Is Brexit the reason for Rattle’s move to Munich?

Is Brexit the reason for Rattle’s move to Munich?


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2021

Marginally, perhaps, but no more than that.

The LSO’s global brand has diminished since Brexit and any hope of building a new hall has evanesced – though that’s as much to do with Covid and national politics as it is with Brexit. A new London hall was only ever a pie in the sky. In Munich it is a definite mayoral promise.

Rattle lives in Berlin with his young family and can commute to Munich by train. Munich made him a rose-tinted offer to surmount his Berlin Philharmonic period with greater triumphs in the south. Munich will now have a media-friendly figurehead to outshine Berlin’s shy conductor, Kirill Petrenko. It will draw energy from Rattle and he will gain dignity as successor to Mariss Jansons.

It’s one of those deals that is win-win for both sides.

As for the unhappy LSO, having invested so heavily in Rattle and given him unprecedented powers, they’ll need plenty of Covid downtime to adjust to the post-Brexit landscape.



  • Gustavo says:


  • Allen says:

    The narcissistic, hypocritical, virtue signalling, out-of-touch Arts world still in a childish, tedious, never-ending strop about Brexit.

    There’s a whole world beyond Europe. Get over it!

    • Will Duffay says:

      Are you aware that orchestras and choirs made regular pops across to Europe for concerts and short tours? Profile-raising and lucrative. It makes face-slappingly obvious sense to focus attention on your closest market, especially when that market is the home of the artform you’re performing in.

      The alterntive is the alternative-reality of the Brexit zealots, where we pop over to China or have a weekend in Dubai. Not realistic. Not feasible.

      • Adrienne says:

        Two points.

        Do you have any solid evidence that, when things have settled down, ‘regular pops across to Europe’ will not be possible?

        I seem to recall the LSO having residencies in New York, Tokyo and yes, Paris. Perhaps there will be fewer ‘pops’ and more residencies? This might be better environmentally.

        Things don’t have to remain the same and I think you need to stop obsessing about Brexit, it’s beginning to sound a little ridiculous.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Welcome to the world just about everybody else outside the ‘arts’ are having to negotiate.

    • Music fan says:

      And there’s a whole world beyond the UK, as they are about to discover.

    • Gary Freer says:

      Well said.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Yes, that’s exactly how it comes across. One cannot escape the feeling that the EU was a safe little haven and nice little earner for the intellectually lazy and those lacking inquisitiveness and initiative.

      Asian nations are where the action is these days with regard to western art music.

  • Munich resident says:

    Let’s see what will be finished first: the new hall in Munich or Rattles first term! The hall is supposed to be ready (earliest!!) in 2026, so count in the usual delay of 2-x years, and there we are. Btw: it is not at all a “definite mayoral promise”, but a project of the state where parliament has still to finally approve on budget, which is sky-rocking…Mayor and City of Munich have nothing to do with this hall.

  • mary says:

    What is the relative importance of the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra?

    So it’ll be two former LSO music directors in head-to-head competition in Munich?

    Would Karajan ever have stepped down from Berlin for Bavaria?

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Berlin knew what they had with Karajan, the finest conductor of his generation; Karajan knew what he had in Berlin, and was quick to drop his close connection with the Philharmonia Orchestra.His contract was after all as Conductor for Life.

    • Kokispoki says:

      Would Karajan ever have stepped down from Berlin to London…..?? The BRSO is the far better orchestra than the LSO

    • Roland says:

      Mary, your words show ignorance. Both the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian RSO are among the world´s best orchestras with highest reputation all over the planet. Yes, the LSO may be at that highest level, too, but you should accept that Rattle – as he explained – for personal reasons has decided for Munich.

  • Andreas B. says:

    Again: the new hall for the BRSO and Sir Simon is being built and paid for by the state of Bavaria – therefore no “mayoral promise”, but strong support by the Bavarian government.

    The City of Munich and its mayor are responsible for the (different!) new hall in the Gasteig, which is home to the Munich Phil.

    (Herkulessaal will remain as well – eventually Munich might end up with three – hopefully good – halls …!)

    • The marvelous Herkules hall… if I was Rattle or Gergiev would do only concerts there.

