Look, no women: it’s the Vienna Philharmonic in Beijing

Look, no women: it’s the Vienna Philharmonic in Beijing


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2013

And the chairman prattles on about Vienna’s gift to mankind.

Oh, hang on, is that a token woman playing piccolo?

vienna phil beijing


  • Malcolm James says:

    I’m surprised. You would have thought that they would have made sure that there were at least a few women playing on occasions such as this, even if many of them were extras. Even the fustiest dinosaurs in the management of the orchestra must be aware of the PR implications.

  • David H. says:

    Haters gonna hate. The still pic below the video clip is Dresden btw, not Vienna.

  • Michael Harding says:

    Strange, Norman. The first thing one sees is the female piccolo player. . . .

    Your constant voicing of your dislike of the Wiener Philharmoniker and its policies, at least as you perceive them, is getting a bit boring.

    • sdReader says:

      How do YOU perceive those policies? As NOT sexist? Wake up. This has been going on for too long without change.

      • Anon says:

        Where, I wonder, do you expect the change to come from, and how quickly? I observe that many who call on the VPO to encourage a greater number of female players are the same people who will always leap to the defence of older, tired orchestral players, defending to the hilt their right to their “job for life”.

        If you, like them, believe that a member of the VPO once they have their job should continue in that role until they retire or are forceably retired then, given the age range of the VPO, other than occasions where players move on to other ensembles, where are the vacancies for which new (female) members can compete? And when they do, they will of course be competing in what we hope is a gender-neutral situation with their male counterparts.

        Obviously it’s going to be a slow transition for the VPO or any orchestra, unless you would accept removing players merely because they are male, which is simple gender discrimination in its own way.

        • aminorfigure says:

          Don’t be ridiculous; just because it’s a slow process doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Most other orchestras in the world have integrated women quite easily, and I’ll tell you how. They just *hire them*–assuming they’re the most qualified candidate, of course. Simple. It’s not that you have to create jobs for them by forcing men to retire and shoehorning women into those vacated positions. You just have to *allow* women to win the jobs that come open–and in any orchestra, there are usually at least a couple every year. Obviously, women won’t win every audition, but they should, through the magic of probability, win some. So, when women win, you have to hire them. And when you hire them, you have to allow them to get tenure. And eventually, everything balances itself out. It’s not as fraught as you make it seem.

          • Anon says:

            Totally agree. But given where the VPO is now, how would you like it to change quickly, other than getting rid of current players? We can all regret that VPO didn’t / hasn’t changed quicker, but of course some orchestras will change quickly, others about average, and others slowly. We are where we are, and the VPO is where it is. How do you want it to quickly attain gender parity in its membership?

          • Anna says:

            The idea that you would “have to get rid of people” to include women in this GIANT enterprise, is ridiculous. This article shows the statistics of male new hires, which are plentiful, compared to female new hires, which is pitiful. Why try to pretend that this is not blatant sexism? Not to mention the racism. Their audition process doesn’t even try to prevent either type of discrimination. http://www.osborne-conant.org/vpo2011.htm

        • TrebleClef says:

          What exactly is wrong with an all male orchestra? Do women have
          to be part of everything? I think the Vienna orchestra has the right
          to be an all man band if that is what their tradition dictates.
          Plenty of other orchestras for women to play in elsewhere 🙂

    • Glenn Hardy says:

      Yes, it’s so tiresome hearing the whining about unfairness, isn’t it? Back in the 1960s, we white folks here in the States really got fed up with the belly-aching of those colored people yammering on and on about some perceived “rights” or something. It was downright…well…BORING!

      • David H. says:

        Basic human rights vs the “right” to be a member by audition in the Vienna Phil. Not even Apples and Oranges. Apples and Sushi.

        • Glenn Hardy says:

          Clever, but it seems like you’re kind of missing the point. Some would say that issues of human rights involving race discrimination and those involving gender discrimination are related. It doesn’t really matter whether we’re talking about the Vienna Philharmonic or the local police department. But the really interesting thing is that no black person ever wrote that discussion of racism was boring, and no female writes that discussion of gender discrimination is boring. I wonder why it’s only white males who seem to complain about this stuff being boring?

