Why won’t Salzburg hire women conductors?

Why won’t Salzburg hire women conductors?


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2019

The local Nachrichten reports that there is only one woman engaged this summer – Laurence Equilbey – a lone female in a male enclave.

The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, whose incoming music director is Marin Alsop, will be conducted by Jonathan Nott.

The Vienna Philharmonic, which has no problem with women any more, is stuck all summer with male sticks.

The Salzburg Festival has a female president who is blind to gender equality.

The festival is living, as usual, in another century.


  • no says:

    misunderstanding : mdme Equilbey isn t a conductor.

    • AndrewB says:

      Well she is conducting music by Pascal Dusapin at the Salzburg Festival tonight. She conducts regularly for operatic productions at the Opera Comique , symphony concerts and choral works worldwide particularly with Insula Orchestra and Choeur de chambre Accentus both of which she founded and developed .There is a whole list of recordings on which she conducts , many of them award winning.

      • no says:

        bad musician, no conducting technique, strange personality (THAT comes closer to conducting, yes) . stop that : she isn t a conductor. she is successful, that s something else.

  • Jean says:

    Andrès Orozco-Estrada mot Marin Alsop

  • sycorax says:

    Gender equality and Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler … that must be a joke. The lady obviously thinks “I needed Daddy to get in, so let other women use their connections, too.”
    Besides it’s widely known that Salzburg is very old fashioned – and I’m now waiting for the good, old statement to the subject: “When the girls are finally good enough they’ll make it. But they can’t wish they’ll get hired only for the gender equality.”
    I hope our granddaughters will finally overcome the conservative old chauvinists and the catty women keeping to them.

    • Andrew R. Barnard says:

      Oh, but aren’t you just wishing they’d be hired for gender equality? Or is there actually a great female conductor you have in mind that you want in front of the Vienna Phil? This can’t be so vague.

      I’m worried that people like you are more worried about seeing female conductors in front of the orchestra than hearing great music.

      So some relatively inexperienced female director would have been hired. And then? We get excited because we’re equalizing sex ratios? Does anyone listen for the music any more?

      • sycorax says:

        Yes, of course. The girls simply aren’t good enough ….
        I wonder how long we’ll get to hear this old story.

        • Andrew R. Barnard says:

          To make this simpler for us, who are the women that you think would be more musically satisfying than the men currently scheduled?

          • Saxon Broken says:

            There are some younger women establishing a reputation, but very few older female conductors. At the moment there probably aren’t enough established female conductors to go round all the festivals. But things are changing.

  • John Rook says:

    Maybe they’re just not interested in genuflecting before the Twitter brigade and prefer to choose their guests according to their own criteria.

    • Alan says:

      But that’s not allowed any more John.

      I’ve seen female vocalists, soloists, members of orchestras, actresses, stagehands, ticket sellers and checkers, bar staff, shop staff and God knows what else in Salzburg. But a lack of female conductors means the festival is apparently living in another century.

      The VPO orchestra concerts are being conducted by Blomstedt, Muti, Welser Most, Barenboim and Haitink. Should we ditch a couple of them just so a woman can have a go? What have they done in their careers to deserve that?

      It’s just boring at this stage. If a major reason you consume culture is gender then you’re beyond saving imho.

      • Erato says:

        The problem is not the Festival. The problem is the ViennaPhil who can agree or veto a conductor. And at this point, they apparently don’t want to have women in front of them.

        Being obliged to hire women as musicians is already something they had to accept, it was a defeat.

        The Intendant and his staff would be probably happy to hire women, but as a woman, working in this business, I can only say that it is no fun to be in front of an orchestra which does not respect the current conductors. And which continues to kill any conductor having the bad idea to want to perform Mozart differently, not like 100 years ago.

        To answer the question of who could be the female conductor to hire for Salzburg, does someone has an answer ?

  • Matt says:

    Classical music is one of the most liberal professions there is. Good conductors are rare enough to begin with, its idiotic to think great orchestras shoud give a stick to a woman just to get political points, but yeah, it must be oppression. Have you ever played in a professional orchestra? Lebrecht is an idiot, the TMZ of classical music.

