Opera Chic likes Sir Simon Rattle (who tonight will rawk Aix) for many reasons, chief among them:
1 - The 'fro
2 - He managed to never krap his pants in public despite having inherited Furtwaengler's and Karajan's orchestra from Claudio Abbado.
3 - Madge
He celebrates his 5 years as Kaiser of the Berliner Philharmoniker by talking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and explaining that "orchestras move slowly, like tectonic plates".
Sir Simon, you have led the Berliner Philharmoniker for nearkly five years. How is your German now?
(in German:) Perfect. Like Thomas Mann's.
You have been interested in musical education work for a while?
That began already more than twenty five years ago, in Birmingham. In England it was hard not to see that there is less and less music taught in schools. I had an awesome percussionist at the time, and she said, 'We've got to play for deaf kids." That led me to extraordinary experiences. I once asked a group of deaf children, "Tell me, what did you hear?" And they said, "Everything!" When we played Messiaen and I explained something about the birds, a deaf child said, "OK, what does the butterfly sound like then?" That was the most poetic question I've ever heard.
I believe that rhythm plays a primary role in evolution. Everything comes from the heartbeat -- the pulse.
What are you most proud of after these five years?
To be still alive! No, just kidding. I confess, it isn't appropriate for me to talk about pride. I am realistic. I am pleased, a lot...even if not everyone immediately agreed with each and every new idea.
There are no olympic gold or silver medals to win...
Did you think it was going to be quicker, the orchestra's development?
To form a bond between an orchestra and a conductor is extremely lengthy process. The first five years are a transition period. Same thing for the others directors of this orchestra. Things develop very slowly.
Orchestras move as fast as tectonic plates. That's how they retain what's so special about them... I was surprised to see that the older musicians here are often more radical than the younger ones...I just throw little seeds around and wait to see whether something grows out of them or not. It's like old-fashioned agriculture.
The new music question can be a delicate one. On the one hand there are many musicians who engage themselves for contemporary music. Others have to be convinced that this is a worthy endeavor. In the 1920s under Furtwaengler new music was perfectly normal here.
We are obligated as an institution to develop ourselves...it's a process. One cannot do only 19th century repertoire.
Have you changed in Berlin?
One changes physically, I'd say, if one comes here. For me it's the first time I live abroad. This orchestra needs to be handled completely different from any other. Those who think they can bend the will of the Berliner make fools of themselves. It's like driving a sports car: you'll crash. There's enough energy here for several nuclear explosions. These musicians must be aligned in the correct direction.
What do you hope to achieve in the next five years in Berlin?
I hope that the music gives the answer. Just the music.
Do you find this question unfair?
No. I do not believe that there can be a genuine answer. It is like asking, "What do you wish for your children?" Besides health, luck, passion, what can you say? Maybe this would be the correct answer.
Do you feel paternal towards the Berliner Philharmoniker?
Occasionally. One must worry quite a lot. I had to get accustomed to the fact that fifty-two of them, the majority, are younger than I am. But I like that if one has trouble, the others here help, and they give a hand. As soon as one is accepted there is an unbelievable feeling of loyalty. That creates a society -- in the sense of Schiller.
You'll conduct the "Walkuere" in Aix En Provence. Is that a completely new piece for your musicians, forty years after Karajan?
Only five of them played the "Ring" under Karajan. Hardly more than fifteen know it at all. But this work represents a marvelous journey...
Is there any music you would never conduct?
Some pieces I do not understand. For example Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis". Even if I will try to the end of my days. Sometimes I think, this music makes me want to run away crying. But I know people who think it's very comforting.
(English translation operachic.typepad.com, please credit)
Opera Chic just imagined ol' Wilhelm "Big Willy" Furtwaengler going all like, "we're all one big happy family here, ja?" And then, you know, you screw something up and it's off to the camps.