A dubious list of 10 women conductors

A dubious list of 10 women conductors


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2018

Classic FM, which loves lists as much as it loves music, has put out a list of top 10 women conductors.

Here are some of the pacemakers it overlooked. Most have achieved major career leaps in the past year. Click on links below to read the latest news.

1 Elim Chan, Antwerp Symphony

2 Speranza Scapucci, Opera Liege

3 Karina Canellakis, Netherlands Radio

4 Anu Tali, Nordic Symphony

5 Han-na Chang, Trondheim Symphony

6 Joana Carneiro, Berkeley Symphony

7 Nathalie Stutzmann, Kristiansand Symphony

8 Gemma New, Hamilton Philharmonic

9 Joanna Mallwitz, Nuremberg

10 Oksana Lyniv, Graz Oper

And more besides.

The ClassicFM list includes Mirga, Simone Young, Susanna Mälkki, Marin Aslop and Xian Zhang. The rest are less topical.


  • Caravaggio says:

    Oh wow, no Barbara Hannigan? She is said to be an “excellent conductor” according to the postmodern, process-is-what-counts, musical-laboratory set.

  • Andreas B. says:

    Mallwitz will be GMD of the Staatstheater in Nürnberg – the orchestra is the Staatsphilharmonie.

    the Nürnberger Symphoniker are another band, their chief conductor is Kahchun Wong.

    • Brettermeier says:

      I saw her conducting Il barbiere di siviglia two or three times in Heidelberg some years back with Jana Kurucová as Rosina.

      Still my favorite performance.

      I’ll have to check Nürnberg’s program.

  • Nik says:

    Four of the blurbs contain the word “maestro”. Ouch.

  • Alan O'Connor says:

    Have seen Nathalie Stutzmann several times here in Dublin. She’s very good and has gone down well with the RTENSO audiences. Each of her five or six performances in the 2017/18 season sold out, about the only RTENSO performances that did all year.

  • Bruce says:

    What about Jane Glover?

    • Algot says:

      Oh please…. one of the worst I ever worked with. Knee-bends does not help the orchestra. Could someone forward that info to Joanna Carneiro as well. And why is there no mentioning of Karen Kamensek, she was really good already in Freiburg !

  • Derek says:

    Comments on those who I have seen in concert and/or rehearsal.

    Karina Canellakis is talented, has great belief and a very good approach. She is going to have a successful career.

    Joanna Mallwitz has a very clear and positive style. I liked her technique and believe that she will do very well as she develops. I enjoyed the concert that she conducted and had the impression that the orchestra liked working with her.

    Good luck to both of them and the other young talents mentioned above.

    • Michael Comins says:

      We just heard Canelakis conduct Orchestre de Paris’ final concert of the season @ the Philharmonie. She was SENSATIONAL with even the orchestra applauding during five curtain-calls.

      Speranza Scapucci’s conducting the Juilliard Orch. this season was also first-rate.

      • Conducting Feminista says:

        These women conductors are FAR SUPERIOR to all of those worthless men out there. Women are taking over the conducting profession and the male conductor will gradually become extinct.

  • Troy van Leeuwen says:

    Not mentioned in these lists yet, a conductor worth keeping an eye on is the Polish Marta Gardolińska, recently chosen by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as their Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association for the 2018-2019 season. This is a position that, among others, had Sir Simon Rattle, when he got his first job.


  • FS60103 says:

    Alas poor Sian Edwards – another victim of the Curse of St Martin’s Lane? Yet sources tell me she’s one of the most influential and respected conducting teachers working in the UK at present, and when I’ve heard her work in recent years (eg Opera Holland Park’s Katya Kabanova last season) she’s been electrifying.

    • dorset Richard says:

      The curse of st martins lane ? Did not do Mackerras, Elder or Gardner much harm. I am pleased that Oksana Lyniv is doing well, I heard conduct Madam Butterfly in the beautiful Odessa Opera House a few years ago and she made a very good impression.

  • Alex Davies says:

    No mention of Ewa Michnik, who is greatly respected in her native Poland and beyond. This most impressive woman, now 75, began to establish herself as a professional conductor in the early 1970s.

    • Algot says:

      JC is an amateur. She prefers big swosh-movements where none are called for, she can’t keep a steady beat, very inconsistent. And she should loose the knee-bends.

  • Clovis Marques says:

    Not to forget Ligia Amadio, a pioneer among woman conductors in South America, now at the helm of the Montevideo Philharmonic in Uruguay, having already directed as principal conductor or musical director quite a few orchestras in Colombia, Argentina and Brazil

  • Ed says:

    No mention of Emmanuelle Haim.

