Music critic apologises for seeking Mirga’s ‘inner man’

Music critic apologises for seeking Mirga’s ‘inner man’


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2017

The Telegraph’s Ivan Hewett tweets:




  • Mike Schachter says:

    Has he found his inner wally?

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Ivan is a brilliant music critic & learned scholar- his reviews more than often- spot on. But maybe- he could enlighten us to the meaning of ‘inner man’? Maybe he doesn’t think women should be on the podium- a view still secretly shared by many others.

    • Gary Carpenter says:

      I doubt that. Whatever mistake Mr Hewett may have made here he has been tireless in his support of women in music, particularly composers.

      • Mark Mortimer says:

        Mirga comes across as a lovely & warm person. But as a conductor- she’s pretty hopeless- prancing around the podium like a fairy with little effect on the CBSO. Perfectly illustrating that its a man’s job at the end of the day. Only the big male ego is capable of getting a dramatic sound out of an orchestra- I think this is what Ivan is trying to say.

        • Alistair Hinton says:

          So conducting any repertoire is “a man’s job”, then? Should it be assumed from this extraordinary statement that no female conductor alive or dead has/had the ability to fulfil this rôle adequately, let alone well? Moreover, your assertion that “only the big male ego is capable of getting a dramatic sound out of an orchestra” implies that conductors cannot conduct successfully without the “benefit” of big male egos and is as absurd as it would be unpleasant for all orchestral players were that the norm (which fortunately is not the case). Why only conductors in any case? Might you believe that performers also all require big male egos in order to do their work? (and, if so, what might that say about female solo singers?).

          Your views expressed here tell readers far more about you than about conductors and other musical performers of either/any gender.

          • Mark Mortimer says:

            Thank you Alistair. Not sexist- just fact really- conducting orchestras & women do not go well together. There are many complex reasons for this- both physical & psychologically which we won’t bother with going into now. I’m a conductor myself & have witnessed many female conductors first hand- many very talented- but they all have big problems on the podium. I’d much rather listen to many female pianists than men for example- they often play with more sensitivity. But for both historical & evolutionary reasons it could be argued- conducting is a male thing. Nowadays there are a few women conductors in positions with division B orchestras- which is a good token gesture but the impact will never be significant. As a distinguished composer- ask the players whom you write for- I bet most would agree.

        • Emil says:

          Right, it’s not a man’s job, it’s just not a job for women. Got it.

          Not sexist at all. Got it.

  • Alistair Hinton says:

    The apology is as necessary as it is welcome – I for one am pleased that he’s had the courage and decency to make it – but his remark wasn’t a mere slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment (to which we can all fall foul at the best of times) but in the more general context of assertions about inherent “maleness” in the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler which was equally inappropriate and unsupported by appropriate neuroscientific evidence

  • Olassus says:

    Hard to believe he said it accidentally.

  • Sarah Anderson says:

    That is not good enough.
    The fact that he made such an outrageous and unforgivable statement means that he needs to resign from his job, and on top of it I would like to see a potential lawsuit to follow.
    We need to stop male chauvinism at all levels and cannot tolerate such scandalous views–detrimental to the lives of all women.

    • Anon says:

      Don’t be so ridiculous. What law has been broken to demand a lawsuit?

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      From which of his jobs should he resign? – and what difference would that make to his freelance work anyway? As “Anon” notes, no law has been broken so there’d be no place for a lawsuit even if Mirga wished to instigate one (of which, of course, there’s no evidence of which I am aware). I say this without defending what Mr Hewett said about Mirga herself or his more general comments about alleged inherent “maleness” in certain music, as I hope I made clear above; those observations are all unsupportable and deserve to be recognised as such. I don’t doubt that Mirga would and could challenge them were personal dignity not to discourge her from doing so.

      For the record, one might wonder what aspects of “maleness” Mr Hewett would find in the music of Bacewicz or (Lili) Boulanger or the playing of Alina Ibragimova, Hilary Hahn or, perhaps above all, Martha Argerich? – but this “one” couldn’t be bothered to wonder any such thing.

