Limelighteditor Francis Merson speaks to Sir Simon Rattle about his past, present and future with the Berlin Philharmonic.

On September 7, 2002, Sir Simon Rattle took up the baton as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, confirming a fact we had all known, but never uttered – here was a conductor capable of making history. The chieftains of the Berlin Phil have an unerring habit of being geniuses, and the names of Rattle’s predecessors read like an honour roll of great maestros. Hans von Bülow, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Herbert von Karajan, Sergiu Celibidache, Claudio Abbado… For Rattle is this a legacy to be proud of – or a hard act to follow? We caught up with Sir Simon at the beginning of his eighth season with the orchestra, after he had just extended his contract until 2018.

A conductor of your stature could pretty much have his pick of orchestras. Why did you choose to continue with the Berlin Philharmonic?

Once you catch the virus with this orchestra, it...