          • David H. says:

            “It doesn’t really matter whether we’re talking about the Vienna Philharmonic or the local police department…”

            It does. The VPO is one of the highest achievements of human culture. A sound, a playing technique, a way of music making between the conscious and the subconscious realms. I say, even if that would require to discriminate against women, at this one very special small place, then this is totally worth it.

            Nobody is having any problem with discrimination of women, when it comes to sports btw. Funny world.

  • Michaela says:

    The woman flutist is Karen Bonelli. Just 23, she won the audition for 2nd flute in Vienna Phil last May over hundreds of competitors. She is now in her official trial period with Vienna Staatsoper. Here is her story in German: http://www.nachrichten.at/oberoesterreich/Karin-Bonelli-23-jaehrige-Wiener-Philharmonikerin;art4,925659

    Her name and status appear on VPO’s website roster. http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/orchestra/members

    She is the first female flutist to ever play with VPO and the only woman in VPO’s wind, brass or percussion sections. Interestingly, despite the fact that she is still in her trial period, management has had her play on VPO’s most high profile appearances. She played on the televised New Year’s Concert and is doing all of VPO’s tours this season.

    Ms. Bonelli is definitely someone to keep an eye on. So many women have won VPO auditions, go thru trial periods, and mysteriously do not pass or simply disappear. All eyes should be on Karin Bonelli during this very important trial period. She is in a pivotal, historically imporant position right now, and it’s critical that she is treated fairly. Thankfully VPO is making her visible to us internationally, as with the video clip from Beijing posted by Mr. Lebrecht.

    • David Boxwell says:

      Karen Bonelli _IS_ the new Jasmine Choi! Feel the bitter burn coming soon!!

      • michaela says:

        I’m afraid I don’t agree, David. Karen Bonelli, unlike Jasmine Choi, was born & bred into the Vienna tradition. She “fits in” in every way except for the fact that she’s a woman. I honestly believe that VPO is trying to give her a fair chance. I think they want to make it work. They NEED to make it work.

        It’s also admirable that they are putting Ms. Bonelli right out there. She’s visible, she’s appearing regularly with the section on high profile gigs. Whereas the much-heralded woman Bulgarian concertmaster who is now tenured rarely plays. I think Ms. Bonelli is a new chapter, a sign of hope. But I think the public needs to be aware of her situation, a kind of collective watchdog effect to make sure she is treated fairly.

        It’s also telling that in the VPO winds, the sections which have been the 1st to defy the all-male all Vienna-schooled tradition have been those with the worst history of racism/sexism. In In an unprecedented move, VPO hired a young American trombonist recently.. OK, so it didn’t work out, but was a brave effort to counteract the horrible treatment of the talented Japanese tubist who mysteriously did not pass his trial period a few yrs. ago.

        I also think hiring an American trombone was a direct backlash against what happened to Abbie Conant. Thanks to William Osborne’s tireless research and documentation, people are now aware that what happened to Ms. Conant was horrendous.

        VPO former Principal Flute Dieter Fleury came out a no. of yrs. ago with what is probably the most sexist commentary against women in the history of orchestral playing. And in his section now is a young woman who is beating the odds and may be the 1st tenured woman ever in the VPO winds.

        Karen Bonelli is a very different case, I believe, than Jasmine Choi. Both women are superb players, but VPO and VSO are quite different orchestras, Jasmine Choi was an outsider, Karen Bonelli has been groomed from within. And perhaps because of this, they are at polar opposites as far as how they are conducting/conducted their trial periods. It will be very difficult, I believe for VPO to come up with any good reasons not to give Ms. Bonelli tenure.

        Especially with the world watching.

        For that reason, I am hopeful.

  • Bernie says:

    Michael, I don’t think it’s “boring” to call out discrimination and injustice when one sees it. It’s been obvious for some time that the Vienna Phil doesn’t care about bringing women into its ranks. One female piccolo player does not equality make. When they get towards 50% membership, then people like Norman can back off if he chooses. Until then, they deserve what’s coming to them.

  • Brian says:

    I wonder what the Chinese think when they see any orchestra that’s almost entirely men? In a society that doesn’t exactly encourage the questioning of official institutions, do they have any idea of the politics around the ensemble? I’d be curious to hear from anyone here who has been to concerts in China how well known this issue is.

