Jorma Panula has been the most successful spotter and trainer of conductors for the past 30 years. His pupils include Esa-Pekka Salonen and at least 20 others who hold international posts.
Panula, however, is 83 years old and a man of strong, old-world views. Over the weekend, he had an outburst against women conductors on Finnish TV. It translates as follows:
Q: Do you think it is good that women enter the profession and become conductors? JP: No! What the hell, we have men already. It is such a limited profession… They can try, but it is a completely different deal. I can’t comment on media or public opinion. But women… Of course they are trying! Some of them are making faces, sweating and fussing, but it is not getting any better – only worse! They can come [to my masterclasses] and try. It’s not a problem – if they choose the right pieces. If they take more feminine music. Bruckner or Stravinsky will not do, but Debussy is OK. This is a purely biological question.
Panula’s comments have provoked outrage in Finland. Salonen has tweeted (in Finnish): ‘Conducting is about skill, not biology. There is no reason why women cannot do it equally well or better.’
The row continues.