  • Nina Olson says:

    AND… what about Tania Leon? Why isn’t she included on their list?

  • barry guerrero says:

    Simone Young, who has already recorded ALL Bruckner, the “Ring” and two Mahler symphonies?

  • Joseph says:

    No Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla? She’s pretty awesome…

    • Derek says:

      As mentioned in the last sentence of the article above Mirga is included in the Classicfm list.

      This is a list of rising conductors who are making progress over the year and should be considered (amongst others).

  • MarcelMouse says:

    Rebecca Miller is doing good work and getting noticed

  • Carl DiOrio says:

    Seems like a reasonable list to me, though obviously not comprehensive. If I were to pick a nit it would be not placing JoAnn Falletta closer to the top.

  • Sue says:

    Less is more.

  • MacroV says:

    Where is Ann Manson? I always read good things about her when she conducts, but I don’t see her doing much these days.

  • Conducting Feminista says:

    Women are completely taking over the conducting profession. It will be a matter of time when the male conductor becomes extinct!

  • Don Hohoho says:

    Oh, please. Marin Alsop is a mediocre conductor at best. Competent, sure. But that’s not enough, and I doubt any of these women have more than that at best. I am sick of this relentless drive of publicity for female conductors. Men never get such favoritism. They have to fight their way through. But men in power love to favor attractive women, thinking it will get them something in return. Enough! Politics have no place in classical music. Why doesn’t Lebrecht care about gay conductors? Can you name any besides Tilson-Thomas?

    • MacroV says:

      You don’t think there are a whole raft of mediocre (but prominent) male conductors, worse that many of the women on this list? I’m sure the orchestral players on this blog could name many.

    • Conducting Feminista says:

      Marin Alsop is far superior to every male conductor in history! She is greater than Karajan, Toscannini, Reiner, Furtwangler, Scherchen, Solti, Bernstein etc. Every young beautiful attractive female conductors are leaps and bounds better than all of the old stodgy male conductors out there.

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    Sarah Ioannides not on the list?

  • midomel says:

    Joanna Mallwitz will be Nuremberg Philharmonic next season, not Symphony. Nuremberg Symphony’s is Kahchun Wong, a man, I suppose.

  • Martin says:

    This whole gender issue is out of control. Where have all these women suddenly come from? We all know who the really good ones are. Almost every orchestra (at least in th UK) seems to have a female on board and many are at best, only average (yes, yes, there are plenty of mediocre men too). A British opera company even has the temerity to be currently advertising for a female assistant conductor at present. How can this be right? If they sought male conductors there would be an almighty outcry. Like her or not (I do not) Marin Alsop has been at the forefront of spearheading this whole business for years, setting up women only conducting classes etc and these have been copied elsewhere. Yet she is inclined to get hugely angry when there is any mention of the fact she is female. I have heard her more than once give an interviewer a toungue lashing “I am not a FEMALE conductor. I am a conductor. Close your eyes and there is no difference.” Quite. All appointments should be made on merit alone not quotas, gender or ethnicity. The world has gone mad.

    • Sue says:

      Ably facilitated by SD.

    • Will Duffay says:

      The point is that women conductors have STILL been getting judged more harshly because they’re women. So Alsop’s position is consistent: conductors are conductors regardless of gender, and don’t be prejudiced against women.

    • Conducting Feminista says:

      Conducting will inevitably become an all women profession. The male conductor is now in decline and the woman conductor is on the rise.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    What happened to Catherine Comet?

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Good question! I heard her years ago at the now-defunct Woodstock (Illinois) Mozart Festival and was quite impressed. I was hoping they’d invite her back in a future season, but she never returned.

  • buxtehude says:

    Please someone tell me what’s wrong with Equilbey


    Has her own chorus too and a fine one it is.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Many years ago I substituted a few times (once entirely sightreading a program I had never played before, which is never the most calming experience) with a Wisconsin orchestra conducted by Elizabeth Schulze and was very impressed. I was not surprised that she left that orchestra for better things, because she deserved better things. I see that she now conducts the Maryland Symphony Orchestra about which I know nothing. But she was very musical, well prepared, with clear and meaningful gestures from the podium, and ambitious in her repertoire, sometimes to the point where she overestimated what her players could do. One of the best I ever played under. I hope Maryland SO has the chops to do her Brahms Fourth justice.