  • Una says:

    It’s not boring when you are a woman – and all three replies, plus Norman, are all men:) It is a total disgrace in this day and age that women are not playing in this orchestra, and that there are ‘world class performers’ out there who are women who can play. Perhaps no women want to apply and take the flack from a boy’s club. They came to the Proms some years ago, and walked on like a load of rugby players, and not even the token woman playing a piccolo – or the harp – the night I went, and their playing was nothing special either – just trading on their name, charged more money.

    Well done Norman for keep banging on. I dislike the culture of the Vienna Phil as well. Your views are held not just by yourself or me but by many not known to this blogg either, and the real musicians, certainly in Britain, don’t even go to hear the Vienna Phil with their PR problems and their routine performances. I wait to see a woman play the trombone or any brass instrument or timps in that orchestra, as we have had for years in many British orchestras. I’d rather go and hear the Halle any day with Mark Elder conducting, half the price, and much more interesting repertoire played extremely musically, and equal balance of women and men, all world class players!

    • Beaumont says:

      Now we know why there are so few women in the orchestra: it’s just not good enough for them!

    • Lauren says:

      Right you are Una! I wish to second your kudos to Norman for continuing to bring the issues of bigotry of all stripes to light. What we do not know we cannot change. Great music is to be played and enjoyed by all people. Vienna is famous because great composers lived and died there hundreds of years ago. If the city and its cultural institutions cannot be bothered to include 50+% of the population then we shouldn’t be supporting them. I don’t love the Chinese record of human rights and free speech violations but places like Vienna in the “free” west seems no different to me in many areas of life.

  • Hasbeen says:

    I think the VPO should be judged by their performances alone, disappointing or good. Is is a sure thing that changing the demographics of the VPO [or any orchestra] will change anything ?

    Why turn it into another ‘Euro-Orchestra’. Let them sink or swim in their own sound and traditions.

    • Because their recruitment policies are illegal? Under both Austrian and EU law. Not to mention common decency and natural justice.

      • David H. says:

        Why is this in particular a problem for you?

      • Martin says:

        They are not illegal, they do hire women. If the feel a male candidate is a more ideal choice for them, they need to hire the male.

        If they’d hire a woman just because, in the opinion of a equality fanatical minority, they don’t have enough women in their ranks, they would actually violate a law. If the best candidate would not be hired on the purpose of not being a female, the hiring practice would be utterly sexist, don’t you think?

        Just because the Vienna Phil has made mistakes in the past doesn’t mean they have to make some to correct them.

        Or do you think a referee should award a penalty to the other team after he’s given one to the opponent by mistake?

      • David H. says:

        I’m still interested to see, how you want to make your case, that their recruitment policies would be illegal today. You would have to use the examples of the new hires since EU legislation is binding. Please make your case. It’s a grave accusation.

        • It’s a case that has been accepted by the Austrian Parliament and Government, which penalised the VPO for discrimination. I don’t need to make it again. And it’s not a grave accusation: don’t be melodramatic.

          • David H. says:

            I’m not aware of such “penalties” by the Austrian government. You are probably referring to the restructuring of the public subsidies under Culture Minister Claudia Schmied, which meant direct subsidies to the VPO were redirected to the constituting body, the Staatsopernorchester. These changes were made in mutual agreement by both sides. Then there is also the cultural speaker of the green party Wolfgang Zinggl, he is the only one using the word “discrimination”, but he speaks not for the parliament or the government.

            You make out of it what you want, but “illegal” you can not call it.

        • The Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999 made it illegal to discriminate in Europe on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion. Austrian law has also forbade gender discrimination for decades. The Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic, which are inseparable institutions, have thus been breaking both Austrian and EU law for decades.

          The only party that continues to support the VSOO/VP in Austria is the radical right Freedom Party.

          The VSOO/VP agreed to admit women in 1997, but only hired its first non-harpist woman ten years later in 2007. It continues to hire women at about a 10 to 1 m/f ratio. The Austrian Federal Government, which owns and operates the VSOO, thus continues to break both its own and European law. Various attempts are made to obfuscate the continuing discrimination by claiming qualified men are about ten times more common than women, even though women represent about 60% of the student body in Austria’s conservatories. In the high strings, the ratio is often around 70%.

