Breaking: Rattle extends with London while signing for Munich

Breaking: Rattle extends with London while signing for Munich


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2021

Bavarian Radio has confirmed that Simon Rattle will become music director of its symphony orchestra from September 2023, a long time ahead.

The London Symphony Orchestra announced that Rattle, 66 this month, has extended his contract with them until 2023.

It’s looks like he’s trying to have his cake and eat it.

He certainly can’t do both jobs at the same time.

More follows.


UPDATE: The LSO has issued this statement through semi-gritted teeth:

David Alberman, Chair, and Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director, London Symphony Orchestra: “Sir Simon Rattle will extend his current agreement with the London Symphony Orchestra as Music Director until 2023. In view of the special relationship the orchestra has with Sir Simon, he will take up a lifetime role as Conductor Emeritus from 2023 onwards, the first such appointment to this role since André Previn.   Simon will be taking forward a number of significant projects with us over the coming years working from our home base at the Barbican. These include a cycle of Janáček operas, a number of ambitious new commissions and his continued work with young people on our East London music education programmes. We want to thank Sir Simon for his immense and continuing contribution to the London Symphony Orchestra. Simon’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and champion the causes of Classical Music and Music Education in the U.K continues to be hugely important both for us and also for future generations in the UK.”

Sir Simon Rattle: “I am delighted that I will continue in my role as Music Director of the Orchestra for another three years, extending my contract until 2023, and that I will be able to remain closely associated with the orchestra into the future.  My reasons for accepting the role of Chief Conductor in Munich are entirely personal, enabling me to better manage the balance of my work and be close enough to home to be present for my children in a meaningful way.  I love the London Symphony Orchestra. I remain committed to the LSO, and we have plans for major projects in the coming years. I am thrilled that we will be making music together far into the future.”

Statement from Bavarian Radio, wearing a huge grin:

Ulrich Wilhelm, Intendant des Bayerischen Rundfunks: The Bayerischer Rundfunk is delighted that Sir Simon is coming to Munich as our next Chief Conductor. With his passion, artistic versatility and winning charisma, he will be a most worthy successor to Mariss Jansons. Our Chorus and the Symphonieorchester look forward enormously to developing the artistic concept for the new concert hall in Munich’s Werksviertel Mitte together with Sir Simon, who is peerless in his advocacy for bringing the joy of music to people in new ways. I see this appointment as an important and forward-looking signal, particularly in a time in which the arts have faced unimagined challenges as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Sir Simon Rattle: Ich bin begeistert, die Position des Chefdirigenten von Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks anzunehmen. Es ist eine Ehre, die Nachfolge von Mariss Jansons anzutreten, und ich freue mich darauf, diese wunderbaren Musikerinnen und Musiker in den kommenden Jahren zu leiten. (I am thrilled to accept the position of Chief Conductor of the Symphonieorchester and BR Chorus. It is an honour to succeed Mariss Jansons in this role, and I look forward to leading these wonderful musicians for many years to come.)


  • Herr Doktor says:

    Failing upwards, methinks.

  • AngloGerman says:

    Poor choice by the BRSO.

  • Archie_V says:

    Can he really not do both at the same time? He already commutes to London from his home in Berlin, so surely nipping down to Munich from time to time won’t be much of a stretch – at least compared with those of his peers who double-team as the principals of orchestras on different continents (hi, Andris!)

    • Emil says:

      Rattle has also been outspoken about the problems of jet-setting artists. So not doing both is consistent with his approach (he’s also been ‘conditioned’ in this mold by his time in Berlin). And trading the LSO for the BRSO is a clear win for him.

  • Axl says:

    I can’t stopping smiling! This is a dream come true for me. They have special chemistry and it really hear in concerts and so on. BRSO is Germany’s No. 2 orchestra after Berlin Phil with lot’s of talent and skills and wonderful sound. Rattle will sure be the best possible chief conductor for them. And the personal reasons – he resides in Berlin which is “half step” between Britain and his wife home country (Czech) and Rattle has sayed that Berlin is at this moment best place for his family. So I understand that Munich post it’s much easier to him – not only for Brexit – but logistically.
    Huge congrats to BRSO and Sir Simon!

