Tour with Sir Simon Rattle
28 May - 8 June 2022
The last time we performed with Sir Simon Rattle was in the middle of the COVID-19 global pandemic in October 2020. It was a very emotional time for the COE musicians who had not had the opportunity to play together since February that year. They were also unsure when they would be able to play again after these concerts with Sir Simon and Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang at the Berlin Philharmonie. It was in these surreal circumstances that the COE embarked on its very first project with the British conductor with whom the Orchestra had been trying to work for years. This was a rare ray of sunshine for everyone involved, in the midst of the global doom and gloom and the COE made a strong impression on Sir Simon who then declared he had “fallen in love” with the Orchestra.
It is therefore with great anticipation that we are looking forward to this substantial tour in May/June, featuring five concerts in Dresden, Luxemburg, Cologne, Vienna and Hamburg with Sir Simon’s wife Magdalena Kožená and tenor Andrew Staples performing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The programme also includes Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, written for 23 solo strings at the end of the Second World War. After finishing the Metamorphosen, Strauss said “The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2,000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.”
Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
From 1980 to 1998, Sir Simon was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director in 1990. In 2002 he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker where he remained until the end of the 2017-18 season. Sir Simon took up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017. He will remain in this position until the 2023-24 season, when he will become the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus. From the 2023-24 season Sir Simon will take up the position of Chief Conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich. He is a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Sir Simon has made over 70 recordings for EMI record label (now Warner Classics) and has received numerous prestigious international awards for his recordings on various labels. Releases on EMI include Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (which received a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance) Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Rachmaninov’s The Bells and Symphonic Dances, all recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker. His most recent recordings include Berlioz’ Le damnation de Faust, Helen Grime’s Woven Space, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande , Turnage’s Remembering, and Beethoven’s Christ on the Mountain of Olives, which were all released by the London Symphony Orchestra’s own record label, LSO Live.
Sir Simon regularly tours within Europe and Asia and has strong longstanding relationships with the world’s leading orchestras. He regularly conducts the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Berlin, Deutsche Symphonieorchester Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. Recent operatic highlights include Manon Lescaut with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Der Rosenkavalier with the Metropolitan Opera New York, Janáček’s Jenufa with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, and Tristan und Isolde with the London Symphony Orchestra at Festival d’Aix en Provence.
Music education is of supreme importance to Sir Simon, and his partnership with the Berliner Philiharmoniker broke new ground with the education programme Zukunft@Bphil, earning him the Comenius Prize, the Schiller Special Prize from the city of Mannheim, the Golden Camera and the Urania Medal. He and the Berliner Philharmoniker were also appointed International UNICEF Ambassadors in 2004 – the first time this honour has been conferred on an artistic ensemble. In 2019 Simon announced the creation of the LSO East London Academy, developed by the London Symphony Orchestra in partnership with 10 East London boroughs. This free program aims to identify and develop the potential of young East Londoners between the ages of 11 and 18 who show exceptional musical talent, irrespective of their background or financial circumstance. Sir Simon has also been awarded several prestigious personal honours which include a knighthood in 1994, becoming a member of the Order of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen in 2014 and was recently bestowed the Order of Merit in Berlin in 2018. In 2019, Sir Simon was given the Freedom of the City of London.
In the 2021-22 season, Sir Simon will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He will return to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin to revive Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, and in the spring will conduct a new production of Janacek’s Makropulos Case. He will tour Europe and the US with the London Symphony Orchestra, and later on in the season will join mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená for a chamber music project, where they will tour some of Europe’s major cities.
Born in the Czech city of Brno, Magdalena Kožená studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and with Eva Blahová at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. The recipient of several major prizes in the Czech Republic and around the world, Magdalena came to prominence at the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg which she won in 1995.
Magdalena was signed as an exclusive artist by Deutsche Grammophon in 1999 and immediately released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording followed,which was an album of songs by Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů, which appeared on Deutsche Grammophon’s yellow label in 2001 – the same year she was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award. She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has since received numerous other prestigious awards, including the Echo Klassik, Record Academy Prize Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. In 2017, Magdalena forged a long-term relationship with Dutch classical music label Pentatone and in May 2019 released her debut album for the label; Il Giardino dei sospiri, which features a collection of scenes from secular cantatas on tragic love by Handel, Leo and Marcello, accompanied by harpsichordist Václav Luks and the Czech baroque orchestra Collegium 1704. Her second album Soirée is an intimate chamber music recording, encapsulating the essence of informal, domestic music making and her most recent recording Nostalgia in collaboration with Yefim Bronfman is released in just in these days.
Magdalena has worked with the world’s leading conductors during her illustrious career, including Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington.
Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, with whom she has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. Magdalena’s understanding of historical performance practices has been cultivated in collaboration with outstanding period instrument ensembles, including the Venice Baroque Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, La Cetra Barockorchester Basel, and Le Concert d’Astrée. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.
On the opera stage, Magdalena made her Salzburg Festival debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni in 2002 and returned as Idamante in 2013 – a role she has also sung at Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Her first appearance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera took place in 2003 as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and she has since been a regular guest, including amongst others as title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 2010/11 and most recently Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier in the 2019/20 season. The role of Octavian has also taken Magdalena to the Staatsoper Berlin 2009 and Osterfestspiele Baden Baden 2015 whilst other operatic highlights include the title role in Bizet’s Carmen (Osterfestspiele and Sommerfestspiele Salzburg 2012), Charpentier’s Médée (Theater Basel 2015), Martinů’s Juliette (Staatsoper Berlin 2016) and the Waitress in Kaija Saariaho’s new opera Innocence at the Festival d’Aix en Provence (2021).
