Mariss Jansons is forced to apologise for ‘cup of tea’ remark

Mariss Jansons is forced to apologise for ‘cup of tea’ remark


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2017

The Latvian conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra has quickly retracted a remark made to a Telegraph interviewer in which he said that women conductors ‘are not my cup of tea’.

In a statement on Friday he said:

‘I come from a generation in which the conducting profession was almost exclusively reserved to men. Even today, many more men than women pursue conducting professionally.

‘But it was undiplomatic, unnecessary and counterproductive for me to point out that I’m not yet accustomed to seeing women on the conducting platform.

‘Every one of my female colleagues and every young woman wishing to become a conductor can be assured of my support, for we all work in pursuit of a common goal: to excite people for the art form we love so dearly – music.’

Fair enough. But the episode still leaves a foul taste.

Firstly, why would any serious journalist ask Mariss Jansons about women in the podium when he has so much else to say about life and music? Clearly the interviewer was fishing for an artificial scandal and got what he wanted. Let’s hope he’s happy now.

Second, Mariss Jansons is a man of unblemished record who survived both Soviet and western-commercial pressures. English is his fourth language after Latvian, Russian and German. How well he understood the question or the metaphor he used in reply is itself questionable. It was a slip of the tongue, no malice intended.

Third, when the guardians of lexical correctness leaped upon him he did what damage-limitation PRs now advise, which is to apologise as quickly as possible. The forced apology has its origin in Stalinist persecutions.

That’s why this episode leaves such a foul aftertaste.

photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht


  • Talia Ilan says:

    Why should we suspect it can be a slip of the tongue when it comes to his poor and prejudiced remarks on female conductors? I don’t buy this. Let’s not mercy him for saying exactly what he meant. There are enough “clues” in both his interview and the recent statement that leave no doubt that he meant what he said.

    Now we should make sure he is indeed going to “support” conductors from the kind he does not like and publicly defamed, and engage them with his orchestras.

    • Halldor says:

      You haven’t actually read what he said, have you?

      But congratulations for proving Mr Lebrecht’s point.

      • Talia Ilan says:

        I have. Have you?

        • Halldor says:

          Yes, obviously – though clearly, reading is no guarantee of comprehension.

          • Natanel Schlossberg says:

            You’re 100% right Talia ,
            He wants us to forgive him because he comes from a culture which are Male chauvinists , That means if he was coming from a culture who killed and raped we should forgive him for that as well , And then understand him .The other woman who says that you don’t comprehend what you read has to wake up ,Realizing what type of world we live in .

    • Max Grimm says:

      “Let’s not mercy him […]”

      Where were you (and where were the outraged journalists) when this nonsense – – came about?
      Contrary to Jansons’ interviews, you do not need to read into “clues” or make assumptions there.

      • Sue says:

        Bravo, sir!! And the Thought Police have obviously been knocking on the conductor’s door after the recent comment; there will be threats and sanctions, black looks and consequences no doubt. Welcome to the brave new world of political correctness and its vicious army of enforcers.

        • Natanel Schlossberg says:

          And I’m definitely happy that from his neighboring country of Lithuania Los Angeles Philharmonic 2nd conductor is a female , Gustano Dudamel came from Venezuela which has its Own harsh policies ,
          Would never hear that from a person like that , And you can see the outcome , And what really troubles me, is that a female conductor is not one’s Latvian cup of tea, but yet the Latvian people collaborated with nazi Germany in World War II , I never heard him mention that he was uncomfortable with that fact .
          Maybe during the World War II there was no TEA,

          • Max Grimm says:

            “And what really troubles me, is that a female conductor is not one’s Latvian cup of tea, but yet the Latvian people collaborated with nazi Germany in World War II , I never heard him mention that he was uncomfortable with that fact .”

            Best do some research and think before you speak/type, Mr. Schlossberg.
            Jansons has talked about that topic with frequency and even if he hadn’t, I think it is evidently and utterly “uncomfortable” being the infant of a Jewish mother who is trying to hide from the Nazis, after they killed her brother and father in the Riga Ghetto…

          • Frankster says:

            Schlossberg: “The Latvian people collaborated with nazi Germany in World War II , I never heard him mention that he was uncomfortable with that fact.” Do you understand that conductor Karl Boehm was given a grand apartment by the city of Vienna. That city, in the late 30s, had a great many apartments suddenly empty. Boehm certainly knew why those apartments were available but happily continued to occupy his “gift” until his death. What are your thoughts on that? You saw that video of Furtwaengler, after conducting a concert for Hitler, shifting his baton to his other hand so he did not have to “Sieg Heil” to Der Fuehrer? French police rounded up Jews and put them in French railway cattle cars for Dachau or Auschwitz. Are you also aware that the United States refused entry to ships with Jewish refugees from Europe and those ships often returned to German ports where those that disembarked where shipped off to be exterminated and the American government was aware of those facts. Only Latvian conductors are to be punished?

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Jansons, whose mother was Jewish, spent the war being hidden in the forests.

        • DESR says:

          The millennial pyjama army, Sue. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

          • Sue says:

            Thank you; I have long believed that myself. A sad state of affairs. Don’t we all try to muddle through as best we can without having to negotiate the chicanes of political correctness and though control? We live in ugly times.

