More Mariss cancellations, Vienna starts to quake

More Mariss cancellations, Vienna starts to quake


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2011

Mariss Jansons has pulled out of two Mahler concerts in Munich this month with what is described as an “akute Erkältungserkrankung”, or a very bad cold. He had previously cancelled a week in Amsterdam.

Jansons, 68, is due to conduct the New Year’s Day Concert in Vienna. He told a news agency that he’s preparing intensively for it. I’m guessing the Vienna Phil will have a dep lined up, just in case.


  • Simone Young would make a good substitute and would help the orchestra past its deeply sexist ideologies. The VPo only began admitting women in 1997 (due to extreme international pressure) and in the follow 13 years hired only 3. The orchestra has the lowest ratio of women in the world. And it is hiring women at a lower rate than any other orchestra in the world. Why do all of the big name conductors, like Mariss Jansons, go along with this egregious bigotry? Does it speak to the kind of people they are?

  • Adam says:

    OK William – but the problem with your suggestion about SImone, is that as a rule, you do actually have to be able to conduct when invited by the Vienna Phil.

    • Can you tell us what’s wrong with her conducting? And if these problems exist, how did she become GMD of one of the largest and most prestigious opera houses in Europe, the Hamburg State Opera? Just curious. BTW, she’s also conducted the Vienna State Opera for several productions.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    – I could also argue that the VPO could use as an alibi an engagement of a female conductor to conduct their most visible event
    – What bothers me more about the VPO new year’s day concert is the practice of hiring star conductors who are not necessarily steeped in the Viennese tradition. Most people would agree that musically the VPO played better Strauss with Willi Boskovsky (OK, except perhaps for the two Carlos Kleiber concerts).

    • It’s true, Simone Young would only be used as an alibi, not as a sign of real change. On the other hand, it would mean an incredible amount to women around the world to see her lead the concert. It’s not likely to happen.

      I’ve never seen a New Years conductor for the VPO do anything other than follow the orchestra. The only exception might be Nicolaus Harnoncourt a few years ago, who is not only immersed in the Viennese traditions, but also a specialist for historically accurate performances.

      Ozawa was GMD of the Staatsoper when he led the New Years concert. (The Staatsoper Orchester is the VPO’s operatic formation.) He avoided programming waltzes so that he could better assert his authority over the orchestra, but it was still a grotesque tug-of-war. Viennese women are as immersed in the style as much as men. Waltzes are one thing, but sexist bigotry another.

      • Adam says:

        I’ve been to several New years day concerts for real and sat within spitting distance of the podium and they do alot more than follow the music. I especially liked Muti’s interpretations which combined some sort of italianate fire and drama with these flowing brooks of melody. There definitely is “interpretation” there IMHO!

        • I would certainly agree that Muti shares something with the VPO, namely sexism. In 1979, my wife (a well-known trombonist) won the trombone audition for the Maggio Musicale, the orchestra of Florence where Muti was the GMD. He denied her the position with the declaration that there were already too many women in the orchestra. So they took the man who came in second. In any case, the VPO claims they have a special fiery and dramatic aesthetic as an all-male, all-white ensemble. Some even claim, in light of the orchestra’s history and employment practices, that it puts a whiff of Benito in the air.

  • I hate coercion in every form. It’s tantamount to extortion and intimidation. That belongs to hoodlums and criminals, not musicians. If the Vienna Philharmonic does not ever hire another woman, let them be.

    • The extortion and intimidation is actually directed toward Austria’s women musicians who are refused employment by an orchestra funded almost entirely by the government. (The VPO’s main job is as the pit orchestra for the Vienna State Opera.)