In recent seasons, Magdalena has developed a series of projects which have toured widely in Europe and Asia, highlighting her artistry and diversity. An eclectic mix of soundworlds and influences, Magdalena’s projects include concerts with Czech swing ensemble The Melody Makers in performances of Cole Porter and other authentic swing and big band numbers from the 1930s and ’40s; semi-staged performances of the music of Claudio Monteverdi and Luciano Berio, set on stage by Ondřej Havelka; and performances with Spanish Baroque ensemble Private Musicke, and flamenco expert Antonio El Pipa with his Compañía de Flamenco. On tour, they entwine the roots of raw flamenco with the music of the Spanish Baroque era and have appeared in venues such as the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the home of flamenco: Madrid and Barcelona.
In the 2021/22 season, Magdalena revives her Cole Porter project with performances in Bratislava, Košice, Plzeň, Prague and Ostrava. Other engagements in the coming season include concerts of Ondřej Adámek’s song cycle Where are you?, with the London Symphony Orchestra, touring to Bucharest Festival, Barbican Centre London, KKL Lucerne, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Konzerthaus Dortmund and the Koningin Elisabethzaal Antwerp. She joins the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in concerts of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, re-joins her friends from La Cetra Barockorchester Basel in concerts of Caldara’s La concordia de ‘pianeti in Vienna and Bucharest, and of Giacomelli’s La Merope in Basel and Amsterdam, and returns to the London Symphony Orchestra in performances of Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins. Renowned for her interpretation of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Magdalena revisits the work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and on tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées.
In recital, Magdalena partners with Ohad Ben-Ari in performances in Europe including at the Wigmore Hall, La Monnaie Brussels, Musikverein Vienna and L’Auditorium de Bordeaux. The pair subsequently go on tour later in the season to Asia for concerts in Taiwan and Korea. On the opera stage, Magdalena will revive the role of Phèdre in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie at the Staatsoper Berlin under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.
Magdalena was appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.
Andrew Staples is considered one of the most versatile tenors of his generation, appearing regularly with conductors such as Rattle, Harding, Davis and Nézet-Séguin, and orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Bayerischer Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Andrew made his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as Jaquino Fidelio, returning for Flamand Capriccio, Tamino Die Zauberflöte, Tichon Katya Kabanova and Narraboth Salome. He sang Belfiore La Finta Giardiniera for the National Theatre, Prague and La Monnaie, Don Ottavio Don Giovanni for the Salzburger Festspiele, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte for the Lucerne Festival, Drottningholm with Daniel Harding and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Recent engagements include his Metropolitan Opera debut as Andres Wozzeck, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Das Lied von der Erde with the London Symphony Orchestra both with Sir Simon Rattle, Don Ottavio Don Giovanni and Dream of Gerontius with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding, Nicias Thais with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Das Lied von der Erde with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Sir Simon Rattle, the New York Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel and with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer. Other engagements include Britten’s Nocturne with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bach’s Mass in b minor and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
His discography includesThaïs and L’Enfance du Christ with Andrew Davis (Chandos), Billy Budd with Daniel Harding and the London Symphony Orchestra, Schumann Das Paradies und die Peri with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle (LSO Live); Handel Messiah with Le Concert d’Astrée and Emmanuelle Haim (Erato/Warner Classics); Schumann Szenen aus Goethes Faust with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Daniel Harding; Stravinsky’s Persephone with Esa-Pekka Salonen (Pentatone); the Grammy-nominated Dr Atomic with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and John Adams; and The Dream of Gerontius With Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle (Deutsche Grammophon).
The combination of deeply moving music, keenly felt because of the war in Ukraine, and working with Sir Simon made the tour exceptional for everybody. From the first rehearsals in the Teldex studio in Berlin it was clear that the rapport was strong with conductor and singers. The COE had not performed Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde before, and as violist Dorle Sommer said: “We began this unique tour in unknown territory and travelled together to a place so much richer and more magical than anything we could have ever imagined.” The music calls for an extraordinary level of concentration on blending and detail, alternating delicate and exposed contributions from individual players in every section with rich romantic warmth from the whole ensemble.
The concerts started at the Dresden Festival in the modernist Culture Palace on May 31st. The next morning everyone crossed Germany to Luxembourg and the week’s journey continued through Cologne and Vienna to Hamburg. According to the COE’s second oboe Rachel Frost, “the power and beauty of the orchestra in the concert is a reflection of Sir Simon Rattle‘s enormous warmth, trust and deeply honest music-making”. Although the programme remained the same, each concert was very different, partly from the experience of repetition as everyone grew more familiar with each other and the expressive possibilities of the music. Partly, though, the variations came from the strong and individual characteristics of the outstanding venues. It was a huge pleasure to make music at the Dresden Culture Palace, the Luxembourg and Cologne Philharmonies, Vienna’s Musikverein and at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the latter perched 12 storeys above the harbour.
Sir Simon reflected that the concert in the Musikverein on 5 June (which was recorded by ORF, Austrian radio) was especially memorable: Das Lied von der Erde because that was the hall in which Mahler intended it to be heard; Metamorphosen because Strauss had begun the work the day after Vienna’s opera house was bombed at the end of World War II, so redolent of the destruction this year in Ukraine. The final concert of the tour in Hamburg somehow brought all the elements together, orchestra, soloists and conductor reaching a unanimity of understanding that left many speechless. It was a partnership that it is hoped will be forged many times in the years to come.