    • Martin Snell says:

      Additionally, the Gasteig Sendling is currently under construction, which is planned to be in operation from Autumn 2021. It is to include a fully functioning concert hall – 1,800 seats with acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota – and act a provisorium whilst the Gasteig is renovated and remodelled, which is planned to take at least four years. The Gasteig is not only a concert hall but also houses the City of Munich central library, Hochschule für Musik und Theater, and Volkshochschule, among other facilities.

  • Davidmusiker says:

    Berlin- Munich with Deutsche Bahn??Not a good idea if you want to arrive alive.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Of course. We’re hugely diminished as a nation because of our petulant, insular and absurd Brexit, and now that it’s emerged that the Conservative government turned down the EU’s offer on visas (and lied about it, of course, trying to blame the EU for it) the UK will be an even less-attractive place to visit. And to cap it all, the UK is suffering a deeper recession from Covid than countries with more effective governments, so our recovery will take longer.

    • M Ahern says:

      Diminished? Do you seriously believe that belonging to an overbearing, protectionist, cumbersome bureaucracy with not only North/South divisions but, increasingly, East/West divisions, is somehow enhancing?

      Britain won’t be the last to leave.

  • erich says:

    It is a good and logical choice (particularly in view of some of the alternative candidates). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Brexit played a part in his decision.
    Faced in Germany with a number of major politicians who actually know what classical music is, and regularly attend performances and a UK Government front-bench filled with toadies, nonentities and Philistines, his decision seems a no-brainer.

  • Old cellist says:

    I strongly disagree with most of these comments. To me his gesture is a big slap in the face to one of the world’s greatest orchestras. I mean really, try to show some gratitude to the nation which made you who you are!!

  • Musiclover says:

    I do think this smacks of a little bit of hypocrisy on the part of Rattle, remembering he did all those interviews when he first took up the directorship of the LSO, saying how much they needed care and only Andre Previn provided what the LSO needed. Then after just 7 years he leaves for another post with higher prestige.

    Not sure if he is the best match with the BRSO either. It seems the BRSO is a warm, well-oiled German machine, but his own sound is much colder. In my own experience of his concerts I feel he is a better match with the LSO than the BRSO. But anyway, let’s see how it goes.

  • Rob says:

    Rattle is better with a orchestra he can coach in some way. That’s why his time at the BPO and LSO have been failures.

    • Robin Smith says:

      How has his time with the LSO been a failure ? The only thing I’d agree with you on this is that he has probably performed most of his core repertoire with them already.

  • Gustavo says:

    The question is: who’s next @LSO?



    • yujafan says:

      Welser-Most had a terrible time at the hands of those self-important imbeciles, the critics, in London the first time around. Only once he left did they start to like him. Would he really want to come back? If he does, he’ll surely have the last laugh. As for Harding, that might be tough as the airline industry is in a tailspin and will continue to be as long as the UK requires negative COVID tests 72hrs before departure. He could just hunker down in a Heathrow hotel suite between concerts and do some plane-spotting as they circle above. Oh lord, is all we can hope for the Dud Dude? Geez… There have to be other options – following the Concertgebouw model, for one, might be preferable to the Dude.

    • Tony says:

      None of these I would guess.
      Among the real talent around I know, I would suggest Gianandrea Noseda or Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla would be a lot higher up the list. All depends on their existing contracts and availability, and also whether they would be interested.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        I seriously doubt Noseda would leave this early from his commitments with the National Symphony, even D.C. is a complete mess at the moment.

      • fflambeau says:

        Noseda is very good but might want to remain in Washington, DC with the regime change there.

    • Rob says:

      I nominate Dima Slobodeniouk

    • SVM says:

      How about asking Mark Elder? He is one of the great conductors, knows how to rehearse repertoire thoroughly (which would be an interesting innovation for the LSO, an orchestra that does a lot of sight-reading), has given inspiring performances with the LSO in the past (although one could tell which pieces were rehearsed thoroughly and which pieces were done with minimal rehearsal), and has done a remarkable job as director of the Hallé. And Manchester–London is only 2 hours 8 minutes by train (less than half the Berlin–München journey time cited by another commentator). Of course, we do not know whether Elder would want the job (the other question is whether the LSO would want to appoint a “music director” again, or whether they would revert to their custom of appointing nothing more powerful than a “principal conductor” — of course, the latter may be preferable to Elder, if he did not want to abandon the Hallé)…

  • Mark (London) says:

    Oh dear. We should have voted Remain to keep this music conductor in UK…pathetic reason. Rattle should have waited for ref result before signing with LSO.. or perhaps he’s another Europhile who didn’t believe the British would vote to free itself

    • Barbarian at the Gates says:

      Extraordinary view that Britain is “freeing” itself from Europe! Many countries in the world had to actually free themselves from Britain but nobody ever forced Britain to join or remain in the EU. What a warped, egocentric perspective to have on the world.

