More from Vienna: how Austrian politics whitewashes VPO sex discrimination

More from Vienna: how Austrian politics whitewashes VPO sex discrimination


norman lebrecht

January 02, 2012

There is a wave of public outrage building up on several fronts against the exclusion of women from the Vienna Philharmonic, following yesterday’s New Year’s Day concert in which only two women were allowed on stage.

Here‘s an account of how an Austrian parliamentary committee equivocated its way last year around this blatant violation of European human rights law. And how it justifies giving more tax money to a group that practises sexual discrimination. The date of the hearing caught my eye – Mahler’s birthday.

So let me offer an open challenge to Franz Welser-Moest, who’s conducting the next show: on December 31 this year, Franz, demand to see at least 12 women in the orchestra, or cancel the 2013 New Year event. Deal?


  • I really enjoyed this blog entry from Von Heute auf Morgan you link to. The transcription of the Austrian parliament’s debate about the VPO funding is simultaneously depressing and hilarious. They took 2.8 million Euros away from the VPO and gave it to the Staatsoper Orchestra, which is like taking it from the left hand to give it to the right – an empty public relations gesture.

    Especially rich is the Freedom Party speaker telling the two Green Party members that they should just go into their “backyard bio-habitats and enjoy their self-taught digereedo bleating and bush-drumming.” His reference, by contrast, to the “Kulturnation” Austria has implications English-speakers might not fully grasp. A simple translation like “cultural nation” doesn’t really capture all the word implies. The FPÖ speaks in a kind of coded language to convey the worldview of an earlier and much darker time – though given the nature of the American political right, I hardly feel in a position to say anything at all. We’re all in this together.

    • Dafydd Llywelyn. Composer in Munich. says:

      How right you are William.Long time no see since you & Abbey unfortunately left Munich. – Did Austria go through a ” De -Nazification Process ” ? – Have the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & the Vienna Opera ever invited a Lady Conductor, or Women as instrumental Soloists.? Best greetings to you both. Dafydd.

  • Zwölftöner says:

    Thanks Norman for linking this. I’ve written a reply to William’s comment above, which he also posted on my blog. I ramble on it a bit and not all of it is relevant to the women debate, so I won’t copy and paste it here. Those who are interested can read it at

  • Malcolm James says:

    I watched about 20 minutes of the concert on TV and it was news to me that there were even 2 female players in the orchestra. Were Austrian TV acting under orders from the VPO?