Just in: Sir Simon Rattle becomes German citizen

Just in: Sir Simon Rattle becomes German citizen


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2021

Bavarian Radio’s new chief conductor has announced at a press conference that he’s becoming a German.

He never bothered to do that while with the Berlin Phil.

He will, however, keep his British passport.


EDITORIAL: British music has just lost its most effective voice


  • Kelvin Grout says:

    Some of us musicians had not choice! I’m now a Dutch citizen with two passports and unlike so many of my colleagues in the UK I am free to give concerts anywhere in Europe. There will be many more following this route.

  • Vienna calling says:

    Good for him. Wish it was that easy for other artists whose livelihoods are being threatened.

  • Rogerio says:

    Mr. Lebrecht;
    I suggest you help your readers better put this into “context”.
    Could you please do some asking-around and tell us all what Lord Duke Sir Rattles’s salaries are in the various places where he is employed?
    The ensueing discussion would be useful at a time when music students are wondering where and if they are going to work and if they are going to be payed for it.

    • MJA says:

      What business is that of yours?

      • Rogerio says:

        And what business is it of yours in asking?

        • Jock Rees says:

          A touch of envy,Rogerio? Sir Simon deserves every penny he is paid, after a lifetime of brilliant music making. Pull your socks up and start your career, instead of being resentful. Shoot high, always!

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Why don’t you ask Rattle directly c/o the Berlin Phil office? I’m sure he would be pleased to give you an honest, robust answer probably underlined with a scouse kiss that you won’t forget.

    • Stuart says:

      “would be useful” in what way? Rattle’s total earning power puts him in the top 1% of people in his field, so am not sure how that would be relevant to the majority of up and coming music students.

  • Wise musician. Good choice.

  • marcus says:

    Yes. And….?

  • Dominique says:

    Simon von Rattler.

  • Hans van der Zanden says:

    Then he does not need a visa.

  • Leo Doherty says:

    Interesting. Presumably he was a dual citizen between 2016 and 2019 and during the brexit transition period did not apply to retain his citizenship of Germany and dual nationality by end of Dec 2020.

    • la plus belle voix says:

      He can not have been a “dual citizen” and suddenly is no longer. Either he took at some point (additional) German citizenship, or he did not. Apparently, not. Thus, he would never have applied to “retain his citizenship of Germany”, as one can not actually apply to keep that, nor would he have applied for any “dual nationality”. During the transition period he would as a British citizen (i.e. as a member of a EU country, the UK) have retained merely the right of abode and the right to work in Germany. So he is applying now for German citizenship, and will retain his British citizenship. Only then will he hold dual citizenship.

    • Meal says:

      Legally speaking, brexit has “nothing” to do with citizenship (although even from an administrative perspective it might seem to be different, see below). If he now receives or just received German citizenship he definitely did not have it before. I assume that he has had residence permit so far, but no dual citizenship. Remark: Germany encouraged all British people with German residency to apply for German citizenship to avoid that they would loose there residency.

      • la plus belle voix says:

        Spot on! His British passport would have jointly served as a work permit, thus entitling him automatically to obtain a residence permit. The only caveat would have been to register a legal place of abode with the local authorities within 24 hours of arriving, settling and taking up work in Germany.

        • Martin Snell says:


          An EU/EEA/EFTA citizen does not require a residency permit to live in Germany. Permission is automatic under the above treaties. Also, one must not register within 24 hours of arrival. The legal requirement is 14 days.

          • la plus belle voix says:

            We agree. I wrote “automatically “. As in “Formsache” (Ger.) Just btw, back then it was 24 hours.

      • Martin Snell says:

        Before Brexit Sir Simon did not require a residency permit as he was both a UK citizen and EU citizen. He was only required, like all German residents, ti register with his local authority. That is one of the monumental benefits of freedom of movement, or Freizügigkeit, now lost to non-EU resident UK citizens. In a normal situation, it would be required under German law to relinquish one‘s earlier nationality but in very limited circumstances, which Sir Simon would easily fulfill, he has been able to retain his UK citizenship. He would also not have been able to retain his knighthood honorific of ‘Sir’ as only a German citizen because such titles are, essentially, no longer legally permitted in Germany since after WWI. It is a similar situation in the US for citizens who have renounced their birth citizenship in favour of American and are subsequently honoured.

      • Martin Snell says:

        Brexit has everything to do with residency. Non-EU citizens, which UK citizens now are, will be required to obtain a residency permit once the devil in the detail of the Brexit agreement has been finalised. It was, and is, only possible for existing UK nationals resident in Germany to apply for German citizenship if they fulfill(ed) the requisite criteria, including language, integration and a sufficient period of residence (currently 8 years minimum).

