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Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. 

Between 1980 and 1998, Rattle was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and was later appointed Music Director.  He toured and recorded extensively with the orchestra whilst also building strong relationships with the leading orchestras in London, Europe and the USA; initially working closely with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestras, and more recently with The Philadelphia Orchestra.  He regularly conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, with which he has recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos (with Alfred Brendel) and is also a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.   Following his 1977 Glyndebourne Festival Opera debut, he has conducted many productions there, as well as a series for Netherlands Opera.  Other notable debuts included English National Opera (1985), his US opera debut in Los Angeles (1988), Royal Opera House (1990) and Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris (1996).

For 15 years a regular guest conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle became its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director in September 2002, serving in that role through the 2017-2018 season.  As well as fulfilling a taxing concert schedule in Berlin, the partnership tours extensively and has garnered many awards for its recordings and pioneering educational work. During the past decade Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic have commissioned many works by composers such as Adès, Berio, Boulez, Grisey, Gubaidulina, Lindberg, and Turnage.  The orchestra has for many years enjoyed close links with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and, since his appointment, Simon Rattle has led two projects in Venezuela. 

For the Salzburg Easter Festival Rattle has conducted staged productions of Fidelio, Cosi fan tutte, Peter Grimes, Pelléas et Mélisande, Salome and Carmen, a concert performance of Idomeneo and many contrasting concert programmes, all with the Berliner Philharmoniker.  Between 2006 and 2010 he also conducted Wagner's complete Ring Cycle with the Berliner Philharmoniker for the Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Easter Festivals. His latest productions have included Pelléas et Mélisande and Les Dialogues des Carmelites for the Royal Opera House; Tristan und Isolde for the Wiener Staatsoper; L'Étoile, Aus einem Totenhaus and Káťa Kabanová for the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin; and his debut at Metropolitan Opera, New York, with Pelléas et Mélisande.  

Rattle has made over 70 recordings for EMI record label, and has received numerous prestigious international awards for his recordings on various labels.  Releases on EMI with Berliner Philharmoniker include Holst's The Planets, together with Colin Matthews' recently-written Pluto, and the world premiere recordings of further 'asteroids' by Saariaho, Pintscher, Turnage and Dean; Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 1 and 14; Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben  and le Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite; Debussy’s La mer;  Dvorák Tone Poems; Schubert's Symphony No. 9; Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana;  Bruckner Symphony No.4, the Nielsen Clarinet and Flute concertos; and Brahms Requiemwith Röschmann and Quasthoff, which won Best Choral Recording at the 2008 Grammy awards. Other releases include Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (recipient of the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance), Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, Ravel L'enfant et les sortileges, Brahms The Symphonies, Tchaikovsky Nutcracker, Mahler Symphony No. 2, Bruckner Symphony No. 9 and Bizet’s Carmen (August 2012). In April 2013 EMI released Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the Berlin Philharmonic and in August 2013 Warner Classics released Rachmaninov The Bells and Symphonic Dances, also recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  Rattle’s most recent recording was the complete Schumann Symphonies for Berliner Philharmoniker recordings – the orchestra’s new in-house label.

In 2013 Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker took up a residency at the Baden-Baden Osterfestspiele performing Die Zauberflöte and a series of concerts. Last season, he conducted Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Peter Sellars’s ritualization of Bach’s St. John Passion and this season he conducts Der Rosenkavalier and La damnation de Faust.

Forthcoming seasons for Sir Simon include performances in Vienna, Berlin and in New York; extensive touring with the Berliner Philharmoniker; and projects with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Wiener Philharmoniker and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Simon Rattle was knighted in 1994 and in the New Year’s Honours of 2014, he received theOrder of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen. Other recognitions of his outstanding contribution to music include the Shakespeare Prize, awarded by the Toepfer Foundation in Hamburg 1996, and the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts in 1997. In 2009, on the anniversary of the day of the German Unity he was awarded the Grosse Verdienstkreuz by the German government in recognition of his artistic activities and for his initiation of the education program of Berliner Philharmoniker. Since taking up his appointment with the Berliner Philharmoniker, he has broken new ground with the educational programme Zukunft@Bphil.  This has also earned him the 2004 Comenius Prize, the Schiller Special Prize from the city of Mannheim in May 2005, the Golden Camera and the Urania Medal in Spring 2007. He and the Berliner Philharmoniker were also appointed International UNICEF Ambassadors, the first time this honour has been conferred on an artistic ensemble.  The formal appointment took place in November 2007 in New York before the performance of the dance project, The Rite of Spring, at the United Palace Theatre in Harlem, which formed part of Carnegie Hall's Berlin in Lights festival.  In 2012 Simon Rattle was awarded the Wolf Prize in Arts by the Wolf Foundation in Israel and in 2013, he received the Leonie Sonning prize, Denmark’s highest musical honour, awarded annually to an international composer of musician. It was first awarded in 1959 to composer Igor Stravinsky.