BERLIN (AP) - Simon Rattle will leave his post as chief conductor and artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic when his contract ends in 2018, he said Thursday.
The British conductor said he would be 64 by then and wanted to make room after 16 years for someone else to take the helm at the German capital's renowned orchestra.
"As a Liverpool boy, it is impossible not to think of the Beatles' question, `Will you still need me.., when I'm 64?'" he said in a statement.
"This was not an easy decision," he added. "I love this orchestra and therefore wanted to tell them my decision as early as possible."
The orchestra's chairmen, Peter Riegelbauer and Stefan Dohr, said they regretted but respected his decision to quit. Its general manager Martin Hoffmann said the orchestra won't name Rattle's successor before 2015.
He told Berlin's rbb kulturradio station that there had been no differences between Rattle and the orchestra.
"But we live in an age where a lifelong link between both sides, the chief conductor and the musical body, isn't regarded as the ideal solution anymore," Hoffmann said.
The Berlin Philharmonic has been among the most stable podiums in music, with just three chief conductors in a span of six decades. Herbert von Karajan was chief conductor from 1954-89 and was followed by Claudio Abbado, who led the orchestra until Rattle took over in 2002.