Britain’s thrilling new music director is … Mirga

Britain’s thrilling new music director is … Mirga


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2016

As we’ve been forecasting for a while, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has named Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as its next music director, starting in September.

This is thrilling for all sorts of reasons.

At 29, Mirga is the first shoot of a new generation of music directors. Only Zurich, with Lionel Bringuier, has a younger boss.

Birmingham has once again set the lead, and the tone, for the rest of the country. Since 1979 the city has followed the instincts and enthusiasms of its musicians in picking a music director. Every result was a winner – Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo (still mostly a violinist at his appointment), Andris Nelsons, and now Mirga.

London is left looking stale and middle-aged.

There is nothing fuddy-duddy about Mirga. She is a very contemporary person and a brilliant musician.

Here are seven more things you need to know about her.


Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla

press release:

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is delighted to announce that Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been appointed as its 12th Music Director, with effect from September 2016 for an initial three-year period.

Gražinytė-Tyla made her debut with the CBSO in July 2015 and impressed the Orchestra so much that she returned last month to conduct a specially arranged concert featuring works by Debussy, Schumann and Sibelius. Following an extensive search process led by a committee made up of CBSO musicians, board members and management, and with strong support from Orchestra and audience alike, a unanimous decision was made by the board of trustees to invite Gražinytė-Tyla to be the CBSO’s next Music Director. She succeeds Andris Nelsons, who held the position from 2008-2015.

The CBSO is known for performing the widest range of orchestral and choral music, and Gražinytė-Tyla will continue this tradition in her role as Music Director. Her artistic plans with the CBSO will range widely from Mozart and Haydn to 20th century classics and works by living composers. Coming from the strong choral traditions of the Baltic states (her father is a choir conductor in Lithuania), and following her role in Salzburg, she will also lead opera projects in Birmingham and will work closely with Simon Halsey CBE, CBSO Chorus Director, on projects with the CBSO’s internationally renowned choruses. Full details of the CBSO’s 2016-17 concert season in Symphony Hall, Birmingham will be announced in April 2016.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla said: ‘Every single musician of the CBSO is an artist with great individuality and sense of responsibility.They are driven to be one of the world’s leading orchestras and their shared spirit for team work helps them to achieve this. I felt so at ease working with the Orchestra at the CBSO Centre and at Symphony Hall and I can’t wait to get started and to call these my homes too. I am also very excited about working with the CBSO family including its brilliant choirs led by Simon Halsey, and getting involved with its extensive learning and participation programme both locally and further afield. I believe we will be a great team and really look forward to making music together.’

CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock commented: ‘We are absolutely delighted to be appointing Mirga as the CBSO’s next Music Director. There was an instant chemistry between Mirga and our musicians, and the excitement in Symphony Hall at her concerts both on stage and in the audience was palpable. The CBSO is world-famous for its track record in finding brilliant young conducting talent: Sir Simon Rattle, appointed at just 25 years old, held the post for 18 years before moving to the Berlin Philharmonic. He passed the baton to the superbly talented Sakari Oramo (appointed at 30), who is now with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Andris Nelsons (appointed at 28) had seven wonderful years here and has gone on to lead the Boston Symphony and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras. Mirga is 29 and is thrilling audiences wherever she goes: we can’t wait to start making music with her.’

Gražinytė-Tyla has been Music Director of the Salzburg Landestheater since 2015. She is currently the Assistant Conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she was a Dudamel Fellow in 2012-13, and she takes up a new post of Associate Conductor from July 2016. She won the prestigious Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award in 2012.

Gustavo Dudamel, Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said: ‘I am personally delighted that Mirga has made such a strong connection with the musicians in Birmingham. She is an amazing artist, and we’ve been lucky to have her in Los Angeles. I know that she and this Orchestra are going to do great things together.’

Andris Nelsons, former Music Director of the CBSO, commented: ‘Sending my very warmest congratulations to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla on her appointment with the tremendous City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. My time with the Orchestra will always be very special to me, and I am sure Mirga will also be so inspired by the wonderful musical family of the CBSO. Together, with these gifted musicians, an exciting future lies ahead for Birmingham and I wish them all the very best!’

Zoë Beyers, CBSO Associate Leader said: ‘This is the start of an incredibly exciting time for the Orchestra – to work with someone as talented, vibrant and energetic as Mirga is a dream come true. She is a completely committed and serious musician, but at the same time she manages to convey her enthusiasm and joy in the music to us all on the stage and in the audience. Spirit, dynamism and sincerity – Mirga has all of these qualities in abundance.’

Bridget Blow, Chair of the CBSO, said: ‘The CBSO has, for many decades, brought the best music, artists and musicians to Birmingham while also acting as a proud ambassador for the city through extensive touring. In Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla we have found a new Music Director who will continue to deliver the highest quality music-making at home in Birmingham and the UK as well as internationally. I am delighted to welcome her to the CBSO family.’


