Yuri Temirkanov: I don’t like women conductors

Back in Baltimore, where he’s music director emeritus, the Russian maestro reaffirms some olde-worlde attitudes in an interview with Tim Smith:

TS: A few years ago, you were quoted as saying that you did not believe women should conduct. That caused controversy and led to some protests. Just for the record, what is your view about women on the podium?

YT: Yes, women can be conductors. I am not against them conducting. But I simply don’t like it. There are women boxing and weightlifting; they can do that. But I don’t like watching. It is only my taste. We all have different tastes. For example, I don’t eat fish.

Full interview here. Make some allowance for dry Russian humour and perversity.

Baltimore’s present music director is Marin Alsop.

temirkanov

Help is at hand for women conductors here.

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  • “Yes, jews can be conductors. I am not against them conducting. But I simply don’t like it. There are jews boxing and weightlifting; they can do that. But I don’t like watching. It is only my taste. We all have different tastes. For example, I don’t eat fish.”

    He says that instead he’s getting booted immediately. Or if he said the same thing about blacks or gays or asians or pretty much any other group except women. It’s great that progress has been made in not tolerating racism. Sexism/misogyny shouldn’t be tolerated either.

    • Not defending YT, but your comparison is nonsense.
      And by the way, the most often I hear that they don’t like women as conductors, pretty much for the same reasons that YT cites, is from WOMEN themselves.
      Do these women hate women?

      • Please explain how the comparison is “nonsense”. I’m interested in hearing why you think it’s socially acceptable to marginalize women in a way that it’s not okay to marginalize other ethnic or religious groups.

        You claim that women don’t like women conductors for the “same reasons that YT cites”. Well, his reason he doesn’t like women conducting is, “I simply don’t like it.” Is that the “reasons” you’re referring to? Are all the many women telling you they don’t like women conductors because they “simply don’t like it”?

        • Get over it. Some people don’t like to see women conducting, some people don’t like men wearing dresses, some people don’t like children imitate opera singing with fake vibrato. It’s a matter of personal taste and aesthetics.
          Doesn’t mean these people dislike women, or men, or children.

          • I agree with Peter. I don’t think YT is right. I like a lot Marin Alsop for example. However, considering strictly the things YT said in this interview, it is not a matter of hate. It’s non-sense the comparison due to the fact that no one can distinguish the religion of the conductor just looking to him, but obviously anyone can see if it’s a boy or a girl at first glance and without a notice.

          • And some people don’t like to see Jews conducting. Or Blacks. Or Gays. The original comparison is perfectly to the point, since we are talking about a group of people without allowing for individual difference. I can understand if someone says s/he can’t stand to watch conductor XYZ, who might be a woman. Or a man. But to exclude an entire group of people? To call this “personal taste” is naive at best and a cover to hide prejudice in most cases.

            And no, it does not make a bad conductor or musician out of Temirkanov. It just makes him a bad human being.

          • HugoPreuss, no quite so. Women and men are physically different, unlike Jews and non-jews of similar gender. That’s indisputable. Men and women are also a bit different wired in the brain, as science knows today.
            Now that just makes them different, not any side better or worse.
            A musical world accustomed to men’s physical bioenergy and body language for centuries will need time to adapt to women’s different physiology. It’s just a matter of time. Give the old man some credit and due respect and allow him to not being forced to overthrow his acquired tastes in the dawn of a great man’s life. If what he said came out of the mouth of young man we could be concerned.
            More women will go into the field, and the musical world will get used to it and learn to relate to it better. The glass ceiling has been broken.

        • Because he says it has all to do with physical appearance on stage. How it looks. Do Jews conduct different than Christians? I don´t think so. Do women conduct different than men? Certainly. So you miss the point and destroy the debate (if there ever was any.)

          • “One needs to know Maestro Temirkanov personally to truly understand his wit. I worked with him long enough to know that his comments are not malicious; they are simply wrapped in ‘dry Russian humor and perversity’.”

            Is that what he meant by “I don’t eat fish?” I hardly see how his taste in foreplay enters into this. #trythefishyuri

    • Aside from the utter stupidity and tastelesness of your comparison with the jews….I am afraid he is right.It´s about the body language which is often very strange with women.Somehow the movements often show no relation or connection between the arms or hands and the body…and to many doing some kind of ballet exercises in front of the orchestra…But,there are execptions,and those are not the big names making waves at the time…
      And Temirkanov is one of the greatest living conductors

      • “utter stupidity and tastelesness of your comparison”

        Please explain why the comparison is stupid. Why is it okay to devalue women as a group but it’s not okay to devalue an ethnic or religious group?

        “I am afraid he is right.It´s about the body language which is often very strange with women.Somehow the movements often show no relation or connection between the arms or hands and the body…and to many doing some kind of ballet exercises in front of the orchestra…”

        You know how silly you sound with this?