          The various meanings of the EU law are spelled out in this handbook published by the EU:


          As the handbook notes:

          “Sex discrimination is relatively self-explanatory, in that it refers to discrimination that

          is based on the fact that an individual is either a woman or a man. This is the most

          highly developed aspect of the EU social policy and has long been considered a core

          right. The development of the protection on this ground served a dual purpose: firstly,

          it served an economic purpose in that it helped to eliminate competitive distortions

          in a market that had grown evermore integrated, and; secondly, on a political level,

          it provided the Community with a facet aimed toward social progress and the

          improvement of living and working conditions. Consequently, the protection against

          discrimination on the ground of sex has been, and has remained, a fundamental

          function of the European Union. The acceptance of the social and economic

          importance of ensuring equality of treatment was further crystallised by the central

          position it was given in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Similarly, under the ECHR

          protection against discrimination on the ground of sex is well developed.”

          • Martin says:

            As stated above. They don’t violate laws anymore, as they do hire women. It doesn’t matter how many. You can not force an organization to hire a certain amount of certain people just because they never did in the past.

          • Spot on. And by the way: there exists somewhere in Austria or Germany an all-women symphony orchestra, what about THAT?

          • Nonsense. Artificially reduced rates of hiring are also discriminatory. It’s called tokenism.

          • Martin says:

            By performing, what might well be tokenism, they act by the law.

            And again, if they feel, for whatever reason, a male candidate is more ideal for the job, they have to hire the man. If they’d only hire a woman, because she’s a woman, they would violate the law you mentioned above.

  • Perhaps an even greater irony surrounding this Asian tour is that the Philharmonic has long discriminated against Asians. For the last 40 years, about a quarter of the students at Vienna’s University of Music have been Asian, but the VPO remains one of the few major orchestras in the world without a fully Asian member, and without a member who has an Asian family name. The orchestra has traditionally felt that non-Caucasion members would damage the orchestra’s image of Austrian authenticity.

    In his autobiography, Otto Strasser, a former Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, described the problems blind auditions cause:

    “I hold it for incorrect that today the applicants play behind a screen; an arrangement that was brought in after the Second World War in order to assure objective judgments. I continuously fought against it, especially after I became Chairman of the Philharmonic, because I am convinced that to the artist also belongs the person, that one must not only hear, but also see, in order to judge him in his entire personality. […] Even a grotesque situation that played itself out after my retirement, was not able to change the situation. An applicant qualified himself as the best, and as the screen was raised, there stood a Japanese before the stunned jury. He was, however, not engaged, because his face did not fit with the ‘Pizzicato-Polka’ of the New Year’s Concert.”[1]

    The Philharmonic has long felt “that to the artist also belongs the person”, and that the individual’s accomplishment, and -marketability-, are determined by race and gender.

    Dieter Flury, the Philharmonic’s solo-flutist, expressed a similar view in an interview with the West German State Radio:

    “From the beginning we have spoken of the special Viennese qualities, of the way music is made here. The way we make music here is not only a technical ability, but also something that has a lot to do with the soul. The soul does not let itself be separated from the cultural roots that we have here in central Europe. And it also doesn’t allow itself to be separated from gender. So if one thinks that the world should function by quota regulations, then it is naturally irritating that we are a group of white skinned male musicians, that perform exclusively the music of white skinned male composers. It is a racist and sexist irritation. I believe one must put it that way. If one establishes superficial egalitarianism, one will lose something very significant. Therefore, I am convinced that it is worthwhile to accept this racist and sexist irritation, because something produced by a superficial understanding of human rights would not have the same standards.”[2]

    The belief that racial minorities would damage the image of Viennese orchestras as authentic representatives of Austrian culture is shared by many musicians, and has been documented by Dr. Elena Ostleitner, an emeritus Professor at Vienna’s University of Music. She recorded the following statement by an Asian woman:

