Orchestral manoeuvres ruin Sir Simon's return

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The Independent Culture

Sir Simon Rattle has brought the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to play in London tomorrow with the orchestra reeling from the sudden resignation of its chief executive.

Reports of a "bust-up" between Rattle and Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, the chief executive, are an unwelcome background to what was planned as a triumphant return to Britain for Rattle.

The orchestra plays two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, tomorrow and on Saturday, with Rattle conducting. But attention will now be focused on what has been going on behind the scenes. Only a few weeks ago, Ohnesorg said he regarded Sir Simon as "the brother he never had". But yesterday a statement announced that he is leaving the post after a little more than a year, citing personal reasons.

Ohnesorg, who took over after two years at New York's Carnegie Hall, will depart on 1 January. His resignation comes just a month after Rattle launched his 10-year tenure as the orchestra's chief conductor and artistic director.

The statement said only that "the other members of the board of directors are aware of and endorse the reasons named by Mr Ohnesorg, and respect and accept his wish".

However, it added that Ohnesorg, a former director of the Cologne Philharmonic, agreed to remain as an adviser for the rest of his contract, which ends in August 2006.

Rattle chose Ohnesorg to run the orchestra, wanting a native German to help him through the maze of German arts politics. But sources say relations between the two have not been good recently. One report last night claimed that Ohnesorg resented Rattle's high profile; but this is unlikely as there was never any doubt of Rattle's ability to get publicity and acclaim for the orchestra and himself.

The more likely scenario, confirmed by a senior source, was that Ohnesorg had been having difficult relations with the orchestra and Rattle sided with the orchestra.

It has been suggested that Rattle's biographer, Nicholas Kenyon, who runs the Proms, might replace Ohnesorg. However, Kenyon would be loath to give up the Proms, and the orchestra could resent a completely British presence at the helm.