Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been named as the new music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).
In taking up the role, the 29-year-old Lithuanian will become only the third female chief conductor of a major British orchestra.
Gražinytė-Tyla comes to Birmingham from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she has held the role of assistant conductor to Gustavo Dudamel, who describes her as ‘an amazing artist’. Since last year, she has also been music director of the Salzburg Landestheater in Austria.
The CBSO audience first got to know her when she conducted the orchestra to great acclaim last summer, and she recently returned to Symphony Hall for another appearance that was similarly well received. ‘[Gražinytė-Tyla] really did communicate something wonderfully alive and detailed to the players,’ wrote The Guardian about the latter occasion, ‘a performance with fresh, clear textures and an unswerving sense of shape.’
(Credit: Phillip Zinniker)
Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment is a much-awaited one, not just because of the stature of the post itself, but also because the CBSO has enjoyed such an exceptional record of success with its last three appointments of music director: Simon Rattle, who held the post from 1980-98, went on from Birmingham to become principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic; Sakari Oramo (1998-2008) is now chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra; and Andris Nelsons (2008-15) is both chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and soon-to-be music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. Both Rattle and Nelsons were, like Gražinytė-Tyla, fairly unfamiliar names when they began at Symphony Hall.
Plus, of course, there is the fact that Gražinytė-Tyla will hold the rare accolade of being a female conductor of a top orchestra in the United Kingdom – only Marin Alsop, principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 2002-08, and JoAnn Falletta, prinicipal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra from 2011-14, have previously done likewise.
Gražinytė-Tyla herself says she is now looking forward to being at the head of an orchestra that, playing in arguably the best-appointed concert hall in Britain, has itself built up a world-class reputation. ‘Every single musician of the CBSO is an artist with great individuality and sense of responsibility,’ she says. ‘They are driven to be one of the world’s leading orchestras and their shared spirit for team work helps them to achieve this. I felt so at ease working with the orchestra at the CBSO Centre and at Symphony Hall and I can’t wait to get started and to call these my homes too. I believe we will be a great team and really look forward to making music together.’