    “I auditioned for an orchestra, and I led in the point tabulations as long as I played behind a screen. Due to my name it was not apparent that I am an Asian. But when the screen was removed [for the final round], I was rejected without comment. Friends in the orchestra confirmed my assumption. They do not take foreigners, and if they do, then only those in which [foreign appearance] is not visible.”[3]

    Another Viennese sociologist, Prof. Roland Girtler, of the University of Vienna, has made similar observations:

    “What I have noticed that is interesting, is that the Vienna Philharmonic would also never take a Japanese or such. If they took one, this also would somehow by appearances put in question the noble character of Viennese culture. But this is not racist!”[4]

    It is not merely musical performance, but also the racial physiognomy of Asians that is the critical issue–though Girtler does not view this as racist. Similar beliefs were reported in a radio broadcast of the Austria National Broadcasting Corporation. A public school teacher who had taken his class to a rehearsal of the Vienna Philharmonic reported that a girl in the class asked why only men were in the orchestra. Werner Resel, the orchestra’s chairman at the time, answered that the “Vienna Philharmonic is an orchestra of white men playing music by white men for white people”.[5]

    It is perhaps worth noting that from a larger historical perspective, the ideology that a particular musical expression or style is inseparable from the central European soul, the People, or the Nation, eventually had catastrophic effects for European culture. It manifested itself in the concepts of “Ahnenerbe” (the belief that culture is genetically inherited), and the Blut und Boden ideologies advocating the racial superiority of “The People” in the Third Reich.

    An obvious implication of these ideologies is that the most authentic performance of western classical music can only be created by the ethnic group or nation of the composer. This was advocated by the Kampfbund der deutsche Kuenstler (Fighting Group for German Artists) during the Third Reich:

    “Since we do not value, that a watered down internationalism is identified with German artistic genius, we must require, that in the future German art is represented abroad only by German artists, that carry in their person and their attitude of mind the seal of the purest Germaness.”[6]

    Excessive nationalism and ethnocentricity are often constellated with sexism, and is one more aspect of the chauvinistic mind set and its invidious attachment to groups. I think we are seeing slow progress in Vienna, but it would be mistaken, of course, to think that these traditions, which are deeply embedded in Germanic cultural traditions, suddenly vanished in recent years. Asian musicians and women still face considerable problems in the Wiener Philharmoniker.

    Read here about the firing of Yasuhito Sugiyama who performed with the Vienna Philharmonic for one year:


    We should also remember that Africian-Americans only represent 2% of the membership in American orchestras, even though they represent 12% of the general population. Austrians, Americans, and all other people involved with classical music should work together to solve these problems.


    [1] Otto Strasser, _Und dafuer wird man noch bezahlt: Mein Leben mit den

    Wiener Phiharmonikern_ (Wien: Paul Neff Verlag, 1974)

    [2] “Musikalische Misogynie,” broadcast by the West German State Radio,

    February 13, 1996.

    [3] Elena Ostleitner, _Liebe, Lust, Last und Lied_ (Wien, Bundesministerium

    fuer Unterricht und Kunst, 1995) p. 6.

    [4] Roland Girtler, “Mitgliedsaufnahme in den Noblen Bund der Wiener Philharmonicer Als Mannbarkeitsritual”, Sociologia Internationalis (Beiheft 1, Berlin 1992).

    [5] “Von Tag zu Tag”, broadcast by Austrian National Radio and Television,

    December 11, 1996, 4:05-4:45pm.

    [6] “Deutsches Operngastspiel in Suedamerika”, Deutsche Buehnenkorrespondenz, II/31, October 1933, pg. 4.

    • sdReader says:


    • MacroV says:

      Good post, but don’t lump in the dearth of African American musicians in U.S. orchestras; not at all a comparable situation. If blacks were 40% of students at Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, etc., you’d have an argument. But the lack of black musicians in U.S. orchestras starts at the grass roots, not among the ranks of candidates.

      • Very true. On the other hand, I hope more people in Austria and elsewhere will accept the invitation to collaborate in solving these problems.

      • David H. says:

        What’s the percentage of blacks at these institutions in the classical music majors?

        And don’t let yourself being confused with the 25% number of Asian students in Vienna. Most of these are “tourists”, children from well to do families, looking for that fine “european educated” label that raises their value on the marriage market. You think I’m cynical? Ask some of the Asians in Vienna. Most of them don’t even want to stay in Europe after their studies.

