By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - International conducting star Simon Rattle said on Tuesday he would become music director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in September, 2017, confirming one of the biggest open secrets in classical music.
Rattle's post as principal conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic ends in 2018 while the LSO's principal conductor, Valery Gergiev, winds up his posting this year. Gergiev will continue to conduct the LSO while Rattle will start taking over during the interval.
"This is my last job, this is my last big job," Rattle, 60, said at a news conference.
"At the moment it is a normal five-year term with a rolling (extension) possibility," Rattle said when asked about the terms of the appointment. "But it is obvious in all of our minds this is a long-term thing."
He said he had been attracted to the LSO in part because of the orchestra's education program and the quality of the musicians.
"We share a dream in which performing, teaching and learning are indivisible, with wider dissemination of our art at its center," Rattle said.
The Briton also said he enjoyed the notion of "coming home".
Liverpool-born Rattle, who in his youth had a distinctive mop of curly black hair that has now turned gray, is considered one of the world's top conductors.
He announced in January 2013 he would not stay in Berlin beyond the end of his current contract, giving rise to the not-so-secret prospect that he would be heading back to Britain to take over the LSO from Gergiev.
He declined to speculate on a possible successor in Berlin.
Rattle earned a reputation as a whiz-kid conductor following his graduation from London's Royal Academy of Music in 1974, where he won a prestigious conducting competition.
From 1980-1998 he was principal conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He pushed for a new Symphony Hall which opened in 1991 and is considered one of the best in Britain.
His appointment in 2002 as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, often ranked as the world's best orchestra, was not without controversy, with some of the orchestra members, who vote for their leader, voting for Daniel Barenboim instead.
Some German critics were not pleased with his performances, but in 2008 the orchestra voted to extend his contract for an additional 10 years until 2018. He and the orchestra won a Grammy for orchestral performance in 2001.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)