Who might be in the running to replace Sir Simon Rattle at the London Symphony Orchestra?

13 January 2021, 20:10 | Updated: 13 January 2021, 20:12

Conductors of today. Picture: Getty, Willeke Machiels, Musacchio & Ianniello, Masataka Suemitsu

By Kyle Macdonald

Who might the LSO call up for orchestral music’s top job? Let’s take a look at some of the considerable conductor talent out there.

On Monday came the headline-splashing news that star maestro Sir Simon Rattle had renewed his contract in London until 2023, when he will then take up the role of chief conductor at Munich’s Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

This means one of the top posts in orchestral music will be vacant. The players of the LSO will be looking for a new person to follow the distinguished line of chief conductors and directors, who have included André Previn, Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev and the curly-haired maestro himself.

Here’s a list of some of the most exciting conductors around at the moment, who could one day be called up to fill Sir Simon’s sizeable symphonic shoes.

  1. Antonio Pappano

    One of the world's great maestros was born not too far from the sight of the towers of London's Barbican and the LSO's home, at the end of the Central Line in Epping, Essex. The English-Italian conductor has been music director of the Royal Opera House since 2002, and has also indulged his considerable symphonic capabilities at the Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.

    Will the 61-year-old, who is very much at the height of his powers, fancy swapping operatic scenes for symphonies?

    Conductor Antonio Pappano rehearses in Boston
    Conductor Antonio Pappano rehearses in Boston. Picture: Getty
  2. Marin Alsop

    When Alsop was nine years old, she saw Leonard Bernstein for the first time. From that night she knew she wanted to be a conductor...

    Unquestionably now one of the finest baton-wavers in the world, she was Principal Conductor of Classic FM's Orchestra in the South of England, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, from 2002 to 2008.

    Last year Marin announced that she was stepping down as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, marking the end of her 14-year tenure. Fancy following that with a trip to London, Marin?

    Here she is talking about her childhood hero, mentor and teacher, Leonard Bernstein.

    Marin Alsop on her musical hero, Leonard Bernstein

  3. Daniel Harding

    This newly CBE'd 45-year-old has lots of history with Classic FM's Orchestra in the City of London, as principal guest conductor over many years. Since 2016 he has also been principal conductor at the other end of the Eurostar with the Orchestre de Paris.

    Interestingly, when he's not flying high on the podium, Harding is a licensed airline pilot. He recently announced his intention to take a sabbatical from conducting to be a commercial pilot with Air France. Maybe you could land that plane at London City Airport, eh Daniel?

    Daniel Harding at the Philharmonie in Paris
    Daniel Harding at the Philharmonie in Paris. Picture: Getty
  4. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

    The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has made a name for itself as a spotter of rising symphonic talent. It's where Sir Simon made his name, after all. So the world took notice when in February 2016, the CBSO named Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as its next music director.

    Mirga has made a huge impact at her Midlands orchestral home, with acclaimed concerts and recordings with fellow rising-stars like Sheku Kanneh-Mason. She also became the first female conductor ever to sign an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

    The CBSO might be her home for a while yet, but any orchestra in the world would be lucky to have her.

    Going for the impossible The Conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

  5. Andris Nelsons

    This Globe-trotting Latvian maestro is top of anyone's list for super-classy baton-waving. Nelsons currently holds top jobs at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The maestro is still only in his early 40s, with many exciting things ahead.

    Andris Nelsons in rehearsal at Boston
    Andris Nelsons in rehearsal at Boston. Picture: Getty
  6. Karina Canellakis

    One of the most exciting young conductors around, Karina Canellakis was recently announced as Principal Guest Conductor of London Philharmonic Orchestra, joining its newly appointed main maestro Edward Gardner. The American is also the chief conductor of Netherlands Radio Philharmonic.

    We're sure she'll spend many happy years on the south side of the Thames, but is definitely a name we'll be hearing a lot from over the coming years.

    Karina Canellakis
    Karina Canellakis. Picture: Chris Christodolou
  7. Elim Chan

    One of Elim's big breakthroughs happened with the LSO when, in 2014, she became the first female winner of the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition. The Hong-Kong-born maestro has now gone on to be Chief Conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra.

    No doubt, more big things await. And it's always good when one of the most sought-after conductors of our time plays a strong Instagram game as well.

  8. François-Xavier Roth

    The much-loved Frenchman is currently Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He's known for his inventive music-making, dedication to new music and adventurous programming, which has all won him a cult following over the years.

    Debussy: Prélude à  l'aprés-midi d'un Faune | François-Xavier Roth & London Symphony Orchestra

  9. Mark Wigglesworth

    Another very fine British conductor, Wigglesworth made his name with pit-based baton-waving at the Metropolitan Opera, ENO and Glyndebourne, but has very considerable symphonic chops too.

    Mark Wigglesworth
    Mark Wigglesworth. Picture: Sim Canetty-Clarke
  10. Susanna Mälkki

    Currently the Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic, Susanna is another who is making waves across the world. She's also down for a visit soon, to conduct Kaija Saariaho’s new opera Innocence with the LSO in July this year.

    Photo: Stefan Bremer

    Posted by Susanna Mälkki on Tuesday, August 29, 2017