      Many critics would do anything to avoid making apologetic climb-downs such as Mr Hewett has done here; I think that this speaks for itself and deserves to be accepted as such.

    • anmarie says:

      I’m a lifelong feminist, but your comment is sickening and disgraceful — to put it mildly.

      • Alistair Hinton says:

        This isn’t about “feminism” in any case, if you’ll pardon my saying so; it’s about unfounded and, frankly, meaningless remarks about finding an “inner man” when not only is there none to be found but there’s not SUPPOSED to be one to be found. What on earth would Bruckner or Mahler have had to say about such an indea in relation to their symphonies? Nothing very complimentary, I imagine!

        But at the risk of repetition, Mr Hewett has apologised unreservedly; that ought to be an end to the matter.

    • V. Lind says:

      For the love of God, he seems to have hung on to the male chauvinistic attitudes with which he was probably raised. I personally do not think a tweet constitutes the appropriate way in which to apologise, but apology there was. But it’s not a hanging offence: you would condemn him and his family to starvation because you don’t like his attitude? That sort of over-reaction will do more to hamper the necessary opening of men’s minds than anything else. Criticise him by all means but get a grip . Nobody has died.

      • James says:

        Broadcasting is not the written word – it’s a very pressured environment, there is no time to consider and reconsider one’s statements and once in a while something stupid slips out of one’s mouth. It doesn’t mean that one deeply feels that thing, it’s just a stupid moment – and sometimes (I speak from experience here) one searches for a kind of image or metaphor, and something totally different is what actually gets uttered. The guy has apologised unreservedly, clearly can’t believe that he actually said it, so that should be the end of the story.

    • Ungeheuer says:

      Sorry to say but your brand of feminism is of the unhinged, fascistic kind. Have you ever heard of the right of freedom of expression whether it agrees with your worldview or not? Don’t like it? Move on then, like an adult and not like a petulant child amid a tantrum.

    • DESR says:

      Put your hand in your own pocket then, and see how far you get. Absurd.

  • SM says:

    It goes on, alas. Here is Ivan Hewitt in today’s Daily Telegraph, in an article he’s written about about Malcolm Sargent:

    “People admired his courage in continuing to conduct at the Queen’s Hall during the Blitz, while other star conductors such as Barbirolli sought safety (and lucrative contracts) in the USA.”

    That is a travesty of the truth. It is unworthy of Mr. Hewett, and of the newspaper that published it. Thank goodness Michael Kennedy, who wrote for the Daily Telegraph for most of his distinguished career did not live to see it. Barbirolli was already in harness as the music director of the New York Philharmonic when WW2 broke out – he was appointed to that position in 1936 – and he gave up this prestigious post in 1941, returning to the UK at the earliest possible opportunity, giving up his important and lucrative position with the NYP to reform the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, details of which can be readily found in Michael Kennedy’s excellent history of the Hallé and also in his estimable biography of Barbirolli himself. Here is a clip from Melvyn Bragg’s excellent 1965 BBC documentary about Barbirolli:

    It ill behoves any journalist or commentator to mis-represent the facts, particularly in this day and age. John Barbirolli saved the Hallé Orchestra, and took tremendous and brave professional and personal risks in so doing. His memory ought to be celebrated for this, not denigrated by poorly researched and, frankly, shoddy journalism.

    • Furzwängler says:

      Spot on.

    • Donald Hansen says:

      Could he have meant Sir Thomas Beecham?

      • SM says:

        I’m afraid not. Here is a link to the whole article:

        (Most articles published in the online version of the Daily Telegraph these days are paywalled; this one isn’t)

        I very rarely take to the keyboard publicly, but this is such an egregious misrepresentation of the facts that I felt it was important to help put the record straight.

