Mirga admits: Brexit is one reason I’m leaving Birmingham

Mirga admits: Brexit is one reason I’m leaving Birmingham


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2021

From an interview today with Bavarian Radio:

BR-KLASSIK: You are now in the fifth season Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. So far, that has been an international success story. But you didn’t extend your contract beyond 2022. Why?

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla: In human life the question is always: What are you looking for, and what is most important to you? I am also saddened to take this step to leave this position at the CBSO. But for me it is just the right thing in this phase of my life. And I can look forward to further cooperation with the CBSO, which – I am quite sure – will be maintained.

BR-KLASSIK: You can of course also assume that it has something to do with Brexit, right?

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla: There are many reasons. And unfortunately, Brexit is also part of it somewhere.

BR-KLASSIK: … You are now leaving Birmingham a year early. That is actually a bad sign for UK culture.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla : The question is what to look at. I think the orchestra is constantly on the lookout, evolving. The current corona time is anything but easy for the CBSO. Nevertheless, there are very strong currents that are very convincingly looking for something new, for something new, for example for even more connection to the city, to the children there, to the other artists and cultural organizations. I think that’s really great. And I see that from these seeds, which we have sown to a large extent together, but which of course also have a hundred years of history, a great deal will still emerge.

More here.



  • James Weiss says:

    How does Brexit have anything to do with her decision? She never explains. How lame.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      You have to be both deaf and blind to argue that there is no connection between Brexit and her leaving the CBSO. Ditto Rattle and the LSO.

      • Monsoon says:

        Honest question: What exactly is the issue for them? They both are citizens of EU countries, so this wouldn’t affect their ability to conduct on the continent. I suppose they’ll need a visa now to conduct in the UK, but isn’t that a once a year application? I understand that touring for the orchestra in the EU will now require visas for the musicians, but it seems petty to leave their UK orchestras over that — I mean, I cannot see any EU country denying a visa to the LSO or CBSO. I also can’t imagine that the visa process is more onerous than what they have to go through to perform in the United States and Asia.

        (My understand is that the musicians most affected by Brexit are the freelancers who need the ability to go anywhere in Europe on short notice for a gig.)

        • alex says:

          Not exhaustive list of problems: EU soloist and guest conductors will come less to UK. UK orchestra’s are much more expensive to tour in EU (every individual musicians needs a paid working visa), paperwork. Partners and children present and future for the EU musicians still working in UK. Less international students coming to UK and less UK musicians studying abroad (expensive school tuition for non EU citizens) and no erasmus means a lowering of the quality of musicians in UK, unfortunately. We are sad for the situation of our colleagues in UK.

        • Rod says:

          EU countries will be happy to grant visas but it will be a lot more expensive for orchestras. Let’s say an orchestra is invited to a festival in Spain. Visas cost about £400 per player/staff member travelling, plus the cost of them all travelling specially to a UK Spanish embassy for an interview. That could mean hotel costs which would (conservatively, given travel costs) take it to at least £500 per person. The players will have to be paid for this time. I don’t what the arrangement might be, but MU rates for a day’s rehearsing is about £200. So let’s say we’re up to £700 per person. For a performance of the Rite of Spring (about 100 players) you’re talking about £70,000 extra costs for the orchestra players alone. Just for one concert. Do you think this makes it more or less likely that UK orchestras will be invited to EU festivals?

          As for the US, have you ever applied for a US work visa as a musician? The paperwork is absolute hell.

        • Jake says:

          It may not directly affect them but indirectly it will probably have a huge effect.

          They may not have a problem getting accepted for a visa and I suspect the orchestra will likely be accepted too, but the added costs (plus the other costs associated with the UK’s departure from the EU) will have a knock-on effect and may make tours lose their profitability and therefore they may not happen.

          If the orchestra’s tour less to Europe (pre-Brexit, they would have had perhaps 5-10 different European tours a year) then Mirga and Rattle would have a choice as to whether they continue with a UK Orchestra that will tour less in Europe and perform more in the UK or leave the orchestra to be able to maintain their global schedule. I guess, they opted for the latter. It’s not the main reason, but it’s definitely a contributing factor.

        • Euphonium Al says:

          Without taking a position on Brexit (I’m not British and don’t entirely know how I would have voted in the referendum if I were), I think it is easy to see how the fear of logistical hassles would cause an EU citizen working in the UK to decide it was simply easier to work elsewhere. Indeed, for those who supported leaving the EU, more British jobs for British citizens would seem to be a feature and part of the appeal rather than a bug. The jobs in question typically aren’t as high profile as Music Director of the CBSO.

      • Mark (London) says:

        The deaf and blind are those who use BREXit as an excuse for their arrogance

    • Brian says:

      Yes, the interviewer could have pressed her on that point. “What about Brexit troubles you? How is Brexit impacting orchestras and conductors like yourself?” A missed opportunity to spell it out more.

    • Thomas M says:

      The same reason why Simon Rattle is turning his back on the LSO: After covid19, the British classical music scene will be in shambles. More so, much more so, than before.

  • IC225 says:

    And if you believe that…

  • Derek H says:

    Nobody knows why Mirga is moving on except her.

    Brexit may be a side issue, but I guess her reasons are more personal and a question of concentrating on what is important to her!

    Her comments on the CBSO looking for something new gives some concern that they may make the mistake of going in search of markets that do not exist extensively, and maybe, lose a significant part of their audience!

