Simon Rattle will leave the London Symphony Orchestra to become chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich from 2023, in what has been described as a blow to Britain's classical music world.
Rattle, one of the world's most renowned conductors and a vocal opponent of Brexit, has signed a five-year contract with the German orchestra.
"The Bavarian Radio Orchestra is very pleased that Sir Simon will come to Munich as our new chief conductor," said Ulrich Wilhelm, general director of the public broadcaster, Bavarian Radio. "With his passion, his artistic versatility and his engaging charisma, he will be a most worthy successor to Mariss Jansons." Jansons died of a cardiac arrest aged 76 in December 2019.
Rattle, who turns 66 next week, is a prominent figure in Germany, where he led the Berlin Philharmonic from September 2002 to June 2018. He still lives in Berlin with his third wife Magdalena Kozena and their three children.
"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," he said in a statement.
Rattle has called Brexit a "terrible mistake" and made no secret of the fact that he would not have returned to lead the LSO had he known Brexit might turn his homeland into a "self-built cultural jail". He officially took the baton of the LSO in 2017, a year after the Brexit referendum.
However, British media reported that his reason for quitting London was dissatisfaction with the home of the LSO, the Barbican Hall, which he views as inadequate for music at the highest level.
Music critic Jessica Duchen noted that the chances of London getting a new concert hall now "are slender, given the UK's gloomy economic prospects beyond Covid-19 and Brexit". Rattle's "move does not feel like a vote of confidence in the UK," she added.
Rattle made his name at 25 when he powered the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra into the international big league. He first performed with the LSO when he was 22 and conducted the orchestra at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, accompanied by comedian Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean on keyboards.
Of his 16 years with the Berlin Philharmonic, he has described his relationship with the orchestra as sometimes turbulent, but never destructively so. During his time in Germany, he reorganised the orchestra into a foundation, giving members more control over its activities and decreasing the say of politicians, while championing contemporary music.