      • William Osborne says:

        Comments from members of the Berlin Phil, the orchestra with the third lowest ratio of women in the world — a small fraction of many other major orchestras such as the NY Phil, the National Orchestra of France, the Zurich State Opera, etc. Even the VPO is quickly catching up with them. This situation in the Berlin Phil seems to be a taboo topic for the horn player in the interview who does so much publicity for the orchestra. And it’s notable that the members have little to say about working with women conductors, since they’ve barely worked with any. Disgusting.

        • Andrew Barnard says:

          William, please do us a favor and tell us what female conductors the Berlin Phil should be engaging. The Berlin Philharmonic generally only works with the top conductors in the field, and if there are female conductors worthy to be listed with Petrenko, Dudamel, Nelsons, Barenboim, Rattle, Jansons, Thielemann, among their frequent guests, please tell us who they are. I mean this in all seriousness.

          It would be a sad day if the Berlin Philharmonic was choosing who to engage and they had to say, “Well, it would be great to see Nelsons again, but I see we only have two female conductors this season, so we’d probably better go with Alsop”. (If a reader doesn’t like Nelsons, please feel free to substitute his name with any of the other ones I mentioned.)

          • Kosmologiaproject says:

            It is fascinating to see Dudamel listed in the company of what you consider the greatest conductors. Just 10 years ago no Latin American conductor had achieved this honor. A major barrier has been crossed, proving that being Latin American intrinsically did not prevent Dudamel from being considered a great conductor. Perhaps we can examine how this happened, so the barrier is also crossed by women conductors, who should not be considered intrinsically unable of becoming great conductors. Could it be that all great conductors required access to great training and great orchestras—and perhaps great and enlightened audiences?

          • Mark Marcus says:

            Begin with Mirga.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            The BPO’s digital concert hall has clips with Emanuelle Haim and Suzanna Malkki conducting them. Both are fantastic conductors in their own right, noteworthy for their skill, not for their gender.

        • Hang Wang Choi says:

          Well, if you would know anything about music ( which you don’t, apart from collecting meaningless statistics ) the it would become clear even to you that there are not enough qualified female conductors to match the quality of that great orchestra.
          Why should somebody like Marin Alsop, a total mediocre musician, be entitled to such a gig just because she is a woman ?
          Thank God we don’t have to listen to embarrassing nonsense like this here in Asia, where classical music is flourishing and Maestro Jansons is held in highest regard.

        • William Osborne says:

          Note how the commentators completely ignore the low ratio of women in the rank and file of the orchestra.

      • William Osborne says:

        In the link above Andris Nelsons’ wife comments that she doesn’t really believe in women conductors. A few days ago in another article, Nelsons’ said there is no sexual assault/harassment in classical music. The BSO PR folks had to go into overdrive:

    • Andrew Barnard says:

      “Now we should make sure he is indeed going to “support” conductors from the kind he does not like and publicly defamed, and engage them with his orchestras.”

      How absurd! Why should he be forced to promote anything? Why not force you to promote male harpists? Maybe female conductors aren’t his cup of tea because he hasn’t worked with any who are very talented and he doesn’t have time for tip-toeing around, trying to be politically correct? I’m fed up with all this whining. Please show me the talents who are being passed by just because they’re female. As it is right now, I’m seeing a lot more fake enthusiasm being generated for female conductors just because we’re supposed to see more female conductors. If there’s a great new recording by a female conductor, I’d love to hear it–seriously. I’ve sadly not heard much, even though I’ve gone out of my way to try to find it. Couldn’t care less if the conductor is male or female. I just want to hear great conducting, and right now it’s coming from men. End of story.

    • N Nescio says:

      Well, I find women conducting unnatural. There`s a biscuit for the Feminist Afternoon Tea United. Enjoy!

  • Marc Parella says:

    Believe me… Apple is working on the first robotic conductor. If a computer can drive a car, it won’t be that long for a robot to stand in front of 80 other robots performing Bruckner. When that happens no one will care what Mariss Jansons thinks.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Apple? Their products are overhyped and overpriced and chances are that any future products will fall into the same categories. In any case, depending on who’s conducting/playing, we already have 80+ robots* going through the motions, today.

      *Robots or jukeboxes…throw in money and press play.

      • Marc Parella says:

        I agree but the classical music industry is not an industry one might associate with innovation. Apple is currently worth about 900 Billion dollars. One company in an industry made up of thousands of companies. The classical music industry including its share of the recording and publishing industries only generates about 10 billion.

        The computer industry also does a disservice to women as the vast majority of programmers and other technology people are men. But the industry is doing a better job of recognizing this problem.

        The last thing we need to hear from a dying industry that has failed to innovate is that women are not someone’s “cup of tea”. The classical music industry could learn something from Apple’s of the world.

  • Larry says:

    He does specifically say: “I am not against it, that would be very wrong. I understand the world has changed, and there is now no profession that can be confined to this or that gender.” Not speak for him but I think he’s just acknowledging that because he’s from an older generation — where women were not on the podium — he’s not quite accustomed to it. (Is that the right word?) Almost like saying: “I’m from a generation which used typewriters. Computers are not my cup of tea.”

