Prague (7 February 2024) – Five years after his first concert with the Czech Philharmonic,
Sir Simon Rattle is becoming a principal guest conductor. He has signed a five-year contract with
the orchestra, and the words “Rafael Kubelík Chair” have been added to his title at his request and
with the consent of the Kubelík family. Simon Rattle will be one of the Czech Philharmonic’s three
titled conductors. Semyon Bychkov remains as chief conductor and music director, and Jakub
Hrůša is also a principal guest conductor.
“My relationship with the Czech Philharmonic began already when I was eight or nine years old. My parents gave
me pocket money so I could buy recordings, and I dug into the Supraphon catalogue. That was really interesting,
and the recordings in it were sometimes cheaper that those made by Western companies. That was when I
discovered how unique the orchestra sounds, and especially the character of the woodwinds and the special
quality of the strings. I felt like I had grown up with the Czech Philharmonic. Particularly crucial for me were the
recordings of Karel Ančerl, which became a part of my artistic growth. But it was many years before I conducted
that orchestra for the first time. And when that finally happened in 2019, it seemed terribly natural to me, as if I
had had been standing before it since time immemorial. I fell in love with their cordiality and with their typically
Czech dark humour. I instantly felt connected to the players, and I told myself: this is truly worthwhile. Already at
the first rehearsal of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, it was clear to me that I would want to remain in some way.
Mahler must have had that sound in his ears when he wrote his symphonies. I realised right away that I want to
be on the podium with these musicians, and the subsequent years when I returned to the orchestra have just
confirmed that,” says Sir Simon Rattle.
“I have known and admired Simon Rattle for nearly 40 years as a man and an artist. I have always believed that
if I surround myself and my orchestra with exceptional people, we will be able to move ahead constantly and
continue to grow. I am enormously pleased that Simon has agreed to become a part of the Czech Philharmonic
family and will regularly bring to Prague his talent and vitality,” says the Czech Philharmonic’s chief conductor
and music director Semyon Bychkov.
“Simon Rattle is a huge artistic asset for the Czech Philharmonic. Besides Czech music, he will work with the
orchestra on Haydn, Schumann, Elgar, and French composers. I think that will greatly expand our repertoire and
grow the orchestra’s artistic potential,” says the orchestra’s CEO David Mareček.
“I am overjoyed about the appointment of Sir Simon Rattle as principal guest conductor of the Czech
Philharmonic. Simon Rattle is one of today’s most famous conductors, and if he has decided to associate his name
and prestige with the leading Czech orchestra, that says a lot about the standing of the Czech Philharmonic among
the world’s symphonic ensembles. I am likewise pleased that Simon Rattle is emphatically laying claim to the
legacy of Rafael Kubelík, who he says strongly influenced him. Our country’s culture was impoverished by the loss
of Kubelík’s exceptional talent and artistry when he emigrated after the communist putsch in 1948,” says Czech
Minister of Culture Martin Baxa.
“Simon Rattle’s guest appearances with the Czech Philharmonic are important and a joyous event for all classical
music lovers. It is a reminder and a revival of the values that Rafael Kubelík built, stood for, and shared with the
public through music all his life. The firmness of his moral stances was exemplary. On this occasion, the family of
Rafael Kubelík wishes success to everyone involved,” says Kamila Kubelíková.
“Rafael Kubelík became my hero from the moment that I understood what the role of a conductor is. I learned lots
of Czech music from him. And at age 15 I experienced something that changed my life when I saw Rafael Kubelík
in concert with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in my native Liverpool. They played Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony. As an enthusiastic novice conductor, I had already seen many concerts, but that was the first time that
I sensed what it’s like when a great conductor and a great orchestra are perfectly at ease with each other. It
seemed to me as if the music was flowing through absolutely everyone who was on the stage. Kubelík was far
from a conventional or rigid conductor, of course, but the way that he conveyed the music could not have been
more clear. In the moment, any real musician would have to follow him. With him, you could tell that his thinking
was not like just a conductor, but also like a composer. From that moment onwards, I took every opportunity to
hear him in live concerts or to sneak into one of his rehearsals with the London Symphony Orchestra. Therefore, I
am deeply moved to receive a position that bears his name. It means more to me than I can express in words.
