Sir Simon Rattle will leave the LSO for Munich

Sir Simon Rattle, one of the world’s most renowned conductors, is leaving the London Symphony Orchestra to take up a new post in Germany.

Sir Simon, who turns 66 next week, will become Chief Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, in Munich, in 2023.

He will succeed Mariss Jansons, who died in December 2019.

Sir Simon had been expected to remain with the London Symphony, and his departure is considered a blow.

However, he agreed to extend his contract with the orchestra for an extra year, and will take up a lifetime role as Conductor Emeritus from 2023 onwards, the first such appointment to this role since André Previn.

Sir Simon has strong links to Germany; and was previously chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 16 years.

He lives in Berlin with his third wife, the Czech-born singer Magdalena Kozena, and their three children, and is also the permanent guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic in neighbouring Austria.

In a statement, the musician said: “I am delighted that I will continue in my role as music director of the Orchestra for another three years, extending my contract until 2023, and that I will be able to remain closely associated with the orchestra into the future.

“My reasons for accepting the role of Chief 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.

“I love the London Symphony Orchestra. I remain committed to the LSO, and we have plans for major projects in the coming years. I am thrilled that we will be making music together far into the future.”

The conductor is already scheduled to play three concerts with the BRSO in March 2021.

It is believed he was their first choice to succeed Jansons, who helmed the orchestra for 16 years before his death in December 2019 from a long-standing heart condition.

News of Sir Simon’s appointment first appeared in the German and Austrian press over the weekend, before being confirmed by the London Symphony Orchestra on Monday morning.

The BRSO later added that the musician had signed an initial five-year contract, posting photos of the moment on Twitter.

View original tweet on Twitter

According to The Times, one of the main reasons for Sir Simons’ departure was the declining prospect of a new concert hall being built for the LSO in London.

Shortly before joining the orchestra in 2015, Sir Simon told the BBC that London’s concert halls were not up to international standards. When he took up the post, it was reported that the City of London Corporation’s offer to build a new Centre for Music was a deciding factor.

However, in that same BBC interview, Sir Simon noted that Munich, which will become his new home, does not have a “proper music hall” where “orchestras can flourish”.

His predecessor spent a large portion of his career campaigning for a new, £100m concert hall in the city.

Sir Simon was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He made his Proms debut in 1976 and his opera debut in 1977 at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Between 1980 and 1998, he made his name at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He was knighted in 1994.

He also appeared at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, where he and the LSO were upstaged by Mr Bean while playing the theme to Chariots of Fire.

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

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