So you think the mood in Britain is gloomy? The view from Berlin looks even more apocalyptic, it seems. “If I were not British,” says Britain’s most celebrated conductor, “I would say that this old country of ours is going through a kind of endgame.”
The remark is so startling that I stare open-mouthed at Sir Simon Rattle. Does he mean that Britain is finished? “Well, that cannot be true, can it?” he goes on. “And yet what I read about the country at the moment is totally depressing.”
Will he vote in the election? “Let’s put it this way: every time I read about what Wagner was like, I wonder why I am performing his music. And every time I read about what British politics is like, I wonder why I should vote. But I suppose I’d better get my act together and support someone on the day.”
The Tories? A vote for change? Rattle laughs, as if I’ve suggested that he conduct a Lloyd Webber medley at his next Berlin Philharmonic concert. “Look, how long have you known me? You can’t really imagine me voting Conservative, can you? If I knew myself who I was voting for I would tell you.