Simon Rattle is back in LA. with the Berlin Philharmonic

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Angelenos remember Simon Rattle when. We know enough not to trust Wikipedia, which states that the Liverpool-born conductor made his U.S. debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1979. In fact, he appeared at the Hollywood Bowl three years earlier, as a 21-year-old with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra. He was still startlingly young when he began his 13-year stint as principal guest of the L.A. Philharmonic in 1981.

Now he is Sir Simon, music director of the mighty Berlin Philharmonic. It hasn’t been all Sunny Sir Simon, as the German capital dubbed him when he took over in 2002. But the orchestra, which appears with Rattle at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Monday and Tuesday nights, is now thriving, breaking new ground with its digital concert hall, outreach programs to schools and prisons, new music projects and a general attitude of waking classical music up to smell the coffee while honoring its incomparable tradition.


And, based on a brief conversation I had with Rattle for an Arts and Books article as he prepared for his U.S. tour, he is as hopeful, thoughtful and funny as ever. Having recently had his contract in Berlin extended until 2018, he has a mandate to continue the change he has brought to what is often considered the world’s most desirable orchestral job.

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-- Mark Swed