  • V.Lind says:

    She’s got what she wants out of Birmingham, is now widely sought (anyone following Nelsons, Orami and Rattle to CBSO was going to get looked at a lot) and now has her choice of where to be. Brexit and Covid just add to her list of reasons and minimise the “Me, me, me” aspect of her decision. Nothing really wrong, or different, about that.

    She has made a contribution, and is moving on. Let’s see how she fares in the wider world. She has had a very easy ride here. CBSO is a plum — let’s see who wants it.

  • FrankUSA says:

    I always assumed that Brexit was part of the reasons for Mirga’s departure as SD as maintained many posts about every single move of hers. I am sure that it was part of Rattle’s decision. More might come. Whither this is good or bad will be determined by future events.

  • Miko says:

    If only she’d read your plan for a post brexit utopia, Norman. Oh, the suffering she and Sir Simon will have to endure when they watch British orchestras proudly performing at Oliver Dowden’s English nationalist brexit festival (the UKs very own Reichsmusikfest), swelling to Vaughan Williams symphony cycles, flaunting their Union Jackery in the face of continental vulgarity…oh, Elgar, Howells, Sullivan, ye sons of England’s pastures, our “Jerusalem” will rise up again, seizing back sovereign control of our culture etc etc.

    She will undoubtedly weep the bitter tears of regret.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Brilliant, Miko. Yes, I’m waiting for the monent when we will all be required to put out the festive bunting in our front gardens and pledge allegiance to the flag the moment we get up in the morning.

      • Dave says:

        With the latest edict requiring the GB flag to fly daily on public buildings, I can foresee UK subjects (for we are not citizens now) being required to fly it on a flagpole or in their window or face prosecution by Priti Patel’s patriotism police – or persecution by their brainwashed neighbours.

        I wouldn’t have mentioned this if I wasn’t sure that they’ve already thought of it.

        And the tory stooges now running the BBC will make sure the organisation is front and centre at the Reichsmusikfest.

    • Couperin says:

      Ha! You receive my finest applause with going hands and pinkies upturned. Let’s listen to A Sea Symphony!

    • Allen says:

      UK concert programming is nothing like this, but if these vindictive, sneering fantasies make you feel better, feel free.

      You simply sound ridiculous.

    • Matias says:

      Spiteful comments like this are proof, as if it were needed, that exposure to classical music is not a civilizing influence.

      No shortage of examples on this site.

    • Mark (London) says:

      Another loser sulking ..yeah you Mick

  • vallance says:

    Good, many people here never really wanted or liked you anyway. Now move on and shut up.

    • Rod says:

      This is so mean-spirited it’s disturbing. I hope you’re just having a bad day.

      • David says:

        It’s not mean-spirited as it is just plain child-like behavior. Toddler saying “I’m unfriending you first if you are going to leave me! Go play with others!” The only problem is that this person is not a toddler.

  • Zandonai says:

    Let’s face it, Mirga has proved to be an opportunist and SD is gladly giving her the limelight…weekly.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    she talks but says nothing….why publish nothing?

    • Tristan says:

      both so overrated, won’t miss Rattle neither her – only the press

      • Gary says:

        Funny how nearly every musician who works with Rattle adores him. Still, sure you know best…

      • Ellingtonia says:

        Regarding your comment about Simon Rattle, do tell us Tristan how many music directorships you have held with major orchestras, how many times you have conducted the Berlin or Vienna Phils and why it is that many of the worlds leading orchestras are delighted when Rattle agrees to guest conduct. I think that what you are, is what we call in Lancashire a “Gobshite” i.e. someone who has nothing to say of any worth and revels in their own narcissism.

      • Luca says:

        Recte: “won’t miss Rattle or her either.”

        • Ashu says:

          “Neither her” is a nice variant, with the charm of the cultured foreign speaker of English. Why should everything be expressed in the same way, and why should foreign accents be mocked?

  • Mystic Chord says:

    Maybe it’s nothing more sinister than enjoying new challenges and wanting to improve her skills as the end of the interview suggests.

  • Rosef says:

    I am sure Breshit is only a small part of it; the reality is that the romance of Mirga with the orchestra and city is over. Once passed the happy honeymoon and novelty of having a woman as chief, the audiences in Birmingham (and orchestra musicians) are realizing that behind her (not so much anymore) youthness and sex, she has very little interesting to offer…

    Love is over. Time to move on.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Seeing how well organised the EU has been with its vaccine campaign makes one regret Brexit, I must say!

  • Alexander Platt says:

    Good Lord, is there any shred of decency left in this business? She’s a very talented young European conductor who used this great and storied orchestra as a steppingstone….so now, she’s got what she always wanted, and she can move on — and for goodness’ sake let another equally talented British/European conductor take her place.

  • Horbus Rohebian says:

    No longer those wonderful relationships with an orchestra. Sir Simon Rattle devoted 18 years to the CBSO, transformed the orchestra and re-energised the city. Scarcely time to complete an apprenticeship period now as conductors seek bigger fish.

  • Jan says:

    Mirga is not leaving a year early and has in fact extended her contract by a year and will then become principal guest conductor for a year. I am sue we will continues to see Mirga in Birmingham for many years. Remember she has two young children and will want them to be educated in Austria where she lives

  • Edoardo says:

    Who knows, maybe she goes to Concertgebouworkest, there is a vacant place here in Amsterdam….

  • Nick says:

    No tears, sorry Mirga!! Birmingham will survive just fine without you!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:


  • Stephen Birkin says:

    The interviewer missed every opportunity to get her to say something meaningful. Possibly she saw the intended questions beforehand and insisted the awkward ones were cut.