BERLIN – Germany's president on Tuesday bestowed the country's highest honor on British conductor Simon Rattle, the former head of the Berlin Philharmonic who is set to take a new job in Munich next year.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said as he presented Rattle with the Order of Merit that the 67-year-old “became ‘our’ Simon” during 16 years at the helm of the Philharmonic.
“You are an in-person advertisement for music, for the music that you bring to life with your orchestras,” Steinmeier said. He also praised Rattle's efforts to introduce events for families and children in Berlin.
Rattle, who lives in Berlin and now has German citizenship, said he was “deeply grateful for this honor.”
He noted that he will soon have “another musical home in Munich,” where he is set to take over the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra next year. He is currently music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Rattle said that “at the moment, one of the few advantages of COVID is that people barely have time to deal with Brexit.”
“Whatever the situation in my native country may be at the moment, most musicians there feel deeply European,” said the conductor, who has been among critics of post-Brexit restrictions on U.K. musicians touring in the European Union.