Marin Alsop becomes Vienna’s first woman chief conductor

Marin Alsop becomes Vienna’s first woman chief conductor


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2018

The Baltimore music director will become chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra from September 2019.

The ORF is Vienna’s third-ranked orchestra, behind the Philharmonic and the Symphony orchestras, and has little international profile. But the playing has improved over the past eight years under the German conductor Cornelius Meister and the hiring of Alsop signifies a corporate ambition to play a larger role.

Alsop, 61, is coming to the end of her term with the Sao Paolo Symphony in Brazil. She is committed until 2021 to Baltimore, where she has become the first woman conductor with a million-dollar paycheck. No matter how well she does, Vienna’s radio bosses will not match that.



  • herrera says:

    Believe it or not, back in the days, 61 is still young for a maestro(a), she still has a good 10 years left for a major appointment. Well, back in the days.

  • Mr Oakmountain says:

    The RSO Wien as they are called here also have been performing admirably as an opera band in Vienna’s historical Theater an der Wien.

  • Albern Borg says:

    Wonder why Baltimore has to pay her a million to serve at that pinnacle of North American civilization, and why she is working in Brazil and Austria?

    • Rgiarola says:

      In Brazil, she receive more than US$ 750k for jus ten weeks of work. 12 weeks would a million. Not too diferent from Baltimore concerning profits.
      Concerning quality of the ensemble, at least SP orchestra has a contract with Naxos. Label newly Prokofiev all symphonies were recorded by SPsymphony/Alsop, with good reviews in many international magazines
      Why she wouldn’t direct it, under this circunstancies?

      • fflambeau says:

        Probably lots of reasons. I would think that Bolsanaro as President of Brazil has led her to believe that the situation will become less and less stable there. That, and the fact that she has a new job in Vienna.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Dear Norman, your comment suggests that the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna (former ORF Orchestra) had quality problems before the tenue of my colleague and friend Cornelius Meister. This is a very reductive point of view. The first chief conductor of the ORF orchestra was my only teacher Milan Horvat, and the orchestra has established itself in the 70s and 80s (it has been created in 1969) as a very fine orchestra, extremely important in Vienna’s and Austria’s musical landscape, especially for its dedication to the music of the 20th Century. After Milan Horvat, chief conductors like Leif Segerstam, Dennis Russel Davies and Bertrand de Billy (among others) have shaped the profile of this ensemble and the quality has always been very high and highly respected by the best and most famous composers and conductors . Cornelius Meister has continued this tradition very successfully. Internationally spoken, the orchestra (one of the five excellent orchestras in Vienna) has an outstanding reputation, with many tours abroad.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Dear Fabio, My memory comes up with Salzburg performances nder Pinchas Steinberg in the 1990s where the playing was one or two degrees below the other orchestras on display. They were by no means a bad orchestra, certainly more polished that some of the BBC ensembles, but not in my view of world quality. I heard them once with Meister and the improvement was marked. best wishes, Norman

    • Sue says:

      I have trouble imagining any Viennese orchestra of significance being anything but really good. That’s certainly been my experience.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    Sounds very exciting!