Probably the most outstanding Liverpool-born classical musician, Simon Rattle was, by the standards of any age, a veritable child musical prodigy. However, you will search the Rattle lineage in vain for any trace of musical interest or ability. Strange ? Not really, as he has in fact no Rattle blood coursing his veins at all. In the early twentieth century Kathleen Guttridge left home in Bournemouth to become an actress in London. When aged just 19 she gave birth to Simon’s father, Denis, but being single the child was handed over for adoption to William and Elizabeth Rattle. In contrast to the Rattles the Guttridge family had all had a passion for music.
Denis grew up with a great interest in music and whilst studying English at Oxford joined a dance band. He may have pondered making music his career but the war put that on hold when he joined the navy. It was through his wartime service that he met his future wife, Pauline, in Dover and after they married in 1941 the navy posted him to Liverpool which became their home.
The Rattles lived initially in a flat in Linnet Lane L17 but by the time of Simon’s birth in 1955 they had moved to the top flat in a large house at 19 Sefton Park Road L8. By the start of the 1960s they had moved again to a house at 13 Menlove Avenue L18. Simon was educated at Newborough Preparatory School and the Liverpool College.
It is astonishing to read of Simon Rattles musical life as a child. With the assistance of his older sister, Susan, he was reading musical scores when aged about seven, and gravitating towards twentieth century music. How many seven-year-olds could develop a liking for Schoenberg ? His first public appearance was probably aged six in 1961 when Fritz Spiegl had him playing percussion in a musical entertainment he had put together for the anniversary of the Bluecoat School. From the age of eight or nine the family routine was arranged in order that meals and homework could be out of the way so that Simon could be listening to music on his radio by 7.30. Invariably he would be following the score as he listened.
He was playing percussion with the Merseyside Youth Orchestra when aged eleven, even though the usual minimum age was fourteen. He was also learning piano and violin. At age 15 he conducted his first concert in Liverpool at a charity event he had put together. In September 1971 he began his time at the Royal Academy of Music aged just sixteen.
Thereafter his career is a long catalogue of achievement and honours. From 1980 to 1998 he was principal conductor/musical director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and from 1999 to 2018 had the same role with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2018 he became musical director of the London Symphony Orchestra. He received the CBE in 1987, was knighted in 1994, and received the Order of Merit in 2013. In 2022 he was awarded one of Germany’s highest awards, the Grand Cross of Merit with the Star of the Order of Merit.
His first marriage (1980-1995) was to the American soprano Elise Ross, with whom he had two sons, Sacha and Eliot. From 1996 to 2004 he was married to the Boston-born writer Candace Allen. In 2008 he married the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena. they have two sons, Jonas and Milos, and a daughter Anezka. Rattle, who has now acquired German citizenship, lives in Berlin.
Finally, it has to be recorded that he is an avid supporter of Liverpool F.C.
The Rattle home when Simon was born in 1955. The family occupied the upper floor flat.
Simon Rattle spent most of his childhood and youth at this address, attending the nearby Liverpool College.
There is a host of information available on the internet about Simon Rattle. The Wikipedia entry is a fairly detailed summary of his career. He appeared on Desert Island Discs twice, the 1978 interview was with Roy Plomley, the 2008 with Kirsty Young. It should be noted that the younger Rattle's requested luxury was German wine, the older wanting a coffee machine. Click here to listen to the episodes, 1978 2008. For a good account of Rattle's early years there is no better source than the excellent biography by Nicholas Kenyon, Simon Rattle: From Birmingham to Berlin [faber & faber 1987]
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