Rattle and the CBSO: the end of an era

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The Independent Culture
NEXT WEEKEND, fresh from his and the CBSO's latest triumph with the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall, Szymanowski's superb King Roger at the Birmingham Symphony Hall (shortly to be issued by EMI) and a stunning swansong Beethoven series, the restlessly inventive Sir Simon Rattle (above) will bow out as the CBSO's Music Director, handing over to the brilliant young Finn, Sakari Oramo. But he won't really be turning his back on Birmingham. How could he? The flamboyantly coiffeured maestro and erstwhile prodigious young firebrand, who single-handedly turned Birmingham's already capable orchestra into the top-notch envy of the world, will actually be back in the Midlands (and at London's Barbican Centre) in March next year, to conduct the Brummie band in more of his ingeniously conceived Towards the Millennium series. This will include (from the artistic hothouse of the 1980s) a host of exciting composers such as Lutoslawski, Kurtag, Gubaidulina and Nicholas Maw (his epic Odyssey).

But the weekend's event is an unbeatable chance to see Rattle in action with the orchestra he nurtured: it will be magnificent, memorably massive Mahler - complete with percussion panoply, CBSO chorus and all. The main performances scheduled for Saturday and Sunday have - not surprisingly - sold out. There's not a ticket to be had, even for ready money, unless the touts are out in force. But despair not. The enterprising and ever- imaginative CBSO have responded to huge demand by opening up their informal final rehearsal on Friday. If you like Mahler and can get to Birmingham, don't hesitate for a second, and make for his farewell Mahler Second Symphony at Symphony Hall. The extra good news is that it's shirtsleeves all round, so you can relax, enjoy the music, and afterwards have a drink at the canalside piazza. (Birmingham Symphony Hall, 0121 212 3333, Fri 8.30pm, tickets pounds 10/pounds 6; Sat & Sun 30 Aug 7pm, returns only.)