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      Entirely agree Larry and let us not forget that he was being interviewed in a language which I think is his third or fourth and having heard him speak in English after his concert at the Barbican where he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal by Dame Mitsuko Uchida, I would say that he isn’t completely happy in English.He did make the point that music be available to all boys and girls which got a huge cheer from the audience.

      • Halldor says:

        Quite. The whole tower of synthetic outrage is built on the assumption that a 74-year old Latvian understood the precise semantic nuance of a colloquialism in his 4th language. (Now there’s casual bigotry for you). Oh, and that everything else he says in this interview – and everything he’s done throughout his career – is dishonest.

        Plenty of people out there who can tweet but can’t read, sadly.

        • Max Grimm says:

          Well put.

        • Frederick West says:

          Entirely agree. He messed up, fessed up and owned up. How much of a witch hunt does it have to be before those offended are satisfied? One can only applaud his honesty and magnanimity. And yes, far more interesting to read the musical content of the article.

  • Stephen says:

    I’m so sorry, he deserves to take some flak on this one. Replace women with any other group – asian people, black people – and he’d basically never work again, period.

    He’s pretty lucky to get off so mildly. He even prefaced with “Well I don’t want to give offense”…as a kind of “but…” clause, so he was clearly aware it was likely to cause offense.

    • Talia Ilan says:

      Exactly! Therefore I assume that the very kind people who pity him for making this “unfair” interview in (the very “unfamiliar” language) English, do so as in their back of their minds they don’t completely disagree with him….

      • Frederick West says:

        Is it now compulsory to disagree with him? And in what form should he ‘take some flak’?

        • Stephen says:

          He’s taking it right now, rightfully, for saying something that he clearly knew was likely to be offensive, and was to a considerable number of people.

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        Nonsense don’t try and accuse me of anything , you don’t know anything about me or my views.
        When were you last interviewed in your third or fourth language by a national newspaper? I assume you do speak many languages and are talented enough to warrant such an interview?

        • Talia Ilan says:

          I have the right to assume, as you have the right to feel guilty.
          And why do you assume Mr. Jansons’ English is not good enough? I have just watched a masterclass he was giving four years ago and his English was perfectly fluent.
          Mr. Jansons is a big boy, and if he wouldn’t feel secure enough to answer in his 4th language, he could have asked to repeat the question once more/choose not to answer/ whatever.
          Mr. Jansons has a very wide experience working internationally with orchestras where English is the common language, not to mention the English speaking orchestras like the London Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony where he was their MD for several years.
          So who says that Jansons’ English is poor?

          • DESR says:

            Anyone who thinks mercy is a transitive verb, has a shaky grip on the English tongue.

            Stop throwing stones from inside of the glasshouse.

    • Thornhill says:



      The defense that he grew up in a different time is pathetic. He was born in 1943, not 1843.

      He also unintentionally reveals that he never used his power in the classical music world to do anything about the rampant sexism. He just sat idly by and pretend that only men were interested in being musicians and conductors.

    • Una says:

      No greater offense by not employing women in any field in life and then having to say you didn’t get the job because of x, y and z. Can’t say you’re too old either- and more so again in the case of women. Just ask any British female newsreader- or look at them! You’re not allowed to say anything so another excuse not to employ you is concocted – as I have experienced myself. Fine line either way.

  • herrera says:

    1) “why would any serious journalist ask Mariss Jansons about women in the podium when he has so much else to say about life and music?”

    Because “women on the podium” is not important enough as a topic “about life and music”? 50% of life is female.

    2) “Clearly the interviewer was fishing for an artificial scandal”

    Maybe. But if a journalist asked Thielemann what he thought of Jewish conductors in Berlin, I think we’d be interested in his answer, even if the journalist were fishing for an artificial scandal.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    It’s not exactly off-topic for a reporter to ask a conductor his opinion of a new phenomenon in conducting… female conductors.

    When you are asked a question you usually don’t answer whit a response you believe to be wrong so the first answer he gave is probably the one he really believes.

  • Doug Grant says:

    Maybe he should just have kept quiet and not answered. Instead he was honest. Why can’t we allow people to be honest? And why condemn them for what they honestly think?
    Jansons explained his reason. It’s mine too. A very few exceptional women (best example Simone Young) have caused me to rethink. But I am still not used to women conductors. To be fully honest, I equally struggle to be comfortable with very young male conductors. And I really struggle with conductors who care excessively about how they look.

    • Talia Ilan says:

      Mr. Grant, of course you have the right to think and believe in whatever you want.
      But as there are already too many of us (female conductors) to get to know us all, a sentence like “women on the podium are not my cup of tea” means that he has decided for himself that any female conductor that he haven’t even seen is not to his taste. Which means he is doing a generalization on a gender basis.
      If, let’s say, Bill Gates would say that in an interview, it would make me feel sorry for him and that’s it. (Sorry Bill for using your name…).
      But Mr. Jansons is an international authority in the conducting field, and his words about a general group of people can make a lot of harm to that group. Moreover, his remark might imply that Jansons as a MD have never and will never (as long as he is keeping the same taste) engage any female conductor.
      Well, now he will have to prove the opposite (if he does not want to be accused of gender discrimination).

    • Stephen says:

      I’m sure in year gone by there were conductors who honestly thought that black people shouldn’t be allowed in the concert hall either as spectators.