      • Adrienne says:

        ‘Many countries in the world had to actually free themselves from Britain’

        And then joined the British Commonwealth.

        • Ashu says:

          Yes, after decades and centuries of being devastated, terrorized, and looted by Britain, they hoped to get back just a bit of what they were owed.

          • Adrienne says:

            You have a very simplistic view of history. Both sides of my family are from W Africa and enjoy a rather more intelligent, balanced view.

          • Barbarian at the Gates says:

            Adrienne has a hell of a neck to describe other peoples’ view of history as simplistic when hers is so blinkered. Of course she displays the usual sense of colonial superiority by describing her family as “more intelligent”

      • Rolandd says:

        The next countries which free themselves from Great Britain will be Scotland and Northern Ireland. Great Britain will soon be Little Britain.

      • fflambeau says:

        I have lived and studied in England and also on the continent. Neither has ever really cared for each other. The continentals were always distrustful of the Brits and did not see them as “true Europeans.” Most Brits, meanwhile, abhored the “foreignness” of the continentals and looked down their noses at them. Read Agatha Christie, who saw all this years ago.

        The division is here, there is no going back, and I think Rattle has seen this. He already has made a choice since he lives in Berlin. Rattle is a European.

  • pianoguy says:

    Sigh… I used to love going to Munich. Oh well, all things must end.

  • MICHAEL says:

    as a Brit living in Prague I think Jakub Hrusa would be a good fit but i think he has just extended his contract with the Bambergers.

  • Cliff says:

    I am really sad to read so many bigoted comments about Rattle.
    1. He made the CBSO, not the other way around. They still adore him.
    2. He will have given the LSO 6 years, which is very reasonable. He is giving them time to find a successor. He owes the UK nothing.
    3. The Berlin Phil regards his tenure as wholly good for the orchestra and for the city.
    4.He lives in Germany, has a young family, and will be nearly 69 when he leaves the LSO. What is so unreasonable about that?

    • Appleby says:

      Rattle is an important figure in British musical life but the statement that “He made the CBSO not the other way around” is bizarre – the CBSO was a well-established recording and touring orchestra under Louis Fremaux before he arrived and during numerous periods in its history prior to thar outclassed the leading London orchestras (see Walter Legge’s correspondence). Yes, his tenure in Birmingham was transformative – and yes, he is certainly still loved there – but that was because he was backed by players who had chosen him democratically (after he’d been passed over in Bournemouth & Liverpool) and by a superb management team, a loyal audience and a civic leadership that threw themselves wholeheartedly behind him. Everyone benefitted from the results, which have been long-lasting. Yes, he was the catalyst but it was a joint effort. London, clearly, is less fertile ground for that way of working.

      • Dave says:

        “Passed over in Bournemouth”? I don’t believe so; Birmingham and the CBSO were able to throw incentives at him that the BSO could only dream of.

      • Cliff says:

        You are right to challenge my comment about Rattle ‘making the CBSO’. Of course, there were some great times under Fremaux and some of his predecessors. I oversimplified. What I really meant to bring out was the way Rattle and the management got the orchestra out of the crisis of the orchestra’s own making when Fremaux left in a hurry. What they then achieved was remarkable: the building of Symphony Hall (at last!), very creative programming, greater audience numbers to fill the bigger hall, high-profile touring and greater international recognition.
        This all underpinned by Rattle choosing to stay 18 years, which by any standard is a remarkable degree of conductor commitment. He could have gone to a more famous orchestra before that, and even when he left it was not for a career move; the Berlin offer came later. So for some people now to accuse him of lack of commitment to his job, given the length of time he spent in Birmingham and Berlin, is a bit rich.