        Having said that, there are also some excellent musicians among them, true musicianship doesn’t care about ethnicities or skin colors.

    • Martin says:

      How many Central European or actually Austrian players are there in the Chinese orchestras?

    • Martin says:

      Sugiyama wasn’t fired and you know this. Her trial contract was not renewed.

      By watching and listening to her performances with the Vienna Phil even someone who doesn’t really like the Vienna Phil (i.e. me) one can see, that she doesn’t fit into their picture.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Of course there should be women in the VPO. Even in the 1920s there were plenty of women good enough to be members – there have been expert all-female string quartets in Vienna since before the turn of the last century. I think Marie Soldat’s quartet was the first but there were various others later, and women were good enough to teach various members of the VPO string section. I mention strings because that is my area of knowledge, but I am sure it applies to the woodwinds as well. This is simply an outdated situation, and if we all keep hammering away at it, more women will be admitted to the sacred ranks!

  • Alan Penner says:

    Hiring a woman just because she’s female is about as sexist as one can get.

    • sdReader says:

      You claim no problem exists?

      • Anon says:

        Did Alan say that? I don’t think so. His statement is clearly true. To hire a women or a man merely because of their gender is, in and of itself, sexist.

        • sdReader says:

          His statement is clearly true and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra clearly remains sexist (and racist, if Osborne’s stories above are true) after 20 years — a generation — of public pressure. Alan Penner wants to do nothing about this, and you’re echoing the position.

          • Jean says:

            Yes, Alan, to hire a woman for her gender’s sake would be racist. And reading previous posts, it’s true that strictly speaking, VPO is not “breaking the law” because they do hire the occasional woman. But as W. Osborne pointed out, for us to agree that VPO is not breaking the law means that we agree that the 10 to 1 ratio of men to women is understandable – in other words, it’s to say that there are in fact, ten times more qualified men than there are women. To acknowledge that in all seriousness, I can’t.

  • De toute façon le milieu musical est masculin Ă  90% ! Du moins en France. J’ai Ă©tĂ© 15 ans directrice du Monde de la Musique, et n’Ă©tais entourĂ©e que d’hommes lors de rĂ©unions, de discussions, Ă  la radio, etc. Aujourd’hui, sur ce fait prĂ©cis, pour moi l’OPV est un Ă©piphĂ©nomĂšne, une survivance trĂšs “empire austro-hongrois” des bizarreries -ou ringardises- viennoises que je range dans la mĂȘme catĂ©gorie que la crĂšme fouettĂ©e. Aussi Ă©coeurante et dĂ©licieuse que leurs valses.

    La majoritĂ© des orchestres dans le monde ont intĂ©grĂ© des femmes, et j’ai pas mal de copines qui occupent des postes de solistes. C’est ce qui compte : Sarah Nemtanu et Deborah Nemtanu respectivement concertmeister (!!!) de l’Orchestre National de France et de l’Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Juliette Hurel flĂ»te solo de l’Orchestre de Rotterdam, etc. Laissons donc l’OPV continuer Ă  ronger son petit os sexiste, Ă  mon sens, cela n’a aucune importance, ni consĂ©quence. Ce serait plus grave pour moi s’il ne mĂ©ritait plus sa rĂ©putation de meilleur orchestre du monde.

    Afin de me prĂ©munir de l’accusation de trahison qui pourrait me faire guillotiner sur l’autel de la paritĂ©, j’ajoute que je viens d’Ă©crire sur les femmes compositeurs. En voici la premiĂšre phrase : “Comme l’Atlandide, les compositrices ont Ă©tĂ© englouties sous les flots des interdits et des prĂ©jugĂ©s” Ouf !

    Quick translation:

    Either way the music business is 90% male ! At least in France . I was 15 years director of Le Monde de la Musique, and was surrounded by men at meetings, discussions , radio , etc. For me the VPO is an epiphenomenon , a very ” Austro-Hungarian ” survival of quirks – or – ringardises Vienna that I put in the same category as whipped cream. As disgusting and delicious as their waltzes .

