But the next few years will see the classical musical scene is in a stage of extreme polymorphism, as many of the major musical figures here are due to relinquish their posts by the year 2002.
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Claudio Abbado steps down as musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002, in favour of the Liverpudlian Sir Simon Rattle. Thankfully, Rattle has promised to bring the Berlin Phil up to date; although still one of the greatest orchestras on earth, the BPO's repertoire has ossified into 98% nineteenth century warhorses. Rattle - bless him - has pledged to introduce much more contemporary music into their programmes when he takes over, even going so far as to say that BPO audiences will be lucky to hear one Brahms symphony a season under him. No doubt that will shock the purists and complacent grandees, but at least it will turn the BPO into a living, breathing orchestra and not just a sonic museum - however grand.
Vladimir Ashkenazy bows out in 2001 as musical director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. His successor will be the mercurial Kent Nagano. Nagano even managed to press the Berlin Senat into increasing the band's budget by some six million DM annually by threatening to cancel his contract if they didn't. Whilst the DSO can't boast the reputation of the Berlin Philharmonic (which orchestra can?), the DSO is still a fine orchestra with an adventurous mix of programming.
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Berlin's second oldest orchestra (77 in the year 2000) is the redoubtable Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Presently helmed by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (to say nothing of their exceptional regular guest conductor, Michael Jurowski), the RSB play at both the Philharmonie and the Konzerthaus. Programmes by the RSO are tasteful but never complacent; an orchestra worthy of a hearing.
And don't dismiss the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, which is based at the Konzerthaus (formerly the Schauspielhaus). On its better nights, it can give the above-mentioned bands a run for their money.