Simon Rattle: I always avoided ‘jingoistic’ Last Night of the Proms

Simon Rattle has said he avoided conducting at the Last Night of the Proms throughout his career because of his discomfort at its “jingoistic elements”.

In an interview with Radio Times, the conductor – who announced earlier this year he would be leaving the London Symphony Orchestra and relocating to Germany – said nationalistic aspects of the event left him “uneasy”.

“I never conducted the Last Night, always avoided it a bit. I’ve been uneasy about some of the jingoistic elements, ever since the Falklands in 1982,” he said.

He added that he thought the event was “a kind of extraordinary thing where people got together and celebrated the end of what is a unique series of concerts”.

Rattle has previously spoken about being “uncomfortable” with the imperial suite of songs that is played on the last night of the event, and his comments come a year on from a row over whether the lyrics of Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule, Britannia! should be sung.

The conductor – whose decision to leave London came just before plans were scrapped for a £288m concert hall he had advocated for that was supposed to be “the Tate Modern of classical music” – also raised concerns about the number of classical musicians who had left the industry during lockdown.

Rattle said many freelance musicians he had approached to perform in a concert planned for earlier this year turned the down opportunity because they had moved on to other forms of employment.

“Many of the first-choice people said, ‘Look I’m sorry, I’m not doing this any more. I have a family. I had to take another profession. Six months ago, I’d have welcomed it’," Egli ha detto.

“We are not going to realise about this for a long time, and then it’s going to be too late. A lot of musicians are looking into the abyss.”

Rattle has consistently argued for support for classical musicians throughout the pandemic, e used his voice to criticise the lack of straightforward touring arrangements for musicians post-Brexit.

Rattle, who will leave London for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2023, was critical of politicians who love classical music but don’t say so publicly for fear of being seen as high-brow and elitist.

He said he’d noticed that opera-lovers among members of parliament “tend to find a way to slip in after the curtain has gone up and leave before it’s gone down”.

“You are one or the other," Ha aggiunto. “I long for politicians who have as many interests as possible, who are multi-cultured.”

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