      Expressing that view today would rightly get them shunned, disavowed, and ridiculed. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence of saying sexist things in public.

      The correct answer should have been “if they conduct wonderfully, who cares whether it’s a man or a woman?”…not “women conducting isn’t my cup of tea”, prefacing it with words to the effect of “I don’t mean to be offensive but”. This is not a gray area issue. This is not a difficult issue. If you can’t comprehend that there’s something wrong with you.

    • Thornhill says:


      The problem with his honest is that it lacked any introspection. There was no reflection or thought about why it is that there have been so few female conductors.

      Given all of the years he’s been a conductor, that he’s old enough to have conducted orchestras when the only job women could usual get was harpist, and how the change to blind auditions in the late 1970s help women land jobs in orchestras, he should be finely attuned to sexism in classical music.

      • Zalman Blaier says:

        Actually Jansons didn’t say enough to produce such a turmoil that Mr. Talia Ilan is making.
        Maybe she is frustrated not given a position honorable enough, but in Israel there are many conductors and the struggle is not by gender. Many male conductors struggling to find a place and they are not.
        Jansons said also that he is not against women conductors, and to be against, would be a mistake, and he didn’t mean give offence.
        So what is the problem? I think there is no problem, if you are not making a one.
        To be offended is a choice one chooses, and many people here are happy to be offended.

  • Leo says:

    Believe me, what I see now in the West reminds me of a Soviet Union more and more. You are coming straight into our former mistakes.

    • Sue says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Stalinist in ideology, intent and outcome. Only the fools who behave this way are so ignorant of history they’ve got no idea about what comes next.

  • herrera says:

    Which raises the question: Which conductor *would* you have a cup of tea with?

    Jansons seems like exactly the type of person I’d have tea with.

    Simon Rattle, definitely a pint of ale. Same with the Dude, a glass of beer. They’d be hysterical I think a little tipsy. I can’t imagine drinking anything with Welser Most…not even a cup of coffee. As for a nightcap, well well well, that’s my secret…

    • Edoardo says:

      I have been lucky enough to actually have a coup of tea with Mariss Jansons. He is not only a person you could enjoy to have tea with, but a person who serves you tea and asks you how many spoons of sugars you like in it. I have met many great musicians but Jansons is certainly one of the most humble and welcoming person I ever met.

      He said is from a generation not used to used to see women on the podium. Where is the problem?

      Political correctness will eventually kill any form of communication.

      • Stephen says:

        Mistaking calling out basic sexism for political correctness is exactly the sort of thing that causes sexism, racism, and judging anybody by anything other than the character of their work to proliferate.

        True political correctness is something entirely different; not allowing someone to call the 25th of December Christmas if they want to, infringement upon liberties, and so on. This is “women, know your limits” basic stuff….he’s at liberty to say it, and we’re at liberty to say “that’s a reprehensible, antiquated, dinosaur view”. If he thought he wasn’t saying something offensive he would not have needed to qualify it by saying “I don’t mean to be offensive”.

        Simple fact – replace women with “black people”. Care to defend that? No difference.

      • Una says:

        Couldn’t agree more as a woman … and to finish the British analogy, a storm in a teacup of political correctness. You can’t say anything to anyone without offending someone it seems.

  • William Osborne says:

    1) Women conductors comprise only a small fraction of the profession and are entirely absent from the top echelon. 2) Both historically and in its current practices and traditions, conducting is one of the most patriarchal professions that exists. 3) Issues surrounding women conductors are of keen interest to the public and professionals in classical music. 4) And once again, we see a leading professional in the field making ignorant comments in response to questions about women conductors. These are among the many reasons the question was relevant and appropriate. With the outcry, he received the response he deserved.

    • Andrew Barnard says:

      “Women conductors comprise only a small fraction of the profession and are entirely absent from the top echelon.”

      Yes, and not because Jansons is trying to kick them out. They’re simply not there. This is the whole point.

      • William Osborne says:

        There are some qualified, but the low ratio is exactly why the question by the journalist was relevant, and why the conductor’s answer was ignorant and bigoted. But forgive me if I do not pursue this in this forum. The level is so often so low it is pointless.

        • Andrew Barnard says:


          Can you name them?

        • Anon says:

          A) Tell us why so few women show up for entrance exams at music colleges for orchestra conducting studies! Hint: it is primarily because they are – in average, statistically – much less interested in that profession.

          B) if there are cultural barriers against women entering such fields still, then don‘t fall for the fallacy, that only men discriminate. Do a survey among female orchestra musicians about their preferences and feelings regarding conductor‘s gender. Do it anonymously. You will be SURPRISED!

    • Bruce says:

      I’d say they’re not there yet. Give them time.

      For all I know, some of them might already be good enough; now they just have to be around long enough to gather up enough name recognition that Berlin et al. can hire them on their reputations, without being accused of “just because she’s a woman.”

  • martain smith says:

    ..what’s truly foul here is the fact that free speech evidently no longer may exist in our “politically correct” era.
    Bring on McCarthy!

  • martain smith says:

    What’s truly foul here is the fact that free speech evidently no longer may exist in our “politically correct” era.
    Bring on McCarthy!

    • Stephen says:

      Nobody stopped him from saying it. Freedom of speech and freedom from the consequences of that speech are entirely different things.

