Veteran conductor Sir Simon Rattle celebrates his 60th birthday on Monday with a special gift from BBC Radio 3.
From January 19 to 23, the station will be broadcasting, for the first time, previously unheard recordings of Sir Simon conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Listeners will be able to hear Sir Simon conducting his first-ever Beethoven symphony cycle in 1995. The pieces were recorded over five days at the Alte Oper Frankfurt and will be broadcast every night.
The recordings capture one of the great partnerships between conductor and orchestra in British music.
It’s a mystery why they have never been broadcast or released as a record before.
Andrew Barnell, who was principal bassoonist with the CBSO for 37 years from 1970, said: “I remember the concerts being recorded by a company called Floating Earth, who we worked with a lot.
“The end of Simon’s reign was in sight, it was three years before he left, and they didn’t want to miss any opportunity to record his work.
“But for some reason the recordings were quietly forgotten about afterwards, apart from by the chief executive who realised they were still on hard disc and retrieved them from the archive.
“You can’t just produce a Beethoven cycle out of the hat, it’s a result of many years of work.
“From what I gather, they were good concerts to an enthusiastic audience, even though it was a bit cheeky of us. Going to Germany for a week and playing Beethoven – like going to Helsinki and playing Sibelius, which we also did – is like taking coals to Newcastle, but I think we got away with it.
“Frankfurt is a lovely concert hall, the former opera house which was bombed in 1944.
“It was a treat for us to have a week’s work in one place, and in a civilised town. Orchestra tours usually turn into one night stands and you are on the move all the time.
“I remember the concerts being successful. They would have to be for Radio 3 to give up so much time for them – it’s a huge thing they are doing and I’m looking forward to hearing the programmes.
“I spent almost all my career with the CBSO. A lot of the woodwind section were there for many years and that was one of our strengths – we knew each other and Simon very well.
“I cannot believe that Simon is going to be 60. He will always seem 25 to me, because he’s very dynamic and has such a great sense of humour.”
Sir Simon led the CBSO for 18 years, from 1980 to 1998, and oversaw the orchestra’s move from Birmingham Town Hall to the new Symphony Hall.
He was knighted in 1994 and moved to the Berlin Philharmonic in 1999.
The Rattle celebrations begin just after midnight on Monday, January 19 when Through The Night broadcasts the Berlin Philharmonic under him in Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
Radio 3 Live in Concert begins on Monday, January 19 at 7.30pm with the two-and-a-half hour programme of Sir Simon conducting the CBSO in Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos 1 and 3.
The week continues on Tuesday, January 20 with the Overture to Fidelio and the Leonora Overtures Nos 1 and 2, as well as Symphony No 2.
Wednesday, January 21 sees the CBSO perform Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos 4 and 5 and an excerpt from Leonora Prohaska.
On Thursday, January 22 they move on to Symphonies Nos 6 and 7, with the cycle concluding on Friday, January 23 with Symphonies Nos 8 and 9.
Radio 3’s Essential Classics will also feature Rattle as its Artist of the Week from Monday, January 19.