Conductor Simon Rattle is swapping a podium in Berlin for one in Britain, taking over as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The LSO announced Tuesday that Rattle, who has led the Berlin Philharmonic since 2002, will join the London ensemble in September 2017.
Liverpool-born Rattle, one of the world’s most acclaimed conductors, said he was thrilled to be “coming home” to the LSO, whose principal conductors have included Edward Elgar, Andre Previn and current chief Valery Gergiev.
The 60-year-old conductor told reporters in London that the appointment, initially for five years, would be his last major job in music.
His Berlin contract ends in 2018, and he said he would juggle the two jobs for the 2017-18 season.
Rattle said he would focus on ensuring that as many people as possible — and especially children — have access to classical music, and in finding ways to spread the musical message through rapidly evolving digital media.
“We are all responsible for what happens to our art form,” he said. “We have to be evangelists, not just high priests.”
Rattle also hopes to build a new concert hall for the orchestra, which is currently based at London’s Barbican Centre, a multipurpose arts venue. Britain’s Treasury chief, George Osborne, has backed the idea, and a feasibility study will be carried out this year.
Rattle is well known to British audiences through tours and guest-conducting stints, and reached a global television audience when he conducted the LSO and Rowan Atkinson’s comic character Mr. Bean at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics.
He declined to say which orchestra was better, Berlin or London.
“Yes, I’m leaving a world-class orchestra, and I’m coming to another, very different type of world-class orchestra,” he said. “Fortunately, as a wine lover, there’s not only one kind of wine you can drink.”