Vienna Philharmonic: In 20 years we could have more women than men

Vienna Philharmonic: In 20 years we could have more women than men


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2016

Now the orchestra has finally broken the double-digit barrier – 10 women out of 121 members – its chairman, Andreas Großbauer, is speculating that the gender balance will be overturned in the course of the next generation.

ORF report here.

Andreas Großbauer


  • Anon says:

    Of course it will. Just look at our music schools, roughly 80% of emerging string players are female.

    We must overcome the new discrimination of boys, the stereotyping and sexism in a post feminist world, that doesn’t allow boys to play the violin.

    I’m serious.

    • Ross says:

      You should travel to certain Asian countries, where the number of
      women studying those instruments is many times greater than the number of men.
      You could begin your crusade there.

  • Malcolm James says:

    If you look at the proportion of women in other top orchestras in Germany and Austria you will see that the BPO has around 15% and BRSO, Gewandhaus and Dresden Staatskapelle 20-25%. As far as I am aware there is no overt gender discrimination in any of these orchestras and this must be explained by other factors. These factors will presumably also come into play with the VPO when proportion of women reaches this level. For example, there is more of a prejudice against working mothers (Rabenmutter or ‘raven mother’ is a pejorative term applied to them) than in the UK or US and there is therefore more pressure on women to choose between a career in the orchestra and motherhood.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is nothing wrong with women choosing motherhood, it is quite a job. If there are less female orchestral players around, who is to say that it is the result of discrimination and not of a sensible decision to prefer living beings to art? Who is to tell the difference between social pressure and free choice? Thinking along these lines throws quite another light upon the VPO’s gender balances.

  • Brian says:

    It seems like it comes down to the rate of change. It’s taken Vienna 20 years to get just 10 women members. Getting to 60+ members in another 20 years seems optimistic. But one can only hope.

    • Malcolm james says:

      One insightful comment made about the VPO shortly after they lifted the ban was that, whilst they were still essentially only hiring men, these men were younger and had a different attitude towards hiring women. I think we are now seeing the effects of a generational shift, where the old dinosaurs are retiring and these men have become more numerous and influential.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        And there’s a degree of nepotism in the VPO. I discovered this when I visited their website and the orchestral players’ names appeared; many had their own sons in the orchestra. This is not a feature of the BPO, nor any other orchestra I know. And I wouldn’t be too sure the younger generation of players will feel any less inclined to pass the baton onto their own children just as their own fathers did. I guess it comes down to preserving a kind of culture and sound which is associated with that splendid orchestra (which I’ve seen many times in their home at the Musikverein!).

        • Malcolm James says:

          They could pass the baton to their daughters just as easily as to their sons.:)

          • Bviolinistic says:

            And do so. Patricia Koll, recently made a leader of the second violin section, is the daughter of Heinrich Koll, long time principal viola. However, it is important to point out that the orchestra’s motto is to give the job to the best candidate on the day of the audition and that nobody is excluded from trying.

          • John Borstlap says:

            And what if the daughters prefer marriage and motherhood? There is something absurd in treating the subject statistically.

          • Malcolm james says:

            I know. But stating that women are under-represented in major orchestras or on the conductor’s podium (to say nothing of many other professions) is verboten and a sure way to get flamed.

          • Holly Golightly says:

            I did write, “pass the baton on to their own children”.

  • FreddyNYC says:

    Think he meant to say “white” women…….

  • Count Tostoff says:

    By 2036 they should then have at least 5 blacks and a transgender to round out this significant inclusivity achievement.

  • Itsjtime says:

    I like the comment about the ratio of women conservatory graduates and its coronation to an orchestra such as Vienna.
    Begging the question…. How many Jews in the Vienna Phil?

    Also reminds me…over and over…that many people believe the finest ensemble in the USA is one that has absolutely no idea about what their audition winner looks like.

    • Bviolinistic says:

      There are Jewish people in the orchestra. Why on earth shouldn’t there be?

      • Holly Golightly says:

        Some people are obviously still living in the past and haven’t kept up-to-date. Gosh, they even hire Jewish soloists and conductors!!!