I read your report on Simon Rattle and his attackers with surprise and dismay (Rattle's Berlin Philharmonic failing to thrill, says critic, May 25). Contrary to what is said by a few critics, the Berlin Philharmonic is in superlative shape. Of course it is not a carbon copy of Karajan's or Abbado's orchestra. While it has fully retained its richness in Romantic symphonies, it has opened itself up to contemporary as well as to 18th-century music in a novel way. How one likes one's Mozart remains an individual matter; there should, however, be few conductors who would want it to sound like Karajan's.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to play seven concerts with Simon. I can only say that I have never heard any playing surpass that of the BPO in the three glorious performances of Mahler's Fourth Symphony I was able to hear. In every section of the orchestra there was the same amazing quality, refinement and commitment. The same goes, in recent years, for performances by Simon of Schubert's Great C-Major Symphony and Brahms' Second, among others. Our partnership in Beethoven's Fourth Concerto at the recent Salzburg Easter Festival was what most soloists can only dream of. The orchestra's visit to New York this January, presenting four different programmes in a row, was a huge success, as well as a personal triumph for Simon. There, and at the Salzburg Easter Festival, I can testify for the rapture of the public and the complete dedication of the orchestra to its music director.
I remember the times when it was chic in Germany to look down on Karajan. Likewise, a press campaign against Claudio Abbado that claimed he had failed to rejuvenate the ageing orchestra, made him start packing his bags. In reality, he did bring a lot of excellent young players in, an effort brilliantly continued by Simon. After Abbado's long absence, he has been repeatedly received at his Berlin visits as a demi-god. The journalist who asked Simon whether he was failing to live up to his predecessors should, both for his lack of manners and his lack of better judgment, rather than be quoted, hide in shame.
Alfred Brendel, London
From today's Guardian letters
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