      Again, if you think what he said is ok, replace “women” with “black people” or “asians” or some other minority and defend that. If you can’t, you should speedily realize you’re in the wrong.

      • Frederick West says:

        Are we to regard his apology as insincere now? Seems a very reasonable and appropriate act of contrition. Or is it now the case that some don’t believe it as genuine? I’ll buy it, incident over.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        But, Stephen, he said “women”, not “black people” or “asians” or “quackers” or else. Isn’t you who are generalizing to muck?

    • Robert Holmén says:

      Yes, the Soviet union was so known for people in authority having to respond to public feedback.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        Well done, Robert. The current zeitgeist is somehow supporting false equivalencies, for example in comparing modern liberation movements with oppressive movements (Soviets) of the past. Yes, Sue, I mean you. Equating a grassroots quest for equal opportunity, equal dignity, and equal respect, with authoritarian, oppressive, and unequal regimes exemplify the insanity we live in today.

        There’s been some research that suggests that a turning point happens when women reach about 33 percent representation in a leadership field, whether in government, corporate boards, whatever. I learned that when I was a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. Few governments, corporate boards, peace negotiating teams, etc,. have one-third female participation. So the issues and challenges are broad and deep. Right here, on this blog, we can see the resistance to reaching that tipping point.

    • Sue says:

      Yes, the witch-hunts are underway. Everything which is going on has been done before, with disastrous consequences. Watch out if you’re a man who has ever winked at a woman or flirted. You’re next!!! And your neighbour is going to tell on you.

      Here’s a brilliant example of modern witch-hunting: these days they’re called “senate hearings”. This brave man is having none of it!! He knows what I know; forcing people to use mandated speech cannot end well. I just can’t believe people are sitting around talking about this rubbish and keeping a straight face:

  • fred says:

    well, the great Mario Del Monaco -a tenor on top of that – thought differently and this was way back in the very early sixties. What a great man he was

  • Jim says:

    I know and have worked with Mariss Jansons. He is a wonderful person and musician but it doesn’t mean that he didn’t make a sexist comment here. He did, and there’s really no disputing that. He deserves to take a little heat from it, and then everyone can move on. He apologized, which I’m grateful for. I hope that he learned something from this, and will keep a more open mind about women conductors in the future.

  • William Safford says:

    I’m more offended by several of the postings to this topic, than Mariss Jansons’s combined comment and retraction.

    Anyone can make a slip of the tongue. Anyone can reconsider his or her comment, and wha lies behind it.

    Others don’t hide their misogyny, and even revel in it.

    Or are trolls.

  • Steve P says:

    Well, it took many years for a truly great male conductor to come along; the fact that there is a large assemblage of above-mediocre female conductors now shouldn’t discourage women from continuing to develop and grow as artists. Who knows – maybe one day we will speak reverently of (insert female name here) as the successor to Kleiber.
    For now, though, with women entering a field in which they are definitely fledglings (agreed that males made it so), let’s hold off on condemning a venerable patriarch for giving an opinion rooted in prior and current circumstance. I’ll wait while someone fetches me the name of the next (first) big thing female conductor.

  • Anon says:

    The problem with today’s terror from the ideology of political correctness is, that it psychologically is a form of suppression and thus yields more paradoxical than good results.
    When someone describes his personal feelings and impressions, e.g. feeling strange about women as conductors, or black people acting as Santa Claus, or Asian singers in the role of Wotan, then that by itself is not yet a statement about discrimination or suppression of said people. Not at all.
    It would only be a description of ones own thinking and perception, based on ones own cultural imprints and past education etc.
    The CRUCIAL point is, to which conclusion one comes after making such a self-reflecting observation.
    But to ask for that differentiation between observation and self-righteous judgement is probably too much to ask for today’s uneducated and self-righteous mainstream.

    Jansons did not say that he thinks women are incapable of doing that job. Unlike Temirkanov. He said that he has funny feelings about it. And that is understandable for someone of his generation and with his background. To me it’s a decisive difference.

    And, if you want some interesting insight about the whole fuzzy area of feelings and subconscious interactions between orchestra musicians and conductors, make a survey among female orchestra musicians, how they FEEL in reality about playing with women conductors. It could be interesting…

    • Zalman Blaier says:

      Those who wish to be offended, got their reason.
      Jansons is talking about his world, when he was educated, and yes, then there were trully few women in such a powerful and charismatic position.
      These days are over and now the situation is different.
      I am thinking of the many female talents that were lost in those days…
      About Lizzy Davis, the Telegraph reporter that succeeded to squeeze the sensation, it is just her task.This way you sell newspapers.

    • Berliner Musiker says:

      This news in a nutshell proves Italian Socialist Benito Mussolini’s ugly assertion, ‘Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.’ From long before odious stances like National Socialism’s ‘Entartete Kunst’ to Soviet Socialist Realism and more, there has risen and seems to continue to rise one form of dominance over our little corner of music called “classical.” For myself, what is good and fine is not subject to the evaluation of sex and gender, any more than it is to race and other forms of identity. Feminism, through any of its oddly exclusive ‘waves’ shows that not all agree about damn near anything. Given that what is called popular music accounts for most of the sales in recordings and concert tickets — not to mention extremely crude lyrics at times — this little world of classical music needs some grace and forgiveness as necessary, not more Mussolini-like tilting at political windmills, no matter how trendy they are. Best wishes to Lebrecht for his continued work to cover a field mostly ignored in other media..