        A century earlier I’m sure you’d be happy to bloviate how women didn’t deserve the vote or access to higher education. I bet you’d even have “logic” and “scientific explanations” as you explained your viewpoint.

      • “Somehow the movements often show no relation between the arms, the hands or the body…….” So you never saw Solti then.

        • Saw him many,many times,and adored and still adore him…His style was highly personal,but always coming from inside,and,certainly,he was a giant,not comparable to any lady conductor i saw,and heard….

      • The Waving Of The Arms is actually the smallest part of the conductor’s job. If it makes a significant difference in the live performance, then the rest of their job hasn’t been done properly. Things like eye contact and engagement can have a bigger impact, but you don’t see those from the audience.

        • Actually what you call “the waving of the arms” is very,very important.Your body language,tension,physical communication afflicts the sound of the orchestra enourmously.
          In German opera houses,conductors very often have to take over a production without a rehearsal.No talk to the orchestra(sometimes quite good so…),just plain conducting,communication through your spirit and body…And it involves so much more than just waving your arms…in fact that´s what i thought most when I watched some lady conductors,it´s just waving the arms,too much information the players don´t need(cueing in the 2nd horn each time after a two bar rest),not enough shaping of the music through the body.
          I always remember watching a famous german(male)conductor with a top orchestra in rehearsal(now retired),who screamed at the orchestra”Das muss rund klingen”!(it should sound round,or mellow) while conducting the orchestra with angular tiny gestures,just coming from the wrist,not from the body…now matter how much he berated the players,he didn´t get what he wanted,because his conducting didn´t express his demands.
          it´s not about orthodox,scholarly conducting style…it´s about the communicative use of your physical language….Over the last couple of months alone,I saw Gergiev,Dutoit,Nelsons,Temirkanov,Jansons,Haitink,Thielemann and Rattle live.They are very,very different.But all do have an exceptionally varied,personal physical language to shape the sound…..to communicate through your body,to juse it to express your spirit,and the music….

          • “I always remember watching a famous german(male)conductor with a top orchestra in rehearsal(now retired),who screamed at the orchestra”Das muss rund klingen”!(it should sound round,or mellow) while conducting the orchestra with angular tiny gestures”

            Gielen?

    • Utterly stupid comment. Temirkanov is one of the top conductors of our time.
      Not endorsing women- as stupid and outdated it is – doesn’ t make him a bad musician.

      • I wouldn’t care what a conductor or musician says about anything as long as he/she was a good musician. Not for a second would I want to censor a person – especially if politically incorrect remarks were made. I value free speech more than I take offense at the speech itself. And we see so little freedom of speech nowadays that it’s hard to negotiate your way around the Thought Police from the Office of What I Tell You is OK to Say.

  • I find it kind of nice that some people still speak what they actually think in this era of crazy PC. Same with contemporary music – he hates it. And he admits it. And does not agree to conduct it. I can’t help but feel recpect for the Maestro. If only more of us would speak out what we think – maybe for instance we woulnd’t have to perform so much avant-garde crap.

  • I feel sorry for anyone who gets their thrill from watching conductors. There are other things on the internet.

    So now we know, YT’s “taste” is to ogle the back of other middle age white paunchy balding men in a badly fitted tuxedo waving a long stick… To each his own.

  • Can we please remember what music is about, THE MUSIC! It’s completely irrelevant of the conductors gender, sex, etc. All I care about is how the orchestra sounds under their baton (or hands in the case of YT). If the conductor is truly great, then we will love the music that they make regardless

  • Yes, sexist Russians can be conductors. I am not against them conducting. But I simply don’t like it. There are sexist Russians boxing and weightlifting; they can do that. But I don’t like watching. It is only my taste. We all have different tastes. For example, I don’t eat fish.

  • One needs to know Maestro Temirkanov personally to truly understand his wit. I worked with him long enough to know that his comments are not malicious; they are simply wrapped in “dry Russian humor and perversity” as Norman noted above. I once asked Temirkanov why he conducts without a baton, and he replied “I used to use a baton, but I broke them all, and the man who made them for me died”.

    • Conductors making orgasmic faces seems to be a thing lately. The first one I noticed was Rattle; was there anyone before him?

  • For goodness sake, he is expressing a purely personal opinion! Nowhere does he say he is against women conductors. I don’t like women boxing or weight lifting either! I’m also not crazy about the conducting style of some male conductors and see nothing wrong with saying so. Thielemann has an ungainly way with conducting which I personally find strange, but I have flown considerable distances to hear his work.

    • But you did not make a stupid generalization about *all* German conductors, or *all* conductors whose name starts with a T or *all* people born on April 1st. And that is the difference between harmless and legitimate personal preferences on one side and Temirkanov’s statement on the other.

  • Temirkanow disappoints me, that he makes a comment on how conductors look, since that has little to do with the music. He takes the position of an antimusical hillbilly. Anyway, he was probably just being sarcastic and couldn’t care less what the p.c. sheriffs propagate.

  • two words: Animal Kingdom.