    • Martin Snell says:

      Nonsense. Prior to 31.01.2020, when Brexit firstly came into effect but the transition period for which was extended to 31.12.2020, Sir Simon Rattle – and any other UK citizen fir that matter – did not require dual nationality. Sir Simon fulfills the criteria to become a citizen and by nature of his work, a verifiable exception, he is not required to relinquish his nationality of his birth, which would normally be the case.

  • Donaldinho says:

    Quite nice. Not that it matters much. But Germany’s nice.

  • stop sensationalising says:

    He didn’t need to when he was with Berlin Phil. Brexit hadn’t happened.

  • Peter says:

    In a normal world, a person who has worked in a country for 20 years and still can’t speak the language properly, should never have been granted a citizenship.

    • MacroV says:

      What do you mean by “properly?” He probably can’t discuss the finer points of Goethe, but as far as I know his German is serviceable, at least enough to conduct rehearsals.

      • Actually Goethe’s German is much easier and more beautiful than the technical monstrosity the language has become!

      • John Borstlap says:

        There have been complaints about his lack of Goethe quotes at rehearsels.

        Also his Schiller and Schopenhauer leaves something to be wished for, as can be heard in his Brahms interpretations.

  • Gustavo says:

    Me too.

  • anon says:

    The Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, aka the Windsors, are also eligible for German citizenship, and for all we know, hold both passports.

    It is a familiar tale of the haves and have-nots, the 1% and the 99%.

    Covid stripped away any façade of equality among musicians, exposing the strict strata of hierarchy among musicians. They may all have graduated from the same conservatories, possessed basically the same talents, travelled in the same social circles, and all comfortably ensconced in the upper middle class, but in reality:

    – there is royalty, the handful of international stars who continue to get work, who are not bound by borders
    – there is the fortunate select stil getting a paycheck, albeit greatly reduced
    – then there is the majority, those on unemployment, welfare, moved back with mum and dad

    • Martin Snell says:

      HM Queen Elizabeth II is actually recognised as a member of the House of Coburg. The family connection is consiserably more recent than simply Queen Victoria.

  • Monika says:

    Sir Simon Rattle..
    it may be rather difficult for such a busy artist to face asking for European countries visas?there was no Brexit while he was with the Berlin Phil..m

  • John Borstlap says:

    This sudden change of national idendity may as suddenly inject some emotional depth into his performances.

  • John Kelly says:

    And Boris’s Dad became French. It’s called Brexit.

  • Jobim75 says:

    Can you just get a nationality because it’s convenient and practical????????

    • Tempus Fugit says:

      Why not? Especially if the country has been entirely fucked over by the government!

    • la plus belle voix says:

      No. One has to prove that as a prospective citizen one would in a very broad sense be adding “value” to the nation, i.e. that there is a reason the country, Germany in this case, would bestow citizenship on an individual. As part of the application process, it is necessary to submit evidence of a substantial length of residency to date, financial security, and future employment (be it employed, self-employed , or freelance). Also, one needs to take a written citizenship test, which calls on the applicant to display at least a modicum of knowledge about German history, geography, politics, its legal system etc, and to sit a written and oral/aural language test, the minimum result of which must be classed as Goethe Institut A2 Certificate.

    • Alexander T says:

      Remember Zola Budd?

    • Martin Snell says:

      No. One must filfill the requisite residency period, among other specific criteria. In Germany, the minimum residency period is 8 years.

  • Nick Schleppend says:

    Nicht schleppend!
    Deine Zauber binden wieder
    Was die Mode streng geteilt…

  • London Pianist says:

    How is this even possible? Germany doesn’t allow dual citizenship unless you’re born into it or give up your native one.

    • G says:

      There are exceptions, eg Germany allows EU citizens dual nationality. It also passed a law allowing British citizens to have dual nationality post-Brexit if they applied for German nationality during the transition period.

      • Jonathan says:

        Thanks, assuming that’s true, you have answered my question. I know Germany does not normally allow dual citizenship, but has to allow it for EU citizens under EU law. So I guess Sir Simon must have applied last year. Of course, if he couldn’t keep his British passport, he couldn’t be Sir Simon either!

    • la plus belle voix says:

      This is not true. Many thousands of Brits recently took German citizenship and retained their British citizenship.

    • Una says:

      That’s what I thought. Certainly the case for Austria.

    • Glerb says:

      Yes it does, in some cases – one of those cases being with other EU states. Rattle would have had to have got his application in before 31 December 2020 for that to be honoured in the case of the UK, per the withdrawal agreement. Though to be honest, he may well have put in his application 4 years ago and only just been granted citizenship, given the rate at which the wheels of Prussian bureaucracy turn.