  • herrera says:

    I have it on good authority that what Jansons had in mind in the original Latvian was the expression:

    – “vētra ūdens glāzē” (storm in a glass of water),

    so what he meant to say, if he had said it in Latvian, would have been:

    – “women conductors are not my ‘vētra ūdens glāzē’ ”

    which he misinterpreted in English as “cup of tea” when the English expression is “tempest in a teacup”, so what he meant to say in English was:

    – “women conductors are not my tempest in a teacup”

    which means in fact he said,

    – “the topic of women conductors is not for me a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion”

    which means that what he really meant was :

    – “I think women conductors is a big issue”

    • Talia Ilan says:

      Where from do you have the confidence of deciding what he “really” meant? And how does this connect to the previous sentences: “Hmm, well. Well I don’t want to give offence,” “and I am not against it, that would be very wrong. I understand the world has changed, and there is now no profession that can be confined to this or that gender.”

      • Hilary says:

        Thankyou for clearing this all up.

        Karajan is often castigated in these quarters but let’s give credit where it is due: against much opposition (in-part gender related) from the BPO he fought strongly for Sabine Meyer to be a clarinettist in the orchestra.


    The ship has sailed- symphonies are beginning to represent the world.

  • Nicholas Bourdoullon says:

    This is fascinating, some people REALLY feel oppressed by something they think acts like a feminist Axis or Commissariat, USSR-style, globally enforcing PC and targetting especially “classical” music. And one of the examples of this feminist Axis in action is criticizing (on social media) a male conductor who says that he thinks conducting by women feels weird and this is a personal opinion, not at all related to social and cultural norms or power relations in classical music institutions.

    This is really exciting for anthropologists of “classical music”. I’m already taking notes, but I would really like to see some more responses that depict the ways musicians feel oppressed, afraid or emotionally attacked by “feminist ideology”. Also, I would like to know who are the music feminists in charge of the EFICM committee (Enforcing Feminism in Classical Music) they fear most. Please, hide your IPs because Feminist Police of Classical Music (FPOCM) is probably monitoring this conversation.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

      Nicholas, you have completely understood the phenomenon. Some people feel oppressed and insulted by the inclusion of talented people who’ve traditionally been deliberately excluded (be it women or people of varying races).

      Classical music only stands to benefit from not excluding half the talent of the world (more than half if you factor in race).

      It wasn’t that long ago that a member of the Vienna Philharmonic said something to the effect that we can’t play with women in the orchestra, that would be like having to play with an Asian…” He said this out loud!!! Including women, Asians, Latin Americans, Black people, challenges the basic assumption of white male supremacy and for some people, that challenge comes off as oppression.

      It’s a good sign that Jansons had to walk back his original statement. He sucked it up, admitted he’s a geezer, welcomed women in spite of his comfort level, and put the focus on our shared love of music. So I’ll give him credit for doing a good job on that.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It may be informative to know that the Vienna Philharmonic wants to preserve their cultural identity as a VIENNESE, very LOCAL ensemble, preserving their musical performance tradition and history, and therefore want – as much as is possible and is allowed under current PC pressures – to remain a typical Viennese orchestra. This excludes, per definition, non-Viennese and non-Europeans, not for racist reasons but for cultural reasons, and for reasons of image profile. That they have preferred – until recently – to avoid the sight of women in the orchestra is simply because they liked to be an exclusive men’s club, like gentlemen’s clubs in London and sport clubs, in the way that there are mandoline ensembles in Italy entirely made-up of women. There are West-African traditional percussion ensembles entirely made-up of men, should they also fall victim of feminism? Female mandoline players don’t suppress males, and male orchestral players don’t suppres females, they just like to work with their own gender and in a free western society with universal values of freedom of gathering and expression, it seems crazy to get wound-up about such preferences. (Is a homosexual suppressing females? Is the Chinese communist party discriminating kaukasian Westerners if they don’t allow them in their midst, even if they were born in China? If you are served, in an Indian restaurant, by Indian-looking staff, are they willingly excluding non-Indians? It is not as simple as feminists often seem to think.)

        • Martain Smith says:

          Borstlap – too right about Vienna!

          And just just possibly the reason that they remain the best opera orchestra in the World, and one of the best symphony orchestras (if not the best)!
          Their sound is unique, no matter who is conducting – and indeed they seem to function just as well under a female baton as a male one.

          I know from one musician that part of the all-male thinking is that men tend not to become pregnant.
          Thus, the issue of learning/re-learing repertoire, scheduling and re-scheduling concerts, operas (for a season from Sept through June) and international tours is generally restricted to the realms of illness or accident.

          Another aspect, I’m told (which the Symphony Orch. has experienced) is that of flirtations/affairs, etc., (particularly on tours), which naturally create complications of all kinds – and which can affect artistic quality as a result.
          (It appears Gay issues don’t feature in these ensembles).