    Who is accepted as the alpha animal, and who is not? It’s very complex.
    Again, ask women what they think about women conductors, you might be surprised how many are biased and skeptical.

    I’m looking forward to more women having equal opportunity in the conducting profession.

  • I really don’t see how what he says can be excused, however hard some people will try. How about this?

    Yes, women can be cabinet ministers. I am not against them being cabinet ministers. But I simply don’t like it. There are women being judges and university vice-chancellors; they can do that. But I don’t like watching. It is only my taste. We all have different tastes. For example, I don’t eat lentils.

    The only criterion I would apply would be whether there is a reason why a woman cannot possibly be a good conductor. Arguably, he has a point about weightlifting. If the purpose of the sport is to watch a human being lifting the heaviest possible weight there is perhaps more enjoyment to be had in watching a man lifting weights, as the best male weightlifters will, for reasons of biology alone, be superior to the best female weightlifters. Boxing is a very different matter, as it is a sport which involves a combination of physical strength and high level of skill. For that reason, competitors, both male and female, fight opponents of comparable physical size, meaning that one can only reject female boxers if one also rejects all but the largest male boxers.

    As for conducting, there is no biological reason why a woman cannot be just as good a conductor as a man. Conducting does not require height, breadth, or any considerable physical strength. If it did, Vladimir Ashkenazy would not have had a career, and there would be few, if any, conductors from east Asia. Further, there is considerable variety in the physical characteristics of male conductors anyway. I wonder how Temirkanov, still admirably lean at 77, feels about watching the considerably bulkier Leif Segerstam?

    Elsewhere, he has said, “a woman should be beautiful, likable, attractive. Musicians will look at her and be distracted from the music … The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.” Those do not seem to me to be the words of a man who has a particularly modern or enlightened attitude towards women. Indeed, in the same interview he cited Karl Marx’s view that a woman’s best virtue is weakness, a view which Marx expressed in 1865! Temirkanov may indeed be a great conductor, but his view of women does not belong in this century, or even in the last one.

  • Mr T’s comments merely illustrate the age-old truth that you can be brilliant at something (Wagner springs immediately to mind and the Narrator in Á la Recherche makes the same point about the brilliant physician, Dr Cottard) and still be a total idiot.

  • Reminds me of the comments the idiot CEO of the PNB Paribas tennis tournament said yesterday about women tennis players. I have played under that batons of Catherine Comet, JoAnn Falletta and Marin Alsop. They are all fine conductors. Can we stop this nonsense and let human beings make music?

    • “Can we stop this nonsense and let human beings make music?”

      We already do, which is why the nonsense (in one way or another) will most likely never cease. Human beings were, are and will continue to be flawed.

  • There is the big issue of sexism/racism, etc.
    However – let us lay the groundwork for these comments.
    For as sensitive of a conductor as Yuri is – this is what gets me.
    He comes to Baltimore. Marin Alsop is the Music Director. (a woman)
    She has literally transformed the BSO in the community and does so much outreach, wonderful conducting and is like a local HERO. Just follow her twitter to see all she is doing.
    So, he comes back to town -and his days before in Baltimore as Music Director – he was a great musician too – but he didn’t do nearly the amount of work in the community as Marin does…etc.
    And, the critic/reporter for the BSO at the Baltimore Sun – opens up the discussion with him again about what he thinks about women conductors? Really?
    And, Yuri bites.
    I don’t care how awesome of a musician you are – you have to also be sensitive in your dealings!

    • It is true that Marin does marvelous work in the community, and that the Baltimore Symphony is on a much more solid ground financially (though still not out of problems, unfortunately). And Marin has maintained the excellent technical level of the orchestra.

      But fact is that Temirkanov is a much greater conductor that Marin. His tenure in Baltimore was a financial disaster, but much more satisfying musically. And I just attended this Baltimore concert. The orchestra played a level better than what Also is ever able to get out of it even in her best days. Indeed, I went to three concerts this week: the Montreal Symphony under Kent Nagano on tour at the Kennedy Center, the National Symphony conducted by Osmo Vänskä, and the Baltimore Symphony under Temirkanov. Not only this last one was the best concert of the three, the Baltimore Symphony has proven itself to be the best of there three orchestras.

  • Words of wisdom from a student of mine, long ago: “When someone says something like that, I just think to my self ‘Well, you’re old, and you’re going to die,’ and I don’t worry about it.”

    • This is exactly what I say to myself when I read comment like this: This commenter is stupid and probably will die soon. But no one will remember him, unlike the great Temirkanov.

  • The people here justifying his comments sound a LOT like Trump supporters. “He speaks his mind, he says it like it is” Just sayin’….

  • Yuri has committed SACRILEGE and BLASPHEMY against God Herself! Women are the Embodiments of GOD and women are meant to be conductors and leaders over men! Conducting is meant to be a woman profession just like nursing and teaching! Yuri should be stripped of his conductor title and banned from conducting orchestras ever again!

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