The boy done good. Simon Rattle, our very own great conductor, has made it to the very top of the musical tree. He’s been leading the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the world’s most venerable orchestra, for 12 years, and in 2018 steps down. The rumour, not yet confirmed or denied, is that he’ll take over as chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra after Valery Gergiev has vacated the post. But the price of tempting Rattle back home is turning out to be rather high: a few hundred million quid, in fact. That’s surely what it would cost to build what Rattle says London needs, which is a world-class concert hall fit for its (potentially) world-class orchestras. “The music-lovers of London and the country would deserve to have something where… the orchestras can flourish,” the 60-year-old told the BBC last week. “You have no idea how wonderful an orchestra like the London Symphony Orchestra can sound in a great concert hall.”
At a glance, the case seems unarguable. A top-class orchestra is a fabulously subtle musical resource. It takes a huge investment of time, training and money to create one. So it must follow that the only way to appreciate the glories of a great orchestra is to place it in a building with a perfect acoustic.