Lucerne’s summer of women conductors – gimmick or breakthrough?

The Lucerne Festival has announced a summer of at least nine women conductors. Rub your eyes, it is the dawning of an age of equality.

Or is it?

The headline act is the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by the French baroque leader Emmanuelle Haim. That’s gesture politics. The Vienna Phil are working overtime to annul their anti-women image. There are still fewer than 10 women players in the orchestra.

emmanuelle haim

The rest?

The conductors will include Marin Alsop (with the Sao Paulo Symphony Ochestra), Susanna Mälkki, Elim Chan and Barbara Hannigan.

 

So far, so obvious. The remainder are women working their way up the system: Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, Anu Tali, Maria Schneider, and Konstantia Gourzi.

It looks tremendously exciting and it could be a game-changer.

Except that it’s happening in Lucerne, in front of the world’s wealthiest audience paying the highest ticket prices and assuring one another that nothing will ever change.

Great idea, maybe in the wrong place.

UPDATE: One of the conductors has objected privately to the marketing concept.

share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
  • CDH says:

    Lilith Fair goes classical.

    • Max Grimm says:

      That is what Norman is making this out to be but this thread is misleading, with the exception of the theme actually being “PrimaDonna” and focusing on exploring the role of women in music.
      Most of the women Norman listed however will conduct orchestras that are not official liaisons of the Lucerne Festival (i.e. VPO, MCO, COE & OSESP and those orchestras presumably decide internally who will conduct them without gimmicks or breakthroughs).
      The rest will work with the Festival Academy ensembles; Elim Chan will be conducting the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra as part of her previously planned debut she received having studied at said summer academy under Bernard Haitink.
      Susanna Mälkki and Konstantia Gourzi are leading the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra in modern and contemporary works (the focus of the Lucerne Festival Academy, founded by Pierre Boulez, is the study of modern and contemporary scores).
      Maria Schneider is leading the Ensemble of the Lucerne Festival Academy in works she composed herself.
      Further there will be the LFO & Chailly, Berlin Phil & Rattle, RCO & Gatti, GWO & Blomstedt, Staatskapelle Berlin & Barenboim, The Bavarian State Opera Orchestra & Petrenko, Munich Phil & Gergiev, RPO & Nézet-Séguin, COE/LFO & Haitink, VPO & Sokhiev, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra & Dudamel, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra & Gaffigan, The Cleveland Orchestra & Welser-Möst and the WEDO & Barenboim.
      Taking all of this into account I see neither the “breakthrough” nor “gimmick” that Norman sees. I also don’t see how Lucerne might be the wrong place for 9 women to be among 14+ men, conducting a wide variety of ensembles and programs.

    • John says:

      Surely this is not a problem at all as long as they have earnt their places through ability and not just because they are women.

      I went to a talk a couple of years ago by a very senior manager of one of the big London orchestras. He explained he avoids gimmicks and simply chooses the conductors he thinks would be best. It was for this reason, he said, that he only allows one woman to guest conduct the orchestra: Marin Alsop. He does not consider any other woman to be sufficiently good.

  • JanHus says:

    yet another stupid comment.

    so whatever the VPO does is gesture politics, and wrong, ok?

    • Gerhard says:

      Can’t you see? If they invite women, it proofs ‘gesture politics’, if they don’t, it’s discrimination. This is not more than the unbiased analysis of a fairminded journalist. What could be wrong about this?

  • Francesco says:

    “Except that it’s happening in Lucerne….Great idea, maybe in the wrong place.” Sorry, didn’t quite understand it. Why is Lucerne, or any other classical-music-friendly festival a wrong place? And second, what is the right place for women conductors, Saudi Arabia maybe?

  • Petros LInardos says:

    If Lucerne is the wrong place, which ones would be a better fit?

  • Nigel Harris says:

    I notice that the CBSO has organized a special non-subscription concert (the second such) for Grazynite-Tyla to conduct in January. Impossible to believe that she’s not at least under serious consideration for the vacant chief conductorship. More women getting that kind and level of post would be a sign of genuine breakthrough.

  • Mike says:

    Surprised to not see the name of JoAnn Falletta on the list: whe was a conductor before the term ‘woman conductor’ was even invented.

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    Yup, since we’re bigoted enough to assume that the Vienna Phil must be sexist, this is obviously just gesture politics. And we still don’t understand that’s it’s incredibly sexist to make a headline just to announce that a woman is actually conducting. Do we want women conductors to stand on their own feet, or do we want to act like they always need special pleading?

  • Neven P. says:

    Where is my friend William when you need him?

  • Holger H. says:

    I’m so looking forward to that male harpist festival next year in London or Arizona. The supression of men who want to play the harp, when will it end?

  • John says:

    Surely this is not a problem at all as long as they have earnt their places through ability and not just because they are women.

    I went to a talk a couple of years ago by a very senior manager of one of the big London orchestras. He explained he avoids gimmicks and simply chooses the conductors he thinks would be best. It was for this reason, he said, that he only allows one woman to guest conduct the orchestra: Marin Alsop. He does not consider any other woman to be sufficiently good.

  • David says:

    Let’s face it. We still live in a world biased against women. Even in the classical world. Can you say ‘Celibidache?’ Any good ideas promoting women in the arts is probably a good one.

  • Holger H. says:

    Foolish. A good idea promoting women in the arts?
    Women don’t need promotion. They just need to DO it. Which explains 99% of why there are so few conducting. They don’t want to, in numbers, and its their goddamn right.
    Only fools can’t see it.

  • william osborne says:

    The inclusion of so many women conductors in the Lucerne Festival is an important statement that will have positive effects. It would be nice to know who in Lucerne is responsible for these decisions. He, she, or they deserve our applause.

  • Aufman says:

    This is a clear sign that conducting will become an all women profession! The era of the male conductor is ending!

  • >