Daniel Barenboim among those wishing a happy birthday to the distinguished British maestro.

British conductor Sir Simon Rattle celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday. Rattle, who is currently the Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, is arguably one of the most recognised and revered maestros in the world. The explosive start of his extraordinary career came at the age of 19, when he won the John Player International Conducting Competition whilst in his final year studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1980 he took the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and during his 18 year tenure, first as Principal Conductor and then as Musical Director, he elevated the orchestra’s profile and his own reputation to international attention.

In addition to his decisive and charismatic conducting, Rattle has also carved an impressive reputation for innovative programming and championing contemporary music. Mark Anthony Turnage, Thomas Adés and Brett Dean are among the roster of now internationally acclaimed composers nurtured by Rattle early in their careers. The great conductor has been an equally powerful force for the promotion of early music, and has been the Principal Guest Conductor of the UK’s highly respected period instrument ensemble, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, since 1997.

Rattle’s bold, radical, unselfconscious approach caught the attention of perhaps the most celebrated orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic. After guest conducting for several years (he made his conducting debut with the orchestra in 1987) Rattle was announced as the successor of Claudio Abbado as Principal Conductor in 1999. The appointment shocked some cultural commentators at the time as the hugely respected maestro Daniel Barenboim, who was also being considered for the position, was supposedly the favourite to win the post. Despite this controversy Rattle set the tone for his leadership of the Berlin Philharmonic by immediately campaigning for better wages for orchestral musicians and artistic independence from the Berlin Senate. Rattle gave his first performance with the orchestra on 7 September 2002. The programme, featuring Thomas Adés’ award winning piece Asyla and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, received unanimously rave reviews worldwide.

Barenboim wished his friend and musical colleague a happy birthday in an interview published yesterday in the German newspaper Morgenpost. Describing their close friendship Barenboim said “Sometimes we don’t see each other for months. Then we meet and it feels like yesterday. It is a friendship which does not need frequency.” Barenboim, who is 12 years Rattle’s senior also had some friendly advice for his younger counterpart. “I used to joke: Simon, enjoy your 50s. I can tell you one thing, your 50s are better than your 60s. This time, I’ll tell him: Enjoy your 60s, but 70 is even better.”

Sir Simon Rattle will be heading down-under this July to conduct the Australian World Orchestra. They will be presenting Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, as well as a new arrangement by Brett Dean of Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées, sung by Rattle’s wife, mezzo soprano Magdalena Kožená. The programme will conclude with Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in c minor.

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