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Hey, Sir DJ: Simon Rattle Picks Favorites From A 30-Year Recording Career

The Beatles aren't the only shaggy-haired musicians with a decades-long attachment to EMI. The venerable label is celebrating 30 years with conductor Sir Simon Rattle, music director of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Reissues from Sir Simon's vast catalog (Schoenberg, Webern, Beethoven, Berg) accompany his sparkling new recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, which you can hear in its entirety on our classical pages.

I called Rattle at his office at Berlin's Philharmonie and asked him to pick five of his own favorites from his three-decade stint.

"I'd rather pick other people's records," Rattle admitted. In his spare time, he says, he barely has time to listen to classical music, much less his own recordings.

"I'd be much more likely to watch the latest Tarantino movie than to listen to a Mahler symphony," he said.

Rattle signed with EMI in 1980 when he was all of 25 years old and newly installed as the music director of a British regional ensemble, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Over a period of 18 years, he molded the players into one of the more agile and important orchestras on the scene.

Rattle took over the Berlin Philharmonic in 1999. Below is a list of Rattle's favorites, including comments from the conductor himself.

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Simon Rattle
Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.