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            It’s rather astonishing that anyone in 2017 would suggest that it’s perfectly fine to discriminate against highly qualified women because they “might get pregnant.” For one thing, pregnancy doesn’t seem to hold many women back. One famous flute soloist played a Friday night concert while very pregnant, gave birth on Saturday morning, and played the second performance on Saturday night! Also, in liberal Western democracies, don’t we like to have family leave for both women and men? Further, repetitive use injuries are an occupational hazard. Most musicians have to deal with them at some time or another, and that is gender-neutral. If orchestras discriminated against people because they might get carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis, then there would be no orchestras. Women stay healthy longer, that makes them a great investment that more than makes up for loss of time while pregnant, and gives us more time to further master our art. You can’t bring up the topic of biology and only use the negative and ignore the positive. There’s some social science that suggests that women are more collaborative and that is a fabulous trait in making music, even from the podium (unless you are hopelessly old-school).

            Finally, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra more than gives Vienna a run for its money. They have a lot of fabulous women in the orchestra.

    • John Borstlap says:

      My PA is watching over my shoulder while typing this….. and she is a converted feminist, i.e. after being suppressed by her former employer she got rather sensitive to signs of patriarchal authoritarianism. This makes me sometimes feeling inhibited by feminism when I want to point-out the mistakes she makes, does inhibition also count? The times when I’m locked-up in the library by my wife (sometimes with the physical support of my PA) because of criticizing Boulez, whose work is quite popular here among the staff, it is the PC culture of assertive feminism which I feel somehow as an intrusion upon my work schedule.

  • Bassooner says:

    Storm in a tea cup.

  • Kundry says:

    Norman’s perspective on how newspapers work is, sadly, spot on.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Clearly an unwise and foolish comment. But it does seem that some people only exist in order to be outraged.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I wonder what would happen if a female conductor would say that she did not like the sight of conducting men.

    It seems to me that all this mutual irritation is a matter of context. Janssons is free to not like female conductors and that does not mean that he is an authoritarian, patriarchal, femal-suppressing chauvinist pig. I’m all for women everywhere, but when I see Mirga I want to close my eyes. Which I do anyway when I’m dregged to a concert with Yuja Wang.

    Where there exists exclusion of women in classical music, as far as the performance culture is concerned, this is the result of discouragement and exclusion much earlier in the trajectory: in education, and the bourgeois atmosphere where many people think that conducting, or composing, or playing the horn, or percussion or anything, is ‘not really something for a woman’. (I still think this is true for the tuba and the sarrusophone.) But discouragement also exists for men in all kinds of contexts, so focussing on females is only a small part of the problem of exclusion in the field. It is not always easy to find-out whether someone is excluded on entirely nonsensical grounds or for professional reasons, that he or she simply is not good enough.

    By the way, there should be much more of exclusion, given the many awful new pieces being played in the concert circuit and the lame and boring performances by mediocrities. But it cannot be done by some politbureau directive, and neither by a feminist witch hunt.

  • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

    “feminist witch hunt” … comparisons with the Soviet Union, Nazi’s, and Mussolini…

    Look, how exactly do you think inclusion happens? No progress has ever been made without calling attention to the problem and working to overcome it. Look at the Civil Rights movement and a variety of situations where populaces rebelled against colonialism. Power does not give up power of its own volition and people don’t go “duh, women can be fine instrumentalists and conductors too” and suddenly open the doors to equal opportunity. The unions had to force US orchestras to put up a screen and that integrated the orchestras. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with conductors.

    Political correctness generally means working on a language and mindset that is open to the inclusion of talented women, minorities, etc., precisely because it doesn’t happen on its own. For those of us who have done the same, or better, work as our male colleagues and can’t get the same opportunities or paychecks, this is a real-life issue. The last thing we need is famous and respected geezers affirming the misogynistic forces that block progress.

    Jansons got called out for an unfortunate statement. I think his response was pretty good. But I’m glad he was called to make a response.

    • Kosmologia Project says:

      Thank you. This is simply the truth. Going back to the issue of how a Latin American conductor like Dudamel is suddenly placed among the greats further up in this blog, it must be said that money and trade offs can persuade “power” to acknowledge a great talent. He is now supporting other non- Caucasian conductors and women. Elsewhere in the comments, someone acknowledges discrimination at the time of audition, training, competitions, first jobs, invitations, etc, and does not make the connection that, over time, the denial of these opportunities will gradually slow down the artistic progress of a woman conductor, so that someone like Jansons will find her inferior strictly on the merits. Be that as it may, women conductors will not be stopped now. The more the audience sees them, the quicker the disparagement will end. Society will soon find the all-make orchestra an anachronism and a curiosity, worth watching on occasion, but not necessarily the living artistic voice of our society.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I agree with all of that. Except that he felt forced to apologize. He should merely have explained what he really meant.

      As for equal opportunities: totally agreed. But there are so many other reasons why there are no equal opportunities in classical music life, they are not all defined by gender. For instance, as an example which I could observe from close: in the new music field, an aesthetic, idiomatic prejudice excluded much new music which did not follow the ‘party line’ of a selfappointed ‘avantgarde’ (a military term!); you could easily see that a purely ideological idea – not a musical one – was operative, disguised in terms of quality: ‘We think Sibelius, Frank Martin, Benjamin Britten were very bad composers, not because they used an outdated musical language but because they were just very bad in terms of quality’. We don’t hear that any longer but the attitude still reigns at many places, and many new music festivals.