        • Paul Davis says:

          Shoddy journalism indeed! Since Hewitt “reviewed” the five Prokofiev piano concertos in one evening at the 2015 Proms, saying he’d had a horrible evening, then revealing that he had a poor opinion of the composer, i wouldn’t ever believe another word he writes. If a critic has no sympathy with the material to start with, pass the disagreeable task to another critic who could at least give a balanced account of the evening, which is what we wish to know.

          He should correct his calumny about Barbirolli and issue a prominent apology.
          He should also change profession, altho i’m not sure what he might actually be good at.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    I think some people need to get out a little bit more, I am sure Ms Gražinytė-Tyla will take no offence at a misdirected comment (what a bunch of snowflakes some people are on the discussion board), after all she is Lithuanian and they are made of sterner stuff in that part of the world. It seems that everytime someone utters a word out of place, a whole bunch of snowflakes scream “I an offended”………..grow up!

  • Ceasar says:

    Hewett just found his inner woman…

  • Barbara says:

    That aside about Sir John Barbirolli in the article is shameful and needs to be corrected by the author.

  • Just Derek says:

    May I suggest that anyone who has commented on his remarks takes the time to listen to the BBC broadcast ‘Behind the Scenes’ on radio 4 I-Player, if you can, and what he said in context. His comments occur just after 20 minutes into the recording.

    He is a fan of Mirga and is giving an example which is already said to have been a mistake and clumsy. It is not meant to be derogatory, he needed another form of words to make his point for which he apologised.

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      Not to me, because that’s where I first heard it – not here! I appreciate what he said, but the stuff about “maleness” in certain repertoire stuck in the craw and it was, after all, the specific content in which he made the remark he did about Mirga.

      • Just Derek says:

        Yes Alistair,
        That ‘maleness’ of certain music is another aspect of his comments. I agree it is a very odd thing to say and I don’t understand it..

  • Alistair Hinton says:

    @ Mark Mortimer:

    “Not sexist- just fact really- conducting orchestras & women do not go well together”.

    Since when did issuing a statement make it factual? In seeking to justify it by arguing that there are “many complex reasons for this – both physical & psychologically which we won’t bother with going into now, you decline to offer explanation because “we” won’t (i.e. don’t need to) go into them now; that’s hardly either helpful or convincing.

    You state that the many female conductors whom you have witnessed first hand but aver that, although most are very talented, “they all have big problems on the podium”; that sounds like a contradiction in terms, since it is unclear how a conductor can be “very talented” but problematic in the very place from which they conduct! Where else can one witness a conductor’s talent (or lack thereof)?.

    You then state that you’d much rather listen to many female pianists than men because “they often play with more sensitivity” but, typically, you make no effort to account for why you believe female conductors and pianists to be so different at what they do.

    Again, in noting that “for both historical & evolutionary reasons it could be argued – conducting is a male thing”, you omit to declare what those reasons are, still less account for how they have established themselves.

    The tokenist remark that follows can only be interpreted as an example of patronising sexism – and I don’t think that conductors such as Susanna Mälkki and Marin Alsop have especially distinguished themselves through working with “division B orchestras”. Lastly, since you mention it, I’ve never heard players complain about conductors because of their gender, although I have heard some express reservations about conductors irrespective of gender if they believe them not to be very good.impact will never be significant.

    It’s also getting rather lost in the discussion that Mr Hewett’s remark about Mirga was in the wider context of alleged “maleness” in certain music and that this was the reason behind what he said about her; I do believe that, in the interests of balance and fairness, that fact be borned in mind.

    Anyway, that’s enough from me for now; I must get back to my desk and write some “male oriented” music although, on the way there, I’ll remember my one-time teacher (albeit only for a brief time) and compatriot who famously described herself as a woman and a composer but rarely both at the same time…

  • John Borstlap says:

    Maybe it would not be a bad idea to have not only music critics but also criticism of music critics, in newspapers, websites, blogs etc.

  • DESR says:

    Poor old Ivan is now the Tim Farron of musical criticism. Willing to wound but afraid to strike.