  • microview says:

    ‘A worthy successor to Mariss Jansons’?

  • Schoenberglover says:

    A huge shame for the LSO but we all knew this was coming.
    I guess Rattle will be like what Sir Colin Davis was to the LSO, always around until the end of his life even after he’d left the post of Principal Conductor (Music Director in Rattle’s case).

    Just saw the press release which says:
    “As Conductor Emeritus, Sir Simon will spend 4-6 weeks with the LSO every year giving London audiences the opportunity to enjoy his performances with the LSO for many years to come, as a key member of the LSO’s most distinguished family of conductors.”
    So yeah he’s not leaving completely, just doing less work with the LSO.
    Wonder who’ll replace him – my money’s on one of the Principal guests – Roth or Noseda.

  • fflambeau says:

    To me, this makes a good deal of sense. I think that Rattle knows that the U.K. is soon to be a different place with Brexit and Scotland soon breaking off. London will also suffer greatly because the EU will want financial institutions in Brussels, Paris, and Germany, not in the City (and why not?). Munich is a beautiful country in the most powerful country in Europe. Rattle is a European.

    This may come as a shocker but I also see Ireland (not the North) becoming perhaps the 53rd State after DC and Puerto Rico after the USA emerges from th dark years of Donald Trump. Note that there are more Irish in America than in Ireland and they are looked upon favorably (Kennedy, Reagan, and now Biden all have Irish ancestry). The Dems will need a foothold in Europe and also more senators so it’s great for them; also good for the Irish because tourism with the US would explode and they would have statehood autonomy plus a huge market to sell to.

    None of this is going to help the U.K. which I think will continue to slide into decline. Elections do have consequences. The Brexiters wanted a Little England and they are going to get it.

    • Allen says:

      Scotland will not break off, all talk it spite of what some might wish to think, and the City of London is employing more people than before. London is way ahead of other European cities as the best place to raise capital. There is no indication whatsoever that that is going to change, just more wishful thinking.

      Europe is not what it was, not even close.

      • Don Pasquale says:

        Oh yes Scotland will. Wishful thinking n your part that it will not. The number of previous no voters that are now yes is considerable.

        • Allen says:

          “Wishful thinking n your part that it will not.”

          Didn’t say one way or the other.

          There are no “no voters” because there hasn’t been a recent referendum, but plenty of shy remainers I suspect. The departure south of productive Scots following a leave decision would be crippling in itself. I’d be speculating on property in Northumberland.

      • fflambeau says:

        The EU is seizing ham and cheese sandwichs and other foods brought in by truckers from the U.K. It’s real folks and Rattle has seen it coming.

      • fflambeau says:

        Why do you think Donald Trump was seriously hoping that Greenland could be added to the USA? Because he liked Greenland? Hardly. He saw it as 2 extra votes in the US Senate for his party. Just like Biden will see Ireland as 2 extra votes in the Senate for his party. But I think the Irish will actually want to be part of the USA, unlike Greenland. I also think the Scots have had it with the English.

    • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

      “Munich is a beautiful country…” It is the capital of Bavaria!

    • Alan says:

      I’m sorry? You think Ireland is going to become a part of the US?

      You’re joking surely. Or completely insane. It’s either one or the other.

    • Dave T says:

      Barack Obama has Irish ancestry, as well.

  • fflambeau says:

    Munich is a city of course, not a country.

  • Dave says:

    I’ve heard it said of Rattle that even while you’re in conversation with him, he’s always looking past you in case somebody more useful turns up.

    Caveat Monachium?

