Running my eye down the list of players, as I do when I haven’t heard a band in a year or so, I noticed that the principal horn in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is a woman (Elspeth Dutch) and the principal harp a man (Robert Johnson).
Not much to raise an eyebrow over these days but as little as a decade ago either placement would have been almost inconceivable. In the 20th century, blowing was for guys, plucking for gals. Today, gender equality rules and long may it do so.
There are two bastions of resistance – the antediluvian Vienna Philharmonic, and the concertmaster’s seat which remains overwhelmingly male in major symphony orchestras.
Apart from the impressive Clio Gould at the Royal Philharmonic, I see few lady leaders in the whole of western Europe. Why is that?