In September, Sir Simon Rattle makes his long-awaited return as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra.


With a career spanning 40 years, he has consistently engaged with audiences and communities in new ways, transforming the musical life of the cities where has conducted. As London looks forward to what the 'Rattle era' will bring to the city, what have been some of his most memorable career moments so far?

1976 – Proms debut at the age of 21

A recent graduate of the Royal Academy and winner of the prestigious John Player International Conducting competition, Rattle was fast gaining recognition. His first professional post was as Assistant Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, but meanwhile he conducted the London Sinfonietta in their Prom on 9 August 1976, with a programme including the première of Harrison Birtwistle’s Meridian.

1998 – Breaks record for world’s largest orchestra

25-year-old Rattle was made conductor of the CBSO in 1980, a controversial choice at the time. But his 18-year tenure he led the orchestra in ambitious directions, seeing them rise to international acclaim, and spearheaded new initiatives for education and outreach. One of his valedictory ventures was to break the world record for the largest orchestra, and in November 1998 the CBSO plus thousands of school children performed probably the loudest ever rendition of Malcolm Arnold’s Little Suite No. 2 to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

2001 – Recreates soundworld of Beethoven’s Vienna

Rattle’s career has involved a longstanding relationship with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as a guest conductor. At Glyndebourne in 2001, he conducted the first-ever performance of Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, at the pitch it would have been played (around a quarter-tone flat), and on period instruments. The result was a more 'mellow, intense and rumblingly explosive' sound than audiences had heard before (The Guardian).

2012 – Upstaged by Mr Bean

When Rattle and the LSO were announced to be performing at the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony, we were all expecting a top-class professional performance of Chariots of Fire. But the LSO’s principal synth-player must have been off sick that day, because who else should emerge to play that essential one-note-riff than Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson)

2013 – Celebrates centenary of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring

In 2002, Rattle was named as the first British conductor of the Berlin Phil. During his term he has been behind the Digital Concert Hall (allowing audiences to stream concerts remotely), numerous symphonic cycles, educational projects and exciting reinterpretations. In 2013 he sunk his teeth into a live recording and tour season marking the centennial anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring - and its riotous première. The work is one of Rattle’s party pieces, and he previously made headlines when he staged a performance with 250 inner-city-Berlin schoolchildren.


For more memorable moments, see our full-length feature in our September issue – out now.