Former Berlin maestro Simon Rattle will quit UK to return to Germany

FILE PHOTO: British conductor Rattle gives his final concert as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: British conductor Simon Rattle gives his final concert as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in the Berliner Waldbuehne, or Forest Stage concert location, in Berlin, Germany, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo

January 13, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Simon Rattle, the British former conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, will return to Germany to take up the baton guiding Munich’s Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 2023.

The move, just three years after he returned to Britain to direct the London Symphony Orchestra, comes as musicians complain that Brexit has limited their professional horizons, with new visa requirements making it harder to perform to Europe’s music-hungry public.

Rattle, who turns 66 this month and is known for his shock of white curly hair, shot to prominence in the 1980s when he guided Britain’s City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from provincial obscurity to international renown.

An appointment to run the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the world’s leading orchestras, followed in 2002. Rattle announced in 2015 that he would return to London, a year before Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“My reasons for accepting the role of Principal 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,” said Rattle.

He still lives with his wife, Czech soprano Magdalena Kozena, and their children in Berlin.

Rattle, in a statement issued by the LSO, added that he still planned to carry out major projects before leaving London.

In his last appearance as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in summer 2018, on an outdoor stage in a forest, he expressed sorrow at the outcome of the Brexit referendum.

“Hopefully, Brexit won’t last ‘Brexeternally’,” he told the audience at the time, before leading the orchestra in a bittersweet medley of British patriotic favourites including Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 – Land of Hope and Glory – and the theme to 1970s sketch show Monty Python.

“He stands like no other for finding new ways of getting people enthused about music,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, head of the Bavarian Public Broadcaster.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones)