Women pay for the Vienna Philharmonic, don't play in it

Women pay for the Vienna Philharmonic, don't play in it


norman lebrecht

January 31, 2012

Carnegie Hall’s announcement of its coming series with the resolutely almost all-male Vienna Phil comes with the usual acknowledgement.

The first concert is paid for by Mrs Charles Wrightsman, the other two by the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation.

I wonder whether these generous donors are aware that the orchestra has not admitted a female player since 2007 and has no more than four altogether. Why, I wonder, would women support sexual discrimination against women? Tell me someone, please.

And while on anomalies, the orchestra is ‘celebrating’ 50 years of collaboration with Lorin Maazel. I suppose they won;t mind me reminding them that nobody was celebrating much when Lorin was their boss at the Vienna Opera in the early 1980s. Ars longa, memory shorta.

Here’s the press bumf:


Programs Include Works by Mozart, Sibelius, R. Strauss, E. Strauss, J. Strauss, J. Strauss II,and Maazel’s Orchestral Arrangement of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, The Ring Without Words

Program Information
Friday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage

Lorin Maazel, Conductor

Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39
Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82
Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105

The Trustees of Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in support of the 2011-2012 season.


Saturday, March 3 at 8:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage

Lorin Maazel, Conductor

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
RICHARD WAGNER / LORIN MAAZEL The Ring Without Words, for Orchestra

This concert is made possible, in part, by the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation.

The Carnegie Hall Live broadcast series is sponsored by Duff & Phelps.

Please note this concert is being broadcast live on WQXR Radio. ___________________________________

Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage

Lorin Maazel, Conductor

RICHARD STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24
RICHARD STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Suite
JOHANN STRAUSS Overture from Die Fledermaus
JOHANN STRAUSS “Csárdás” from Ritter Pázmán
JOHANN STRAUSS Russian March-Fantasy, Op. 353
EDUARD STRAUSS Greetings to Prague, Polka
JOHANN STRAUSS JR. Die Bajadere, Polka, Op. 351
JOHANN STRAUSS JR. Tales from the Vienna Woods Waltz, Op. 325

This concert is made possible, in part, by the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation.

Bank of America is the Proud Season Sponsor of Carnegie Hall.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Lorin Maazel have been making music together for 50 years. They will celebrate this special anniversary with three concerts at Carnegie Hall in March, performing music by composers who have figured prominently in their half century of collaboration. These concerts feature works by Mozart, Sibelius, Eduard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Johann Strauss II, and Richard Strauss, as well as Maazel’s orchestral arrangement of Wagner’s Ring cycle,The Ring Without Words.

On Friday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m., Maestro Maazel conducts the orchestra in an all-Sibelius program including symphonies nos. 1, 5, and 7. The following evening, Saturday, March 3 at 8:00 p.m., they play Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor as well as Maazel’s The Ring Without Words arrangement of Wagner’s Ring cycle. They conclude their series on Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m. with Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration and Der Rosenkavalier Suite along with music by Eduard Strauss, Johann Strauss and Johann Strauss II.

The March 3 concert will also be broadcast across the US and worldwide on Carnegie Hall Live—a radio broadcast and digital series which is a partnership of WQXR, Carnegie Hall, and American Public Media (APM). The concert will air live on WQXR 105.9 FM in New York and stream live at wqxr.org. The concert will also broadcast live in more than 35 markets across the nation, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Austin, among others. A complete list of stations may be found here. For more information on this and the other Carnegie Hall Live broadcasts throughout the 2011–2012 season, please visit carnegiehall.org/wqxr.

About the Artists
For over five decades, Lorin Maazel has been one of the world’s most esteemed and sought-after conductors. Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 2002 through 2009, he assumes the same post with the Munich Philharmonic at the start of the 2012–2013 season. Maestro Maazel founded and serves as artistic director of a festival based on his farm property in Virginia, the Castleton Festival. He is also a highly regarded composer, with a wide-ranging catalogue of works written primarily over the last dozen years. He has conducted more than 150 orchestras in no fewer than 5,000 opera and concert performances and has made over 300 recordings, including symphonic cycles or complete orchestral works of Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss, winning ten Grands Prix du Disques. Mr. Maazel’s discography also includes a range of violin recordings. He is the recipient of two ASCAP awards for contributions to American music and has made appearances in every major music center and at every prominent festival internationally.


  • Tommy says:

    Norman, isn’t it entirely possible that these female donors know lots about the VPO (including that it’s all male) and that they are supporting the visit anyway?

    Can you not even remotely consider the possibility that some people – women included – might not agree with your opinions on the VPO? Is it not remotely possible that the donors wish to support the visit of a world-class orchestra, regardless of its politics?

    After all, this is what you expect people to do for the Israel Philharmonic. Or is that different? Is it only sexual politics that counts?

  • Plaintiff says:

    Dear Norman,

    As Wiener Staatsopernorchester, the very same orchestra is employed by a State entity, the Staatsoper GmbH. This in turn is wholly owned by the Bundestheaterholding GmbH, (which in turn is wholly owned by the Republic of Austria). Therefore your allegation of sexual discrimination would have to be levelled against the Staatsoper GmbH, which means indirectly the Republic of Austria.
    The Vienna State Opera Orchestra i(VSOO) is incorporated as a “Verein” (Society), whose membership is dependent on admission (as a player) to the VSOO. If there is discrimination, then this occurs at the auditioning for the VSOO.

    Kind regards


  • Ziggy says:

    I guess it’s what rich Foundations & widows do! The last grants I can find for the Foundation are those for 2003..For Jayne Wrightsman, see http://chicsavage.blogspot.com/2009/02/mrs-charles-b-wrightsman.html
    And the notice does say she’s supporting the 11/12 season, not that particular band especially…

  • Brian says:

    Guidestar.org has some background on the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation. Oddly, they seem to have some progressive causes in their giving portfolio.


    Perhaps they don’t know the full story with the Vienna Phil? Or don’t care? It’s hard to hold the Austrian government to account but certainly private donors are a different story.

  • Jason says:

    I can only speculate, but it seems worthwhile to ask them directly. It would be interesting to hear their responses. Hopefully, such dialogue will help us understand how we can reconcile our aesthetic inclinations with political stances we may find repellant. It is a struggle we need to acknowledge, even if the temptation to “sweep it under the rug” is strong.

    • In February 1996, members of the gen-mus list (an academic discussion group devoted to gender studies in music) sent a letter prepared by Jeanice Brooks to the Vienna Philharmonic and asked why the orchestra excludes women. I have the gen-mus letter and the Vienna Philharmonic’s response on my website. You can read them both here, along with some explanatory comments:


      The letter is 16 years old, but the orchestra has not significantly changed its arguments since then. They now seldom mention the maternity leave issue, since it has been strongly discredited, and only makes them look worse. And the EU’s Amsterdam Treaty, which went into force in 1999, made discrimination due to pregnancy illegal. For more about the maternity leave issue see:


      Perhaps the most thorough statement by the orchestra about why it excludes women was given in an interview with the West German State Radio in 1996. You can read a transcription and translation here:


      The orchestra has not been able to offer plausible explanations for why it excludes women, so now they refuse almost all interviews. The orchestra’s members are also strictly forbidden to speak with the press without permission and without the orchestra’s leadership present.

      • Jason says:

        Thank you for the additional information. I’m not surprised by the stonewalling. However, I should have made clear that the “them” in my first sentence refers to the donors. I would like to think that a good question or two might make them contemplate what is either an unknown issue to them, or one to which they have given little consideration. As much as I admire the VPO’s musicmaking, it’s also appropriate to lean on them so that they take the issue of discrimination seriously.

  • Karen says:

    Unfortunately, just because someone is a woman does not automatically mean that she has fully informed herself of women’s issues or the discrimination that many women still face today . This is especially the case since I take it that these particular women will likely have come from the upper or privileged class, and may have experienced little or no discrimination in their own lives. What you have pointed out is precisely how it works when a problem is systemic in a society; in this case, it is deeply entrenched and embedded in the system. You are dealing with a complex set of norms, perceptions and beliefs constructed by society over a long period of time, and how individuals have internalized these values and beliefs. My guess is it will simply not occur to some people to question why the orchestra is all-male (it will simply appear as ‘normal’ to them), and if asked, they may likely say there is nothing wrong with it etc. etc. etc. Thought-provoking question linking to many interesting social theories that attempt to explain and analyse this type of situation. Thank you very much for bringing to the forefront this very important issue .

  • Suzanne says:

    I agree with Jason- pose the questions directly to the parties concerned and lets see what they say.
    Unfortunately, I’d lay odds that you don’t get responses and I also have a strong suspicion that Mrs. Wrightsman’s knowledge of the Vienna Philharmonic’s hiring tactics falls in the “slim to none” catagory. Don’t you feel that she needs to be informed?

  • mhtetzel says:

    Once I read that the reason London orchestras have so many women musicians is because they earn less than their male colleagues. It might have been a spiteful comment, but, if true, it is really disgraceful and worthy of a campaign lead by you. Kindly clarify.

    The number of women musicians in the Vienna Phil is an issue that should be addressed, if at all, at another level, as only musicians who have been members of the Vienna State Opera for at least three years can apply for membership of the Vienna Philharmonic.

    As a music lover, I´m not in the least interested in how many man/women musicians each orchestra employs but in the quality of the music they play, be it the marvellous Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin, Chicago etc etc.

  • mhtetzel says:

    Thank you. Am very glad.

  • Jessplainsong says:

    And no-one wants to mention the pedestrian program lined up for March? SIGH. There are any number of issues with this orchestra. Karen makes salient points.

  • Duncan Reed says:

    Strictly speaking, Mrs Charles Wrightsman must by definition not be a widow – as you Tiggy rather dismissively put it. If she were, she should use her own first name. For etiquette purposes (art least In England), her husband must thereby still be with us, and so she is Mrs Charles Wrightsman. The clue as to why she doesn’t bother with all the sexual politics and gender debate around the VPO is, I suspect, explained in her rather ‘correct’ choice of how she styles herself! In other words, quality will out.

  • Edmund Raphael-Beldowski says:

    Oh dear, yet another desperate attempt by the “Let’s knock Jayne Wrightsman Campaign” to fill column inches at the expense of one of America’s most generous benefactors, and with little respect for this lady’s mature years.
    I expect that Mr. Lebrecht will now be keen to inform everyone of the number of orchestra members who are homosexual or have coloured ancestry, then pose the question as to why Mrs. Wrightsman financially supports such an orchestra, rather than to praise her for yet another act of generousity.
    Do remember that she doesn’t have to open her purse with cascading gesture