The Last Night of the Proms is too "jingoistic" for Sir Simon Rattle, with the conductor saying he had avoided the event since the Falklands War.
Sir Simon said that the flag-waving and belting out of Rule, Britannia! three months after Britain’s victory in the conflict with Argentina in 1982 had put him off the event, although he has made numerous appearances for other dates in the Proms calendar over the years.
"I never conducted the Last Night, always avoided it a bit. I’ve been uneasy about some of the jingoistic elements ever since the Falklands in 1982," he told Radio Times.
"On the other hand, I also felt this was a kind of extraordinary thing where people got together and celebrated the end of what is a unique series of concerts. And there aren’t that many pieces of music that we have in our national conscience to actually sing together.
"So I’m very torn, to be honest. I have avoided it at a certain point. But I think everybody simply has to have their own reaction."
Sir Simon has been based in Germany for many years, as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 2002-18.
Sir Simon said British politicians were afraid to enthuse about the arts, while their German counterparts were more cultured
Credit: Robbie Jack/Getty
He returned as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017 but will go back to Germany in 2023 as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
A fierce critic of Brexit, he applied for German citizenship earlier this year.
Speaking to the BBC’s Alan Yentob in his Radio Times interview, Sir Simon said British politicians were afraid to enthuse about the arts, while German politicians were more cultured.
He enthused about Angela Merkel, saying she would listen to the Berlin Philharmonic play Bach’s St Matthew Passion one day and attend a football match the next, and "would love both equally".
“But [in Britain] we’ve made a division in our country where part of the culture is a little suspect … I know that politicians are very loath, for instance, to express an admiration for classical music and that opera-lovers among members of Parliament tend to find a way to slip in after the curtain has gone up and leave before it’s gone down," he said.
Last year’s Proms were overshadowed by a row over Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory after organisers attempted to drop the lyrics and use orchestral versions of the songs. After a backlash and an intervention from Boris Johnson, the BBC reinstated the lyrics.
This year, the songs will be sung as normal by a capacity crowd in the Royal Albert Hall.