What Mirga does next

What Mirga does next


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2017

Music director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has unfurled her second season with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. It is nothing if not ambitious.

Mirga, 31, will conduct 26 concerts, including Haydn’s Creation, Fauré’s Requiem, Mahler 1 and 4 and a two-weekend Debussy Festival.

She will also conduct the Birmingham Conservatoire orchestra at the opening of its new building, and the CBSO Youth Orchestra.

She’s making her mark on Britain’s second city.


  • John says:

    Great. With each wave of new female conductors, this once all-male bastion is being transformed. Makes you wonder how the overall landscape of classical music might be different if so many institutions within it hadn’t been closed to all but fair-skinned males all these years, generations and centuries. All that unfulfilled talent. I’m glad that at 71 I’ve lived long enough to see this happening.

    • genderisjustgender says:

      Why does this have to based on gender and not the fact that someone is or is not a good musician? The fact that she is doing well should be a function of the fact that she may be a good musician not that she is a she.

      The priorities of the art form are in doubt these days. It is not about the gender of the messenger but the message being delivered.

      Gender is just gender. Music is music.

      • Lynn says:

        @ GIJG


      • John says:

        It’s only an issue because so many aspects of classical music have been closed to women. Yes, the fact that she is doing well should be a function of the fact that she may be a good musician not that she is a she. But would she have been able to achieve this level of success thirty years ago? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago? Of course not. Gender is just gender, true. But depending on your gender, not all things have been equal in this field, as has been discussed numerous times in this and many other forums.

      • Bruce says:

        Take heart, GIJG. You may have noticed that female conductors are gradually becoming less newsworthy, as they become less unusual. (Have you noticed how gay weddings no longer make the front pages of newspapers? Black baseball players also used to be newsworthy.)

        In the meantime, it’s unlikely that Mirga is having the career she’s having simply because she’s female. I’m sure she has at least as much depth & talent as Dudamel, Currentzis, Schwarz, or [insert name of male conductor whose career success mystifies you] 🙂

        • Halldor says:

          No-one who’s worked with Mirga or attended her concerts in Birmingham is mystified by her success. The confusion seems to be confined to armchair critics and misogynists in online comments sections.

          • harold braun says:

            Really?Worst Tchaikovsky 4th i ever heard…Conducting with the orchestra…Rather armchair conducting…don’t get it.

          • John says:

            To Harold Braun: You probably wouldn’t get it. Seems like her orchestra does, though.

          • Halldor says:

            Would that be the Proms Tchaik 4 that the Guardian called “spellbinding”, the Telegraph and the Times raved over and The Arts Desk chose as one of the best concerts of 2016? Well, fair enough, different strokes for different folks but clearly quite a lot of people who know their stuff thought very differently…

          • Bruce says:

            ^ “But I didn’t like it, so the rest of you must be idiots.”


  • Allen says:

    “Haydn’s Creation, Fauré’s Requiem, Mahler 1 and 4”

    If you’re referring to Joseph, Gabriel, and Gustav, and not some otherwise undiscovered composers of choral works and symphonies, I think you’ll find that they were premiered some time ago, with several performances since.

    If you want to make a convincing case for the Birmingham Buzz, you’ll have to do better than that.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Actually next season includes quite a few new and newer works. That they are not my cup of tea is another matter.

      Are there any performances by Gražinytė-Tyla available online? All I can find is media hype. Confusing.

    • Halldor says:

      The “Birmingham Buzz” doesn’t need a case making for it; it’s there whether you choose to engage with it or not.

      The season includes premieres by Gerald Barry, Simon Holt, Jorg Widmann, Kaija Saariaho and Onute Narbutaite; there’s music by Boulez, George Benjamin, Bax, Gade, Villa-Lobos, Takemitsu, Tristan Murail, Messiaen, Skalkottas and Steve Reich; Thomas Ades conducts his own Polaris, there’s a focus on Lili Boulanger and there’s a complete Pelleas and Melisande in concert. There’s also a Bollywood evening and a David Bowie tribute night.

      Maybe your palate’s too jaded for that to make much of an impression, but it strikes me as a pretty good showing from an orchestra that’s suffered repeated funding cuts.

      • Nigel Harris says:

        Halldor is absolutely spot on. It’s an extraordinary achievement in these times that the CBSO can put on so exciting an enterprising a season, whilst at the same time playing at least as well as they ever have in the forty years I’ve been hearing them regularly. In that time they’ve had only five, very different, chief conductors, all of them outstandingly good (the lamented Fremaux very much included). But even against that background, the Mirga era promises to be something really special. There really is a buzz. In many ways she reminds me more of the young Rattle, rather than Oramo or Nelsons, who were probably closer to being the finished artistic article when they arrived. But the energy, the enterprise, the breadth of musical sympathies, the palpable human warmth, the charisma… She won’t get everything right, for sure; but the talent and promise is immense.