    • Mmm says:

      That’s not true. As long as the other country allows it, you can have dual citizenship, but there is, every now and then, a discussion about changing this rule.

    • Bostin'Symph says:

      That was my understanding too. The last time I checked, you can only have dual nationality including German nationality if the other nation is a member of the European Union. Was an exception made during the Brexit negotiations?

    • John Kelly says:

      In all circumstances Britain honours your citizenship if you were born there, even if, like myself, you become a US citizen and ” hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, …” as they put it at the time. The US only recognizes dual citizenship with Ireland and Israel which should tell you who holds the clout in the Congress…………

      • MacroV says:

        I’m not sure what you mean by “the U.S. only recognizes dual citizenship with Ireland and Israel…”

        A U.S. citizen can have a passport from any country, and taking on another one does not lead to renunciation of U.S. citizenship. So I’m not sure what distinction you’re making, say, with your dual US-UK citizenship.

    • psq says:

      Yes, Germany does allow dual citizenship …. in particular for citizens of countries in the European Union if they have lived in Germany for a sufficiently long time, e.g., for professional reasons. After the Brexit referendum, a wave of Brit expats acquired German citizenship quite legally this way. See also the note from “la plus belle voix” above.

    • Akutagawa says:

      Simply not true. Why can’t people look things up before spouting nonsense?


      Seit einer am 28.08.2007 in Kraft getretenen Änderung des Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetzes verliert ein Deutscher seine deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit nicht mehr, wenn er nach diesem Stichtag die Staatsangehörigkeit eines EU-Mitgliedstaates oder der Schweiz erwirbt.

      Ein Antrag auf Erteilung einer Beibehaltungsgenehmigung ist in dieser Konstellation somit nicht mehr erforderlich und die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit kann automatisch beibehalten werden.

      Sofern Sie sich in einem anderen Staat einbürgern lassen und gleichzeitig die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit beibehalten möchten, besteht die Möglichkeit, eine Beibehaltungsgenehmigung zu beantragen.

    • Martin Snell says:

      There are rare exceptions but it is a time-consuming and protracted process for a normal citizen. However, that said, Sir Simon Rattle’s profile and international activities would qualify him to meet those exceptions.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      That’s certainly what it was like when I was living there. They later made an exception for France but I’m not aware of any such arrangement for British citizens.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Andrew Manze took Swedish citizenship

  • Rob says:

    His music making in Berlin and London was lousy and it’s probably about to go the same way elsewhere.

    Choice of nationality won’t make any difference.

  • Una says:

    Anyone with one Irish grandparent can get an Irish passport and keep their British passports. I’ve had one since 1993 with having both parents Irish but I was born and educated in London. Made a big difference then travelling to the three countries of East Africa for charitable reasons.

  • henry williams says:

    barenboim has more passports. it is handy is you lose one.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    The passport is the noblest part of man.
    Besides, a passport does not enter the world as simply as a man.
    A man can come to this world anywhere, in the most careless way and for no good reason at all.
    But not a passport. That’s why it is accepted if it’s good. A man, why, a man can be as good as he wants and still be rejected.

    So you might say, the man is only the mechanical holder carrying the passport.

    ———Bertolt Brecht, Refugee Conversations, 1940/41

  • fflambeau says:

    I’ve said all along that Brexit was the key to this. Let’s see:

    1) lives in Berlin which is in Germany;
    2) take up new job in Bavaria and will leave London’s best known orchestra;
    3) takes out German passport and becomes German citizen.

  • Adan says:

    Why should he became german while in Berlin? It s clearly because of Brexit!


    If this is indeed true — i.e., if he is no longer actually a British citizen — then one can only hope that, although technically his knighthood does not become honorary, he will have the good taste to no longer style himself as “Sir” Simon Rattle, and instead be simply a proud citizen of Europe, which is a beautiful thing to be; yet somehow, I doubt it. Announcing that you’re quitting Britain at its darkest hour since WWII is not exactly a good start. Personally, I think this is as sad a moment as when Leonard Bernstein made the decision, after only a decade, to leave the helm of the New York Philharmonic, for the delights of Vienna, et.al. — at which point Lenny, and that orchestra, were never the same.

  • pianoguy says:

    It doesn’t really matter to me if Herr Rattler is Engisch or Deutsch, it’s what he does on the podium that counts. However, he has long accepted English gongs whilst carping about things in Blighty, it seems as if he has made this move with one wily eye on what might be most advantageous to his career in the long term merely suggests that his primary concern is service to self rather than service to music.

    • John Borstlap says:

      And there are strong signals that it was ever so. This explains the thinness of his interpretations. Technically excellent, but….. etc.