Brexit takes its toll and the British cultural world – and London in particular – is in deep depression. The conductor Simon Rattle, disgusted by the exit from the European Union, is going to change the London Symphony for Munich, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Rattle spent seventeen years in Birmingham and another sixteen at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic, which he arrived at in 2017, and it was assumed that his time leading the orchestra at the Barbican Center would be no less long. But the musician has announced that in two years he will go on to direct the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Diplomatic to the end, he has adduced personal reasons (his wife, the Czech singer Magdalena Kozeva, and their three children live in Berlin), but that is only one of the factors at play.
In the background of the decision, according to those who know him, are Brexit, the problems for the construction of the new concert hall in the English capital that had been promised (which is paralyzed and is likely to be canceled) and the little government support for culture. Rattle will serve his remaining contract year and a tip year, leaving in 2023.
It is not the only one, within the desolate panorama of classical music in the country, that has three great orchestras but none of them of first rank in the world, at the height of those of Berlin, Chicago, Vienna, Munich or Cleveland. The Finn is going to leave the Philharmonia, the Russian Vladimir Jurowsky the London Philharmonic, speculating that Antonio Pappano is also going to leave the Royal Opera. AlsoEsa-Pekka SalonenHe has contributed to Rattle’s departure – considered in some circles as a “betrayal” – his complex relationship with the LSO musicians, who have resisted granting him the power to fire and hire that the director demanded, and are not satisfied with an extension of the repertoire to less known works that forces them to rehearse for many more hours.
Just as his arrival in London from Berlin was interpreted as a vote of confidence in British classical music and culture, his departure is seen as punishment and attack, especially in pro-Brexit circles. The announcement coincides with the growing difficulties for musicians from this country to tour the European continent, since the government of Boris Johnson has rejected the EU’s proposal for an agreement to eliminate the need for a visa on trips of less than three months. It won’t affect top-tier artists to a great extent, but for the rest it will mean considerable bureaucracy that can discourage them from traveling.
Despite having some of the best composers, conductors, singers and instrumentalists in the world, the British elites are quite indifferent to classical music, and the Government considers that it does not deserve special protection in the current crisis.