Simon Rattle: ‘It’s too costly and complicated to engage UK musicians in EU’

Simon Rattle: ‘It’s too costly and complicated to engage UK musicians in EU’


norman lebrecht

September 24, 2021

The conductor, speaking at a Help Musicians function:

‘People who are normally hired by organisations abroad are being told, ‘I’m sorry, we just don’t have the capacity to bring somebody from the United Kingdom, it is too complicated and too expensive’…

‘What I worry about is how much music will have been lost, how many brilliant young musicians will not be able to do what they do, how many artistic lives will be ruined?’

Report here.


  • Mike Aldren says:

    More complicated and expensive than hiring from Asia, the Americas or Australasia? So no more Korean, Chinese or Russian string players?

    • As EU members, Brits had an advantage over the other groups you mention. No longer.

    • TubaMinimum says:

      Actually, at least in my experience, yes it is more complicated. It seems like the UK visa agency is struggling to adapt to all the changes. You saw issues with two Kenneh-Mason siblings being able to travel to the US for engagements this summer, and I’ve heard complaints from colleagues in the American orchestra world who are dealing with similar complaints about getting the paperwork work done on time (and nothing changed in the US/UK relationship post-Brexit.) I would suspect that agency is understaffed for their new work load and trying to figure out things they never used to. So while on paper, contracted a South Korean over a Brit might be a similar process, South Korea’s visa agency is operating business as usual rather than trying to fly a plane while building it. So you might have more confidence that they’ll be able to turn around the paperwork on time than in the UK.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I think Rattle might be more concerned about making political points rather than ruining young artistic lives?

    • po says:

      I think you are projecting yourself on him.

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      Yes McAlpine- Simon Rattle can be a brilliant conductor. But with him- its always been about the money & his own self advancement. Beyond this- he hasn’t done much
      for his fellow struggling musicians.

  • Allen says:

    Not sure what “Brexit red tape” is, as Brexit is not an organisation. I know from experience, however, what EU red tape is.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    The attached article again states that there is a problem, but as with everything else emanating from Westminster the Government denies that there is…… The Government said: “We have spoken to every EU member and 19 have confirmed musicians do not require visas or work permits for short-term tours.”

    There either is or there isn’t, I suspect the former, but it is symptomatic about so much surrounding Brexit that the ‘truth’ is hard to determine. Mainly, I suspect because the protagonists are seen to either ‘Remainers’ as in the case of Rattle, or ‘Brexiters’ as in Dorries and Truss the 2 ministers involved in cultural and foreign matters.

    This issue is only one of many that need addressing in the aftermath of Brexit but the panglossian posturings of the Government does little to help their claim that we are better off outside the EU. Many believe the opposite but only hard independantly verified facts will prove the folly or wisdom of our leaving.

    • Hobbes says:

      One of the problems is that the government always talks in terms of touring for bands (/orchestras/ensembles). That’s only one aspect though. Those groups are UK based businesses, so the organisation is paid a fee by the local promoter, but the musicians are still paid by their UK-based organisation.

      It’s very different for people who go to work as guest musicians with ensembles in other countries. That requires a work permit, which can be complicated and costly to do. There are any number of international orchestras who pay on a freelance basis, and will now find it very difficult to engage UK residents who don’t hold an EU passport. Unfortunately, I’ve already experienced this…

    • PianistW says:

      Who can believe that the UK is better off outside the European Union? It is the worst thing that happened to the UK in the last 50 years and its consequences will be felt for a long time, impact that is felt much less in the remaining countries. The EU must now teach a lesson about the consequences of leaving to any countries thinking about leaving. I doubt anyone in the UK is believing the government.

      The UK and UK artist will be at the back of the queue for the EU members for a while. Sorry guys, but that is what you wanted. Sorry but the EU does not need you (or your artist) as much as you need the EU and working in the EU.

