Vienna Philharmonic appoints new violinist (guess which sex?)

Vienna Philharmonic appoints new violinist (guess which sex?)


norman lebrecht

December 20, 2013

His name is Alexander Sorokow and he has been playing in the Vienna radio orchestra. He is obviously very good. But the Vienna Phil is under scrutiny for violating national and international equality laws by discriminating against women and minorities in selecting new members.

Every male appointment it makes is in defiance of those laws. At some point, the orchestra will have to be called to account before a court of justice.


vienna phil


  • Hmmmm…I guess one of the big questions would be whether these are blind auditions or not. If so, discrimination is a trickier proof where a performing talent is involved; however, from afar that seems unlikely, given how many talented women ARE getting positions.

    • GW says:

      Was this a hiring by the Vienna State Opera, or an election from the State Opera Membership to the private Philharmonic?

      • Maximilian says:

        Normally when winning an audition, the candidate then becomes a member of the Vienna State Opera orchestra for 3 years before being made a member in the private Philharmonic (or not). As far as I am aware it is not possible to audition for and directly gain membership in the private association of the Vienna Philharmonic (even if you are a relation of a member, such as Daniel Ottensamer, son of principal clarinetist Ernst Ottensamer. Daniel started out in the Vienna State Opera in 2006 and didn’t gain membership in the Philharmoniker and the second principal clarinet spot until 2009). You could compare the 3 years in the state opera as a sort of trial phase.

  • John Kelly says:

    Norman, I am confident the VPO will continue to appoint players who will let you run either this “story” or some variant thereof. Where’s my pillow?

  • Edward Creedy says:

    So, by now there are many women orchestras in the world and no one “man”-orchestra left. Who is discriminated?

  • Doug says:

    Now if we all stomp our foot at the same time, maybe we can get these mean, mean people to runt heir business they way WE see fit.

  • Musician says:

    With all respect, Norman , unless you have evidence that another candidate (handicapped, old age, female, Asian, African, etc) played a better audition any mentioning of discrimination is pure assumption.

    Every orchestra got the right and obligation to chose the best available and suitable player and I would just assume that the Vienna Phil did exactly that.

    Most orchestras do auditions behind curtain anyway.

  • Stereo says:

    Why should the VPO employ women just to be pc,the world has gone mad. When I was trying to employ the best people for a viola job in the BSO we picked the best people often ladies but maybe the crap pay put off men.

  • Pete says:

    Oh the horror of it all! That they would actually chose the best violinist who auditioned that day.


  • Alan Penner says:

    So, what is to be done? Fire all the men and hire only women out of some sort of affirmative action plan? Appoint only women to do the hiring, so we *know* there were no evil male decisions being made? Perhaps we could just get androgynous players in there so no one can really tell who is what. That way the audience can make a game out of it during the performances, since it’s painfully clear no one gives a damn about the music in this.

  • Robert says:

    This argument comes up every year around the New Year’s Day concert. It should always be the best person for the job!

  • Quote: Every male appointment it makes is in defiance of those laws.

    That’d be the law which states the Vienna Philharmonic is forbidden from hiring men?

    Give us a etc etc

  • Jim says:

    Maybe he was the best musician to audition?

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    “Every male appointment it makes is in defiance of those laws.”

    So reverse discrimination is the answer?

  • Anders Lindgren says:

    They are all hired by the the Vienna state opera. Then you can get elected to become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic. If so, three services a day is normality … This has nothing to do with sexism, they just want the best players.

  • Peter says:

    “Every male appointment it makes is in defiance of those laws.”

    Really ? Or is this a bit of exaggeration ?

    I hope that such laws say that the best candidate should be selected irrespective of gender.

    And one would guess that the best candidate is a woman about half the time – assuming that the music playing population is about 50/50 (is it ?) and there is no overall skew towards one gender generally being better (is there ?), and the applicants reflect this.

    So also about half the time the best applicant is probably a man.

    At an aggregate level it is clear that Hirings are gender biased. But on an individual level it is a bit unfair on the selected applicant to imply that they were not the best.

  • Michael Güttler says:

    There have been women participating, some of them have made it to the second and third round. Alexander Sorokow has been until the end the best contestant and that’s it. He has been the best and nobody (man or woman) has been better than him. It is quite clear. Where is the problem ?

  • Maximilian says:

    As to whether the auditions for spots in the Vienna State Opera are blind, the answer is ‘not really’. “Pre-auditions” and all rounds EXCEPT for the final round are held behind a screen. For the final round the screen is taken down and the candidates play in view of the orchestra members.

  • Michael says:

    The VPO will need to watch this one….

  • Leave Vienna be. Despite the unstinting work of the PC Taliban it’s about the only place around which hasn’t been cowed into turning its local band into the Vienna branch of the Brave New Philharmonic.

  • Edmond Clement says:

    Is your contention that the authorities of the Vienna Philharmonic are guilty of breaking the law defamatory? Would you be prepared to defend it in a court of law, and, if you lost, to go to prison or pay a hefty fine?

  • Barbarossa says:

    A conductor I know greatly preferred to work with an all-male orchestra. Leave the politics out of it. As it is, they made no real effort to find a male harpist, using a female for many years, even if she wasn’t a full member.

  • MacroV says:

    The State Opera, as a public entity, must surely adhere to EU anti-discrimination laws and if they fail to do so should certainly be called out on it. But you can’t attribute every hiring of a male to the State Opera Orchestra as continued discrimination; better to scrutinize the women who get into the State Opera Orchestra and whether they eventually get into the Philharmonic.