  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Good luck to her & I’m sure she’s very talented. The CBSO are taking a significant step towards gender equality in Classical music.

    But now I prepare for the hate mail. Women are not well matched to the rigours of the international orchestral podium for a number of reasons. As expressed by Panula & Petrenko in previously controversial statements- men are just more suited to this particularly odd and unique form of musical expression. Conducting is essentially a macho pursuit- all about huge ego and impressing your will on the musicians- many of whom think they can do a better job than the person at the front. I’ve heard women play the socks off men at the piano- with far greater sensitivity and virtuosity. But I’m yet to hear a woman get a truly dramatic sound out of a professional orchestra. The results are sometimes adequate and perfectly OK from an ensemble purpose. There are many strata of reasons for this- technical, historical and physical- perhaps worth exploring in another forum.

    An interesting experiment for the CBSO- lets see if it works.

  • Iain Scott says:

    Ha Ha I love your forecasts Norman.

  • Halldor says:

    You know what everyone is (rightly) going to say about this comment, so I’m not going to say it. Full marks for at least having the cojones to own your own prejudice; many would have hidden behind a pseudonym.

    But I would just say one thing. “I’m yet to hear a woman get a truly dramatic sound out of a professional orchestra”? I have, more than once. And the most recent occasion was under Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla last month in Birmingham.

  • debussyste says:

    Orchestras should pick young black female conductors so Mr Lebrecht would happy ! Where is the musical talent in all that fuss, I really don’t know . Mr Lebrecht is in fact a not so young white male. It’s what we call a self depreciating obsession.

    • Halldor says:

      All Norman’s said is that she’s young (fact), that she’s brilliant (a widely-shared view), and that Birmingham generally picks winners (matter of opinion but most people would say that future MDs of Berlin, the BBC and Boston aren’t nothing).

      Not sure quite where your comments about race and gender come from but they don’t reflect terribly well on your preoccupations.

  • harold braun says:

    Oh no…..I mean have you seen her?This should be the successor of Andris Nelsons,Sakari Oramo,and Simon Rattle?

    • CBSO_SINGER says:

      Yes I’ve seen her and she was brilliant! And I’ve worked with the 3 previous conductors. As a singer in the CBSO Chorus, I can’t wait to work with her, especially given her choral conducting background and emphasis on teamwork. This is an excellent appointment and it’s great that the orchestra themselves carry so much weight in the process.

      • Halldor says:

        I’ve heard her too. As, more importantly, have the same musicians who were amongst the first to recognise the gifts of Rattle, Oramo and Nelsons. We’d do well to take their judgement seriously.

  • Doug Grant says:

    From the evidence on YouTube I am in no doubt that Nathalie Stutzmann is by a margin the most impressive female conductor. No glamour – lots of substance.

  • Peter says:

    Everybody just shut up. Give her at least a year, better three. Listen! And then let’s talk.

  • Frederick West says:

    Best of luck, she’s going to need it as the far sighted council has, according to Private Eye, slashed 25% from their funding, flogged off Symphony Hall and the hall’s CEO is throwing his towel in, with good reason it appears.
    Worth a read.

    • Tim Walton says:

      Actually the CEO (Andrew Jowett) of Symphony Hall it retiring. He’s been in charge of SH for around 28 years – Longer than the Hall’s been open.

      The fabulous work he’s done, in difficult circumstances, is appreciated by many people associated with Classical music in Birmingham.

      • Halldor says:

        Tim is correct. All of this is very old news: Symphony Hall was hived off the best part of a decade ago, the council cuts were known about and budgetted for 3 years ago and the CEO of Sym Hall (a completely separate organisation from the CBSO) has, after a long and successful career, already served well past most peoples’ retirement age. Don’t believe everything you read: a lot of sour grapes in the UK orchestra business.

        • Frederick West says:

          I don’t believe all I read, especially on here! Merely passing on this months satirical tidbits and I did acknowledge the source.

          • Tim Walton says:

            Following the cuts for the next year’s funding, which fortunately was budgeted for, Symphony Hall (Performance Birmingham), which runs the International Concerts, will now get a grant from Birmingham Council which pretty well matches what they have to pay back in rent!!!

            A dire situation to say the least.

      • Eva Frýdlová says:

  • Stweart says:

    With all these “know all” forecasters , will one of you please tell me the winner of the 3.0 o’clock at Wincanton for tomorrow ?

  • Ian says:

    Her July programme with CBSO of Barber’s Knoxville 1915 sandwiched between parts of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty suite looked weird on paper, but in the hall it worked exceptionally well – the pieces complementing each other and played without a break. I look forward to her concerts with the CBSO next year