a concerto written for the greatest jazz, rock and funk electric guitarist – John Scofield. I’ve been a fan of John Scofield all my life, as has Mark, and I can’t wait to collaborate with him again. What do you put with that? Knowing that Mark’s piece would be very jazzy and very rhythmic, I felt that the extraordinary serenity of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No 5 would sit well with it, and Tippett’s ‘Ritual Dances’ from The Midsummer Marriage is one of the great British scores, a virtuoso piece. In a way, the Vaughan Williams symphony is my indulgence, because we played what I felt was an unforgettable performance at the BBC Proms in 2020, but recorded behind closed doors with nobody in the audience. It was the first thing we had done together during lockdown and was immensely emotional. I simply thought this would all make a good meal together. It’s like being a chef, thinking, ‘What tastes do we need?’.

Janáček’s Operas

This season we also continue our journey into Janáček’s operas. The Excursions of Mr Brouček is probably his most eccentric opera – and for Janáček that’s really saying something. He had the idea that Mr Brouček would have waking dreams – in the first half he goes to the moon, and in the second half he goes to 15th-century Prague. It’s beautiful, off-the-charts surreal, and nobody can really imagine what Janáček was thinking when he wrote it! It’s a challenge, and I’ve always wanted to conduct it. Knowing how wonderfully the LSO plays this kind of music, I’m very much looking forward to exploring it with them – and particularly going to the moon, which I’ve always wanted to do!

I’ve loved Janáček’s operas since I was a teenager and indeed it was playing, aged 17,  performances of The Cunning Little Vixen at the Royal Academy of Music that made me realise I wanted to be an opera conductor. When we first played The Cunning Little Vixen here, which has long been one of my favourite pieces we’ve played with the LSO, I realised that this is music that suits this Orchestra so perfectly with their virtuosity, with their passion, and with their sense of humour and their refinement. We decided almost immediately that we should just simply do all of them – and record them. I’d always thought that Janáček was the composer to take people to in the opera house who have never seen an opera but who love theatre, because his are some of the very few operas that move at the speed of theatre. What is fascinating is that even without a theatrical setting they have such a powerful spell that there is no getting away from it. And there is something very powerful about having the Orchestra right there, because so often the orchestra is saying what the singers are just unable to say, so much of the actual speaking comes from the orchestra. What a joy and a privilege to be able to do these pieces here.’

The Concerts

Header Image © Mark Allan