More women’s works than ever in US symphonic season

More women’s works than ever in US symphonic season


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2018

From the Pacific Standard:

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, and a growing consensus that the creators of the 21st century’s cultural artifacts cannot exclusively be white males, some of America’s most prominent ensembles are programming more works by women than ever before. Tradition-minded symphony-goers may be jolted to find Beethoven or Brahms sharing a bill with Amy Beach.

Perhaps just as importantly, orchestras that haven’t joined the trend have been somewhat startled by the blowback they have received, on both traditional and social media. Even as Shaw’s rehearsal resumed, complaints were mounting on the Internet that the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2018–19 season didn’t contain a single work written by a woman.

“We had not noticed that,” says a sheepish Jeremy Rothman, the orchestra’s vice president for artistic planning. “A lot of people looked at our season, including our music director; a committee of musicians, many of whom are female; and our president and CEO, who is a woman. This was an unforced error..”

Read on here.


  • V.Lind says:

    Oh, so bloody what…all audiences want to hear is good music and if the best new music is by women then let’s have it. I have attended many concerts in Canada where a new music piece is contained, and have probably heard more by women than men (though I have missed several available John Estacio pieces, he being a favourite of several orchestras). Nobody has made a federal case out of the composers being women. They get played, in some cases they come out and take a bow, and we move on.

  • David says:

    I can no longer take this blog seriously. The inherent bias is evident throughout. I guess Norman needs to establish his white male guilt street cred at every turn. What is he over compensating for? Is he trying to get laid? Ta ta folks. I’ll take my leave from this joke of a news site.

  • David says:

    I will note that, on, a blog and site run by a woman, the reporting is professional and I can’t detect a bias.

    Something the editor on this site could learn from, instead of him trying to apologize to everyone for being a while male.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I’m not sure why so much is being said now about programming music by female composers, We have been doing this for many years. Case in point, I am performing Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s ‘Peanuts Gallery’ this weekend with a terrific orchestra in Seguin, Texas with Akiko Fujimoto conducting. The Mid-Texas Symphony was also founded by a female pianist and teacher based in Seguin. It never occurred to any of us to broadcast this as a ‘we’re doing music by a female composer.’ Add to this that, in 1998, when I created the first largest consortium of orchestras in the history of commissioning new music, the composer of choice was Ellen – because she is one of the most respected composers in the world, not because she is a woman, and not because she was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music. This comment is basically intended to serve the purpose that we should try to refrain from using music and composers based on gender, rather, program these works because the composers offer something unique and interesting for audiences and for the performers.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    What is missing from music halls are more black transgendered non-binary composers who are asexual. The flagrant ignorance and biased against this group is deafening! Stop the hate, represent!

    • David says:


      Save the gay vegan Iranian whales.

    • Sue says:

      That’s right! The loony have parsed human kind and fractionated it into ever-diminishing groups. This is an endless game everybody can play. It’s just not very bright.

      You could learn A LOT by watching, reading and listening to alternate material instead of engaging with ‘confirmation bias’. These two EXTREMELY intelligent men might be able to help you slough off your identity shroud:

  • Been Here Before says:

    Women composers are good. Women pianists are even better – especially the wonderful Elisabeth Leonskaja whose recital is about to begin here at the Wigmore Hall in about 10 min.

    • Paul Davis says:

      E Leonskaya’s wreck-it-all was just as clumsy and pancake-flat as she has always been. Please choose a better example.

      • Been Here Before says:

        We must have been to different concerts. I admit she had several technical mistakes, especially in the final Rondo of K 331 – but I will take her musicality and profound understanding of Mozart over a flawless technician any day!

  • M McAlpine says:

    Symphony orchestra managers and programmers may may be jolted to find subscribers who prefer Beethoven or Brahms to Ms Amy Beach not renewing their subscriptions. Let’s face it, most of us couldn’t care less whether music is by a man or a woman – we just want good music whether or not it pleases the PC crowd!

    • MacroV says:

      Amy Beach is pretty good. Those subscribers might be pleasantly surprised if they just listened and didn’t read the labels.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Women composers are NOT good because they are women composers. Most are truly awful, like most composers. Some grow to finally become good, like Beth Anderson. This is NOT good news unless these women are every bit as good as the men not being played in their place, or better. The fact that certain men operate in a cabal of power players like Kernis, does not mean women are excluded, it means everyone more talented is excluded!
    Of course, if you want to compare genders, get the LP by the Minnesota Orchestra with a piece by Libby Larsen on one side and Stephen Paulus on the other side. Both are exact contemporaries who studied at the University of Minnesota with the same professors, and collaborated in founding the Minnesota Composers Forum.

    • John Borstlap says:

      “Most are truly awful, like most composers.” Unfortunately, that is true. But it has to be said that there are many more composers since 1945, and thus also more awful composers.

  • Bruce says:

    Considering the amount of crappy music by male composers that orchestras play, just because they’re alive — and I do understand the thought process behind “we’ll never know if it’s good if we never give it a chance to be heard,” as well as the fact that lots and lots of scores are looked at and discarded as being not worth a listen, so the ones that do make it onto concert programs are not simply chosen at random (they won out over plenty of other scores that were even worse, in the opinion of the conductor/ program committee) — there’s no reason not to give female composers a chance for the same reason.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That is not quite true. In reality, there is no logic in the selection of new pieces which are performed, and every (!) choice of a new piece has its own individual history. (And most of the time, that individual history surprisingly looks very much like other individual histories.)

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I guess composers can only get better if they get to hear their music performed.

  • JoBe says:

    They can co-opt the gifted symphonist Karen Khachaturian as well.

    No further punchline.

  • Ben G. says:

    Male or female, I guess we all agree that the best composers are the DEAD ones. 😉

    • John Borstlap says:

      But that is an entirely new phenomenon. Before modernism, and the attack of 20C commercialism, premieres by living composers were anticipated with the greatest interest by audiences and critics.

  • Grüffalo says:

    Thank heavens for cheap recording technology. It’ll be the saving grace of those who want to look back at the many marvellous male composers from this period who are being passed over to meet ridiculous quotas. Of course the creators won’t experience the benefits, but it’s a good thing for music.