      The fight for equal opportunities should be fought along the line of achievement and not out of pure resentment disconnected from achievement.

      (I still don’t like female garbage collectors and urologists. No suppression of gender is implied.)

    • Anon says:

      “No progress has ever been made without calling attention to the problem and working to overcome it. ”

      Agreed. But then you fail totally by not asserting the problem without bias and with intellectual integrity. Instead you declare male dominance and patriarchial structures as a reason exclusively, why women appear so few in these professions.
      With a careful observation on all relevant parameters, another conclusion must be made: The primary reason why women are not choosing that professional path is, because they do not have in average equal desire/motivation/drive than men to do so.
      Why that is so, also questions of patriarchial structures play a role, but not exclusively and not primarily.
      At the end of the day, the question remains, are there biological and neurological differences between men and women, yes or no, or is everything only culturally imposed.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        Poppycock. For one thing, I haven’t seen anyone “asserting the problem without bias and with intellectual integrity” and no one has excluded a wide range of reasons. Your “careful parameters” certainly lack intellectual rigor. The social science says that girls are getting the messages of lesser potential from an early age, like 3.

        Here’s the anecdotal:
        1. At Peabody Conservatory in the 1980’s into the 1990’s, Fred Prausnitz maintained a conducting studio that was 50-50 women and men. The other conservatories were mostly a shutout for women. The conducting class was comprised of musicians who were all pretty strong on their instruments. Prausnitz retires, a new conducting guru is hired and suddenly the ratio of women drops dramatically. I hear that it’s coming back, because of Marin Alsop being in Baltimore.

        2. At every stage of my career, there have been fewer and fewer women. Maybe this is why:

        3. In the state of Colorado over the past 10 years, no woman has been auditioned for music director of any of the professional orchestras or university orchestras, and women have been shutout of the majority of auditions for youth and community orchestras. Guys getting auditions often have training from state universities and no major professional orchestral experience. Meanwhile, I know that women have applied with credentials from major conservatories and experience with a range of professional orchestras, including major. Being shutout at all levels definitely minimizes the opportunity to practice the art. And Colorado is a Blue State (votes for Democrats and thinks of itself as progressive, especially in Denver and Boulder where the orchestras are shutting out women).

        If women have equal access to top training programs (in all of the major programs of the world), then it is a brand new phenomenon. Women who’ve managed to get the training still get shutout of opportunity.

        My conclusion about “women not entering the profession,” is that women talented enough are generally terrific instrumentalists or singers, fields that are much more open. Not everyone can even afford to be a pioneer.

        The Bernie Sanders observation is that getting conducting training takes a lot of financial support and men typically have stronger access to these resources than women. You have to have the resources to become a strong instrumentalist or singer, and then the conducting training. It seems that the scholarships and stipends that I was lucky to receive are dwindling.

        Most of all, Anonymous, if in your arguments you traded “blacks” for “women,” about “biological differences” many would see this argument for what it is.

      • John Borstlap says:

        On showing this comment to my PA I aked her whether there were any differences, biological or cultural, in her opinion, between her and me. Fortunately I could stop her in demonstrating her conviction on the first, by stressing my conviction on the second point.

  • harold braun says:

    Storm in a teapot.

  • Nicholas Bourdoullon says:

    This comment thread has made my day, it’s hilarious (and kind of sad at the same time)! I don’t even know if some comments are serious or if they are ironically over-identifying with sexist and racist views to point out the absurdity of their arguments! Either way, some of my favourite reactions:

    – What about oppressed men harpists?
    – What about oppressive (to men) women’s mandolin ensembles?
    – What about female conductors potentially saying, sometime in the future, that they don’t like the sight of conducting men?
    – What about the protection of traditional Viennese musical culture?
    – What about women getting pregnant and ruining orchestra’s rehearsal schedule?
    – What about women distracting men in non-gay-men-orchestras, standing there, provoking flirtation and all?
    – What about sexism in African indigenous music?
    – What about low standards in new music festivals?
    – What about professors being publically criticised for misgendering their trans students?
    – What about Indian restaurants?
    – What about black people acting as Santa Claus?
    – Jokes about domestic abuse
    – Feminist witch hunt (what an interesting, oxymoronic choice of words!)
    – Feminists ~ Mussolini
    – Feminists ~ Stalinism
    – Feminists ~ nazis
    – Political correctness ~ terror

  • N Nescio says:

    Not my cup of tea, either. I wish Jansons had not apologized.

    • Z.Blaier says:

      N NESCIO,
      You are totally right.
      I am sure that Mariss Jansons didn’t mean anything else rather than he is not familiar with women conducting, in his remark about “that “it’s not his cup of tea” and that’s all. He shouldn’t apologise for nothing!
      Falling to the “chauvinist swamp” or even worse that that – mentioning the Holocaust is very low, and shows the low mental state of mind of some of my Israeli compatriots, for which I am very sorry!

      • N Nescio says:

        I just meant that I find women conducting unnnatural. That is the forbidden opinion, an expression of which entitles liberal tolerants to go beserk.

        • Z.BLAIER says:

          Everyone can go berserk, whenever she wishes.She can disagree to any opinion, she wishes.
          I agree to your definition about women conducting unnatural.