      Enjoy having “your country back”…

  • I have yet to hear of a single advantage brought about by Brexit and this case is one of so many negative outcomes of it. Whatever platitudes the government might offer (as mentioned near the end of this article), it is unclear why Sir Simon would speak as he has about the issue if the situation is as that government claims; what in any case is “short term”? What this illustrates is not only that Brexit was a bad and ill-thought-out-idea but also that the government that promised and conducted its referendum on UK’s continued EU membership has signally and continuously failed to make it work in any case.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “I have yet to hear of a single advantage brought about by Brexit”

      Are you implying the fishing rights were not worth it?

  • Maria says:

    Crowing away again. Before Brexit, UK including myself, was sort of cheap labour with all the EU employment and social security rules. Plenty of fine German musicians and singers over there needing well paid work.

  • Peter Osborne says:

    I believe he is currently on an EU tour with the LSO, performing eight concerts. After having led two previously successful tours to Bucharest then Berlin, Hamburg and Lucerne. He loves to stir the political pot and let’s not forget, he is now a German citizen! Will he be handing back his knighthood to the Queen, after having turned his back on the UK? Answers on a postcard.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Yeah. Ye used to be a blimey limey and now he’s a merry jerry.

      Can’t fogive him for that.

      (OK, blimey limey makes no sense and this whole thing is childish at best. But I am in good company on the childish side with many “contributors”, yours truly included, barely at that level ).

    • Tamino says:

      It’s the 21st century.
      I know, Brexiters don’t know what that is.
      The Queen didn’t make him a knight for being stupid. Him living with his family where the family lives, and finding work, where there is appreciation, the Queen totally supports that.
      He has not turned his back on the UK, but the UK has collapsed after having shot itself in both feet.
      I feel sorry for the reasonable people in the UK. They are outnumbered by the moronic mob.

  • In terms of the balance of power within the EU, Brexit is the 21st century Dunkirk. The long-term consequences will be profound.

  • MATTHEW VINE says:

    Strange. I am a UK resident musician and am reading this in between rehearsing and performing a concert in Essen.

  • sam says:

    All is well so long as Britain can still sell nuclear submarine technology to a Commonwealth member.

    British musicians can still play in Australia. They have access to an entire continent.

    • PianistW says:

      The Commonwealth could never substitute the EU as an artist destination for UK artists. Like it or not, classical music is an European art [practiced successfully with equal artistic merit in the whole world, but an European art the same way Gamelan music is an Indonesian art (practiced in ensembles in other parts of the world), and Karate is a Japanese martial art practiced everywhere] and continental Europe is the place that concentrates more opera houses, orchestras and festivals.

      While UK artist would have less problems to work in the Commonwealth countries, only two of them are really part of the core of the international concert circle (Canada and Australia); most of them are too far; and most Commonwealth countries (except South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Malta, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) are either underdeveloped countries or too small and far to be a realistic alternative.

      Australia has a population of 25 million. Getting there takes at least 22 hours. Does anyone believe that UK orchestras would tour Australia often? The LSO used to play in Spain at least once a year (less than 2 hours away, 47 million), does anyone think the Commonwealth is really an alternative to this?

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Actually Sir Simon and his wife, backed by the London Symphony Orchestra, are giving a concert in Antwerp this coming Tuesday 28th.

  • Anon says:

    Terrible situation, but I confess that I have a secret sense of satisfaction.

    UK musicians, and the British in general often have a disturbing sense of entitlement about working and living in Spain. Like it’s their God given right and everyone should be grateful they’ve come. It’s not an especially respectful attitude.

    Perhaps now they’ll regard playing or conducting in Spain as the privilege that it actually is.

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    I remember the LSO and Rattle coming to Hong Kong for three magnificent concerts in September 2019. Hong Kong was then fighting desperately for their freedom against the Chinese communists. At the end of the concert , Rattle could not suppress his urge to share with the audience his satisfaction at Johnson having lost à Brexit vote in the Parliament that day…..

  • Thomas says:

    Brexit. You wanted it, now you’re getting it. ALL of it. So richly deserved.