  • The Brexit the ugly Barbican and the Covid 19 helped the choice to go to München sure. And there will be a new concert hall in town there. It s sad for the LSO. The orchestra lost a lot of hopes lately.

  • Keith Wellings says:

    Sad that Sir Simon is leaving the British music scene at a time when it most needs his influence. If he really does want a top class hall in which to perform I am sure Birmingham,which gave him his first big chance in 1980 ,would welcome him back as a regular guest conductor to complement the excellent work being done by the current leadership.

    • John says:

      >excellent work being done by the current leadership
      This is meant as a genuine question/alternative point of view and not an attack in any way, so I hope it won’t be taken as such – but could you expand on this?

      As an outsider looking in I have seen little to recommend the current leadership over the past 12 months. Yes, it’s terrible misfortune to have a pandemic strike in your centenary year. But the orchestra has been behind the curve at every stage since March and gives an impression of being risk-averse and brittle to the point of near inaction. Compare with the responses of Liverpool, Bournemouth, and the RSNO, to give three examples. Quick generation of “at home” videos and online content during the first phase – CBSO completely (and I mean completely) silent for around three months before these started popping up. Oodles of online concerts, first the release of some stuff recorded over the previous year (in the case of RSNO, for example) and then new online series with Liverpool even offering live concerts for distanced audiences. When the new tightening kicked in at the beginning of this year, CBSO had something like 4 new streamed concerts up. Add in the “Centenary Concert From The Warehouse” and an online screening of one historic concert – complete Peer Gynt – and you have literally everything they have done over the past 9 months.

      I am sure a regular poster on this site from the orchestra’s administration will be happy to write at length about all the mitigating circumstances and how difficult it all has been. OK, I’m sure that’s true, but the direct comparisons are far from flattering. 20 years ago, would anyone say that RSNO, Liverpool or Bournemouth were in the same league as CBSO? I would say no.

      For these reasons, I am sorry but I find it hard to characterise the work being done by the current leadership as “excellent”.

      • John says:

        Slippedisc down-thumbers – don’t just dislike my comment – offer an alternative view. It’s just my opinion. So rebut it!

    • TB says:

      Wow, a sensible well informed and lovely comment.

  • JussiB says:

    we simply do not have enough ‘big name’ (i.e. old white male) conductors to go around.

  • Mr. A says:

    LSO will come out perfectly after this lost. Having Gergiev was not doing the orchestra any good and LSO survived. Rattle certainly helped them to recover from those dismal days but I don’t see how he could stay under the brexit and Boris Johnson.

    Rattle will thrive and shine in Munich where the governments care about culture and arts.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    No, money’s the reason.
    Money’s ALWAYS the reason.

  • fflambeau says:

    Sorry, I disagree. The EU is now seizing sandwiches, yes sandwiches, from British truckers going to the continent. The EU reasons for Rattle’s departure are great: not only does London not have the will to build a new concert hall, they don’t have the money and will have less as soon as the EU makes banks move to Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, etc. It’s for real and is a huge reason, in my estimation.

    Plus, Scotland will soon break loose from England.

    • Helen says:

      So you keep saying, and saying, and saying.

      Copy and paste is so useful.

    • jaypee says:

      “The EU is now seizing sandwiches, yes sandwiches, from British truckers going to the continent.”

      So do Australia and New Zealand, not to mention the United States when you enter their territories.
      Who would have thought that leaving the EU would have consequences…
      BTW, I thought England left because they wanted to decide for themselves… Must Europe ask England before they enact their laws?

  • Norman, your logic is unassailable.

  • Gustavo says:

    “In case of an emergency, I might respond to a request for aid. But if I actually will, depends of a lot of factors – the programme, the rehearsal time, the distance. For example, I won’t be flying to America anymore.”

    Bernard Haitink on the likelihood of a comeback after retirement.

    Anyone dare ask?

  • Mr G says:

    So Rattle leaves the LSO at a time when they need him most. He previously had arguably the top job in the music world at the Berlin Phil so why did he leave it when he had everything & was closer to his family than he will be in Munich. He should never have taken the LSO position. Well done Sir Simon.

  • christopher storey says:

    The best thing about Rattle is his talent for self-publicity. As for the rest of it……….