    • sycorax says:

      I have played in professional orchestras (three of them TVK A) and I’ve even started playing in an orchestra under the baton of a woman!
      That was around 40 years ago – and since then nothing has changed. Women with the baton are still seen as oddity, men are still believing that out there aren’t any women good enough to be in front of the “big” orchestras.
      Only that’s not true. Marin Alsop, Simone Young, Speranza Scapucci, Julia Jones, Joana Mallwitz … they are at least as good as some men in front of the big orchestras and they certainly don’t get their jobs only for political correctness. However, they don’t get some jobs – like one in Salzburg – because some men just don’t get that gender shouldn’t matter.

      • Andrew R. Barnard says:

        You’re being irresponsible and trying the straw man the arguments. No one is saying that there aren’t “any” women good enough to be in front of the best orchestras. There just aren’t nearly as many.

        You seem to admit this yourself. You list five names that are “at least as good as some men”. Well, yeah, definitely. There are male conductors at least as good as the Salzburg guests who didn’t get invited either. I’m not sure what this proves. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that none of the women you list are as qualified to direct the Vienna Phil as the men who are engaged.

        Don’t even try to straw man me and say that I’m arguing that they aren’t good because they’re women. You’re the one trying to make gender matter here. Let’s have the most qualified people get the job, REGARDLESS of sex.

  • Gustavo says:

    Remember the Lucerne-approach?


    Gimmick (sex sells) or breakthrough (“overcoming the conservative old chauvinists”)?

    Interestingly, no one is discussing gender equality among composers featuring in summer festivals…

  • Richard says:

    Simple because they are not as good as we think

  • How about hiring based on qualifications REGARDLESS of sex and skin color?!

    • Gustavo says:

      …and based on artistic abilities regardless of origin, nationality and religion.

    • John Rook says:

      It would also be interesting to select conductors based on anonymous recordings, rather like auditioning with a screen.

    • sycorax says:

      Problem is: We wait for that since around 50 years and nothing happened in this time. So it’s time to do something!

      • Andrew R. Barnard says:

        What do you mean nothing has happened? There are far more female directors, particularly high profile ones, than there were 50 years ago.

      • Tamino says:

        Yes, women, do something. Get interested in Numbers to study and pursue the career of orchestral conducting. Then, by the quasi natural laws of statistics, there will also be more good women conductors. Stop playing the victim card. Get working. It’s tough for anyone. As Sieglinde Freud said: sometimes a rejection based on professional grounds is just a rejection based on professional grounds.

  • Bn says:

    Check your information. Vienna Symphony Orchestra is not playing in Salzburg in the summer. And the incoming chef of the orchestra is Orozco – Estrada. Alsop is conducting Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna

  • Robert Dussler says:

    I think it is simplistic to argue, as I see in most comments, that disregard for gender equality has nothing to do with the Salzburg situation, that it is simply about hiring the best, irrespective of gender. It is possible to examine this more deeply, but you need to genuinely care about gender equality to be motivated to do this. Do you… ?

    • Andrew R. Barnard says:

      You still seem to be pitting choosing the best against “equality”, which is dangerous doctrine. In order for your view of equality to be achieved, will we need to sack qualified males because of their sex?

      Isn’t the whole point that we shouldn’t hire or exclude because of sex?

  • Eric B says:

    Pffff…. this gender equality obsession is starting to get old… While you’re at it, make sure you compute the ration of white conductors vs non-whites, straight vs gays, and so on….

  • Eric B says:

    Pffff…. this gender equality obsession is starting to get old… While you’re at it, make sure you compute the ration of white conductors vs non-whites, straight vs gays, and so on….

    • Robert Dussler says:

      These are very valid concerns too,if you are interested in equality. Why are there such discrepancies? We are doing pretty well with gay vs straight, which is an achievement that took thought and effort and a willingness to change our minds.

  • Triistan says:

    The outgoing President is a woman indeed and has been there for ages (she still hardly knows anything about music) but she is not at all responsible for any artistic decisions so ask Mr Hinterhäuser, the Darling of the German press

    • Erato says:

      ask the musicians of the Vienna Phil. They can veto anyone, even and especially good conductors, males or not, just because the want to shuttle the dust.