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.