  • MonacoListener says:

    An ideal choice for the BRSO, and one that Mariss Jansons himself would have been thrilled with- they were dear friends and it’s widely known that Jansons respected SSR enormously. SSR’s concerts with the BRSO are always absolute highlights here- Das Lied, Walküre, Schumann 2…whatever the repertoire the musicians play at their best for him, and the love and admiration they so clearly share with SSR emanates from the podium on down to the last desk string players.

  • Grammar Costs Nothing says:

    Did you proof read this before posting? Opening paragraph makes no sense. Incidentally my money is on Harding to succeed Rattle at the LSO.

  • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

    Oh dear. This is bad news for the LSO. Whatever one’s view of his artistic merits, Rattle has a cachet and name recognition that no successor will match. The City of London faces some lean years. The orchestra will miss him as it fights with other cultural institutions for whatever money the Corporation of London and the big financial organizations have left for the arts.

  • Anon says:

    The LSO Management has denied rumours for months that he was going to Munich. The players weren’t even told officially until this morning! Rattle definitely wants his cake and eat it; he cites family but we know it’s ego driven, vanity of a new concert hall which London cannot deliver during these times.

    • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

      Or maybe he really does want to live with his family and doesn’t want to be stuck in a dwindling post-Brexit UK? Those two issues show him simply to be a sensible human being with entirely reasonable priorities.

    • Don Pasquale says:

      Yeah with fans like you why stay?

  • Douglas says:

    Once again: the fixation of the British classical musical world on this one conductor. I believe there are others…

  • sam says:

    Which begs the question, why the hell did he leave Berlin in the first place?

    It’s not like yesterday that he discovered that his family resided in Germany.

    Did he sense there was not much more he could do with the Berliners?

    Did he sense that he could leave a real legacy in London (as opposed to the forgettable and irrelevant one he left in Berlin)?

    Does he sense that with Brexit and no new concert hall, he would now leave no legacy whatsoever in London, so he might as well get a job with a shorter commute from home?

    • Berlin says:

      If you heard a Berlin Phil concert under him in the last years of his tenure there, you know why he left. Relationship was completely broken. And the orchestra lost their identity

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Yes, they may have lost their identity, but Rattle just completed the work that began under Claudio Abbado. Abbado dismantled the unique klang of Karajan’s BPO. Rattle simply finished the job.

    • MacroV says:

      I have no idea of his relationship with the Berlin Phil, other than that he keeps returning as a guest conductor since he left, so it couldn’t have been that bad.

      The simple answer is he had the job for 16 years, which is a very decent tenure. Time for both orchestra and conductor to try something else. End of story.

  • MacroV says:

    You are constantly on this “He certainly can’t do both jobs at the same time?” Why not? Your whole business model is complaining about conductors taking multiple jobs around the world; these two aren’t even that far apart. And the late, beloved Mariss Jansons held the BRSO and Concertgebouw jobs at the same time for a number of years. It’s not even an orchestra and an opera house, where you might have an argument; it’s two orchestras, neither of which seems likely to take up too much of his time. Your assertion is completely unfounded.

  • MacroV says:

    OK, so he is actually going to step down from the LSO; it’s not just Norman stirring stuff up. But I don’t see why he couldn’t have managed both jobs.

  • Player says:

    Can the LSO have Thielemann now, please?

  • Kippel says:

    It looks a bit odd, and I suspect that Lady Rattle has had a major say in the move. She has been rather disparaging about London in the past. Still, I hope that Sir Simon gets to conduct all those wonderful British works he claimed to have missed in Germany last time. The Bavarian orchestra is very fine in a kind of polished, rather dull way and in no way a match for the brilliant, slightly edgy style of the LSO.

  • Richard Graber says:

    The LSO has in my opinion always sounded better with guest conductors. I like their work with Noseda, Roth and Harding very much. Rattle’s done some good things in London but he is making a mistake artistically. The LSO is an exciting ensemble and they sound the most refined in their history. I think it’s his loss.