    The majority of orchestras around the world have incorporated women , and I have a lot of friends who are in positions of soloists. This is what counts : Sarah and Deborah Nemtanu respectively concertmasters of the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris , Juliette Hurel flute solo Orchestra Rotterdam , etc. ( !) . So let the VPO continue to gnaw its little sexist bone. In my opinion, it does not matter , nor accordingly. It would be worse for me if it did not deserve its reputation as the best orchestra in the world .

    To protect me from the charge of treason that could make me guillotined on the altar of parity , I add that I have written on women composers. Here’s the first sentence: ” As Atlandide , the composers were submerged beneath the waves prohibitions and prejudices ” Phew!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I noticed that French orchestras seem to have more ladies on average than most orchestras elsewhere, especially the Orchestre National which has a number of female principals, including the concertmaster Sarah Nemtanu (I have her fabulous solo album “Gypsic” and recommend it highly).

      I also remember that when I first saw the Orchestre National live for the first time in Berlin in the mid-80s, they had a lady as concertmaster “even” then.

      Do you know who that was?

  • Stereo says:

    Maybe one of the reasons there are so many women in UK orchestras is that the pay is so crap that a man couldn’t possibly support a family on most musicians salary so it has become a 2nd wage mainly for women.

  • Helen Tuckey says:

    Women musicians tend universally to congregate in the profession in areas where pay rates are lower, even in orchestras that field 30 – 45% of female membership. Perhaps that’s why there are reservations about any significant female presence in some of the wealthiest orchestras!

  • Andrew Balio says:

    OK, all you multiculturalists out there! Now is your big chance to be tolerant of another culture, The Viennese Culture! They told you how it goes, now you can respect their way of life as you demand they respect yours.

  • It is quite mysterious why an excellent orchestra should not be free to recrute their players from their very local male performing culture. There are so many other excellent orchestras in the world, including Austria and Germany, which wholeheartedly welcome good female and Asian players, so why not audition there? The VPO doesn’t like outsiders, OK, but hat does not make them racist, sexist etc. etc. If they want to cultivate their ‘own kind’ they should be free to do so.

    Maybe the long performance tradition of the VPO makes the players ĂŒbersensitive to female charm and cause anxiety symptoms on the sight of Asian faces, and all that would distract them from the music proper.

    • Jean says:

      You know, I do wish they would just acknowledge openly, that they don’t like outsiders. That Asians are not “noble” (see previous posts) enough for the Viennese tradition, and that no, that in fact doesn’t make it racist, and that women don’t belong on stage except for the pretty ladies that come out to give flowers after a concert. I mean, is it illegal to say something like that or what?

      • No, no, you got it wrong: it is all about local cultural identity and the image the VPO wants to cultivate, the entirely legitimate wish to not be cosmopolitan, which elsewhere often stimulates an international blandness – so many good orchestras sound the same (while in pre-war times, when orchestras mostly stayed at home, did not tour, and had their chief conductor as the only musical reference, developed their own authentic sound). In spite of their international appearances, the VPO want to cultivate their own sound and local image. That is all. And ‘not liking Asians’ for the simple reason that they are not home-bred, is NOT racism, as a preference for male collegues is NOT mysoginist machism. Football clubs who are exclusively male are not mysoginist as well, as ladies clubs are not per definition man-haters.

        • sdReader says:

          John, they have been acting on those preferences … and doing so is ILLEGAL, as well as sexist and racist. Stop playing the apologist.

    • porter wade says:

      shockingly ridiculous comment and yes–racist, sexist, and blindly ignorant as well.

  • AP says:

    no connection, but why is there a violin hanging on the second stand of the 1st violins !?!?

    • David H. says:

      Maybe another piece with scordatura for the concert master was scheduled in the same concert half?

    • Jonathan says:

      They do that all the time, in the firsts, seconds and sometimes even the viola sections. Those are reserve instruments that are used if something happens to an instrument during a performance – the reserve instrument is passed on to the player who needs it, while the music continues. I saw it happen in Salzburg many years ago in a Mahler 2 concert conducted by James Levine. One of the violins literally exploded – they passed the poor guy the reserve and he immediately jumped back into the fray!