Rafael Kubelík had a huge influence on me when I was young, and that remains with me to this day,” says Simon
Sir Simon Rattle, honoured with a knighthood and the Order of Merit conferred respectively by the Queen of
England and by the City of Berlin, is one of today’s most acclaimed conductors. His long-term cooperation with the
Czech Philharmonic led to his appointment together with his wife, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, as Artist-inResidence for the 2022/2023 season. At several concerts with the Czech Philharmonic, he has performed a number
of symphonic works and, notably, compositions for voices and orchestra from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
the repertoire for which Rattle has been the most acclaimed.
A native of Liverpool and a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, he has held a series of important positions over
his long career. He came to worldwide attention as the chief conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,
where he was employed for a full 18 years, then came 16 glorious years with the Berlin Philharmonic (2002–2018;
artistic director and chief conductor) and six years with the London Symphony Orchestra. He opened the
2023/2024 season as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He also leads the Orchestra of the
Age of Enlightenment with the title of Principal Artist, and he is the founder of the Birmingham Contemporary
Music Group. Besides holding full-time conducting posts, he maintains ties with the world’s leading orchestras and
gives concerts frequently in Europe, the USA, and Asia. He can also be seen from time to time in opera houses.
He has made more than 70 recordings for EMI (now Warner Classics). He has won a number of prestigious
international awards for his recordings including three Grammy Awards for Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, Brahms’s
German Requiem, and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, which he recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2019
he led the London Symphony Orchestra in a unique recording of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony that has become the
subject of passionate debate.
Besides the prizes mentioned above, Rattle’s long-term partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic also led to the
new, successful educational programme “Zukunft@Bphil”. Even after moving on from that orchestra, Rattle did not
abandon his engagement with music education, and he has taken part together with the London Symphony
Orchestra in the creation of the LSO East London Academy. Since 2019, that organisation has been seeking out
talented young musicians, developing their potential free of charge regardless of their origins and financial
Rafael Kubelík (1914–1996) was the son of Jan Kubelík, an outstanding violinist of worldwide fame. Rafael’s
father taught him the fundamentals of music and guided him towards the career of a violinist. Rafael Kubelík
studied violin as well as composition and conducting at the Prague Conservatoire from 1928 to 1933. His career as a
conductor advanced very rapidly; in fact, he already conducted the Czech Philharmonic for the first time in 1934.
Over time, he took part in the orchestra’s concert tours in Italy and England. After a brief engagement at the opera
in Brno, in 1941 the Czech Philharmonic chose him as the successor to Václav Talich. In 1946 he led the orchestra in
opening and closing the inaugural Prague Spring Festival and Smetana’s Litomyšl Festival. He emigrated the
summer after the communist putsch of February 1948. He gradually became one of the most prominent conductors
of his day. From 1950 to 1953 he was the music director and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He
constantly promoted Czech music around the world, and thanks to the enormous success of performances of
Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová under his baton, in 1955 he was appointed as music director at the Royal Opera House in
London, where he worked until 1958. The music of Czech and other Slavic composers became a regular part of the
opera company’s repertoire. After a period of frequent guest conducting (Vienna Philharmonic, Israel
Philharmonic), from 1961 to 1979 he was the chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich,
which he turned into one of the world’s leading orchestras. At the same time, from 1972 to 1974 he was the
conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. From age 70 he was so handicapped by chronic arthritis that he
had to cease his conducting activities, but despite this, after the fall of the communist regime, he welcomed the
opportunity to open the 1990 Prague Spring Festival after 42 years in exile with a performance of Smetana’s Má
vlast, the last work he had conducted before emigrating. Like at the end of the Second World War, a performance of
Smetana’s Má vlast on Old Town Square was dedicated to the people of Czechoslovakia. The “Concert of Mutual
Understanding” took place on the day of the first free elections, 9 June 1990. Kubelík’s last concert with the Czech
Philharmonic took place in November 1991 on a tour of Japan. Rafael Kubelík died on 11 August 1996 in
Switzerland. After a symbolic final farewell at the Rudolfinum on 18 September, he was buried at Vyšehrad
Cemetery in Prague beside his father.