        • Talking the Talk says:

          Yes, immense, if you consider the ability and technique to conduct and insightful artistry and musicality optional to a music director but yes thanks, I can hear the buzz buzz buzz of all the busy little bees from my very comfy armchair and everyone’s looking very fashionable in all their newly made attire. Though someone should really have the decency to tell them, and sometime soon, that the new clothes are somewhat revealing.

      • Allen says:

        If you’d given even a moment’s thought to my comment, it would be obvious that my dig was aimed at NL’s ridiculous examples.

        Why didn’t he mention any of the premieres you listed? Why no link? Lazy.

        And you know precisely nothing about my palate. Your thin skinned response to any perceived dig at Birmingham does the place no favours.

      • stweart says:

        “Birmingham Buzz” Which route is that ? The #23 passes Symphony Hall’
        (this is probably one of the more “sensible” comments you’ll get)
        Not including Halldor !

      • Bomberg says:

        Bravo! Was composing a reply of my own along similar lines, but I doubt it would have been as concise and to the point.

    • Bruce says:

      Allen –

      I’m sorry, I was unable to find any claims that the Haydn Creation, Fauré Requiem, or Mahler Symphonies #1 and #4 were new works or premieres. Would you mind pointing out such claims so that I can join you in refuting them? Thanks.

      • Allen says:

        Missed the point. See above.

        • Bruce says:

          No I didn’t. Read what you wrote.

          (a) NL called it an “ambitious” season. You responded by saying that Mahler 1 etc. were not new works or premieres.
          (b) In your original post, you didn’t say anything about the new works that actually are on the CBSO season, nor did you say that NL should have mentioned them.
          (c) A season can still be ambitious without a lot of new works: the rep that NL lists offers plenty of opportunities for a conductor to show her weak spots.
          (d) You imply (or perhaps I only read it this way) that the new works are the only reason the coming season might be “buzzworthy.” Do you think this is true?

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    Nice try, Mirga! But we certainly expected more!
    How about an all-women-composer program, i.e. with works by Alma Mahler, Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, performed by select female musicians from the orchestra.
    And we just can’t wait to see you conduct new commissioned pieces by contemporary female composers such as Kaija Saariaho,Sofia Gubaidulina,Unsuk Chin and many more.
    Girl’s day or similar events, on which only female audiences are allowed, would surely be highly appreciated by all genders.

    Please keep going, Mirga. Within 5 to 10 years, you will save the classical music!

    • Sam says:

      While I get what you’re saying, a lot of it is ridiculous. If you took 1 minute to look, the orchestra IS presenting a Saariaho premiere next season. An all women composer program would be outstanding, but living women composers please. A program of just Alma, Clara and Fanny sounds dreadful. Finally, a concert where only women are allowed to attend definitely does not appeal to both genders & in fact is most likely illegal.

      • Bruce says:

        Please don’t feed the troll. This is the same person who said now that he knows Gerard Schwarz is Jewish, he’s glad he didn’t buy any of his CDs.

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        What I wanted to say was that Mirga and her orchestra should commission new pieces from female composers and give première. That would be even one step further than performing contemporary works.

        In no circumstances did I intend to exclude male audiences from concerts! What I had in mind was actually some kind of lady’s party on certain special holidays. In tech companies, such events have been existing for a long time. In the university we also have a girl’s science day. I never noticed that male colleagues dislike such events.

        Although I heard about Gerard Schwarz long time ago, I didn’t know about his Jewish origin until reading the article about “genteel antisemitism”. I am glad that I didn’t buy his CDs because according to many readers’ comments Gerard Schwarz seems to be a mediocre conductor, who thinks antisemitism hinders a greater breakthrough of his career.

        My favorite active conductors are Barenboim,K.Pektrenko,V.Jurowski & Ivan Fischer, all happen to be Jews and Berliner Chefs.

  • Stravinsky says:

    Gražinytė-Tyla will be conducting the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in May 2018.

  • Pete says:

    Mirga is a pretty good conductor and a pretty conductor, and she is well good to watch when she waves her arms around.

    • Zelda Macnamara says:

      Because I tend to go to the international series in Birmingham rather than the CBSO concerts, I have only just experienced a concert with Mirga. Stunning Leonore 3 and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, but I was not at all convinced by her Beethoven 5. I think she is a bit of an exhibitionist (e.g. singing a Lithuanian song to an orchestra member who is due to retire) and the way she jumps up and down and waves her arms around is very distracting. A conductor shouldn’t be a distraction. She gets results from the orchestra, but they are an expert and well-oiled machine. The audience provided the required groupie adulation and I was looked at very sternly by a friend of a friend, when I dared to say that I had heard better renderings of the 5th. My husband says I am “old-fashioned” – because I can remember Giuilini.

      • Pete says:

        That it is. A Mirga concert is an experience, and she is something to watch as well as doing interesting and unusual stuff, and her Beethoven is a bit different, so some might not like it.