It’s the first day in Marin Alsop’s new life

It’s the first day in Marin Alsop’s new life


norman lebrecht

October 23, 2019

The US music director takes up the stick today as chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

How many firsts is that?

Alsop, 63, is the first woman chief in Vienna, the first American, the first to open with contemporary works.

In addition to a commission from Lera Auerbach, she will kick off tomorrow night with Rapture, by her recently-departed friend Christopher Rouse.



  • Erste Flöte says:

    I support female conductors, but Marin Alsop is such a mediocre musician and conductor… As professional players, we notice exactly what a conductor is capable of hearing and how good their skills are. In Alsop’s case – she lacks some very basic musicianship skills, not to mention talent or understanding of Viennese music. I truly feel sorry that my colleagues in Vienna have to work with a conductor who built her career over social media rather than real talent and musicianship.

    • Chris says:


    • Jack says:

      Funny how she’s gotten this far. Your anonymity negates anything you have to say. And that you presume to speak for others (the mythical “we”) says even less. Says more about you than Ms. Alsop. My advice: You had better remain anonymous.

    • Monsoon says:

      And there are no shortage of mediocre male conductors who hold prestigious posts because for generations, opera companies and orchestras only hired white men?

      I just love how when people complain about “female conductors,” the speak as if all of the male conductors got by purely on merit.

    • Karl says:

      I didn’t know identity politics has spread to Austria. My condolences. If you want to avoid it getting worse stop saying things like “I support female conductors” and start saying “I support talented conductors”.

    • Steve says:

      On the other hand she is an exceptionally good conductor in contemporary/modern music and, as the Vienna Radio Symphony is the most adventurous of the three Vienna orchestras – always programming new music – then this seems an excellent choice.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I wholeheartedly disagree with “First Flute”. Alsop has made many fine recordings in Baltimore and Sau Paulo. I saw her with the B.S.O. play an outstanding Prokofiev 5 on tour. I do live in Santa Cruz and must admit that I only saw her conduct the Cabrillo Music Festival just a couple of times (the festival is dedicated to modern and new works). However, those performances were quite good and it was obvious that the musicians – many of whom still fly in from around the country – were very dedicated to her and the orchestra. So sure, if you’re going to hold her up to top drawer Beethoven and Brahms standards, . . . wait! . . she did record Brahms with the London Phil. on Naxos and it’s quite good. I’ve kept her recording of Brahms 3 because I feel it’s extremely good. Regardless, the point is this: if she’s taking over the V.R.S.O. to continue their tradition of presenting more modern works in Vienna, you’re in very good hands.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      E-F: “Marin Alsop is such a mediocre musician and conductor”

      She is pretty much having the career she deserves, regardless of gender. A solid competence but not a really top tier conductor. And she gets jobs like Baltimore and Bournemouth which reflects this. It still takes a reasonable amount of talent to get those jobs, which she has.

  • Impromptu says:

    She just finished ruining Baltimore so she is moving to her next project. Totally unbelievable! I guess everything can be made to look good when you hire a PR army to cover your lack of professionalism and capabilities.

    • Mock Mahler says:

      I can assure you that she is not the one(s) that ruined Baltimore.

    • robert freeman says:

      The Baltimore situation is a very serious one, but the long-term future there is yet to be decided on.

    • MacroV says:

      She has no in way ruined Baltimore. Whatever her shortcomings as an interpreter – according to some naysayers here – she is a great institutional leader. And the Baltimore SO, even with its current troubles, plays great.

  • Ka123 says:

    MA is such an overrated conductor, why do we have to keep hearing about this joke??? I remember playing under her a couple of years ago, it was such a torture… Yet, the majority of players are afraid of saying anything (since they will be immediately called chauvinists). She loves saying she was the first this and first that, but what does it worth if she can’t conduct? I guess talent doesn’t mean anything this days, the only thing that matters is how many connections you have and how many posts you are posting on social media every day. Sad.

  • Nik says:

    “Alsop, 63, is the first woman chief in Vienna, the first American, the first to open with contemporary works.”
    One of her predecessors is Dennis Russell Davies. What do you suppose is his nationality?
    I haven’t the time or wherewithal to rummage through the RSO’s programme archives, but I’d be very surprised if this was the first time they opened a season with a contemporary work. What makes you so sure about this, Norman?

  • Gustavo says:

    It’s al so predictive!

  • The View from America says:

    When a person feels compelled, either directly or through surrogates and PR flaks, to constantly trumpet being “first in this” or “the first that,” it smacks of unresolved “playground issues.”

    It’s also rather tasteless — even as most everyone sees through the hype.

    It’s even worse when some of the claims are questionable or demonstrably false. Then it starts to look just pathetic.

    This is hardly the legacy any conductor should want to have. Some trusted friend needs to take Marin Alsop aside and give her a little tough-love advice. Perhaps then her career wouldn’t be the subject of so much snickering (and even outright ridicule).

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Everybody needs to take a deep breath when it comes to Alsop. No, she’s not in the very elite of the world, but the big American names are so obviously rife with big names who deliver so many dud performances. Ask yourselves, why, in a not particularly distinguished population that includes Gilbert, Robertson, Spano, Gaffigan, Nagano, Schwartz, does Alsop take so much more abuse? The only answer I can come up with is that she is a woman, and is therefore singled out.

    Alsop has always been strong in 20th century repertoire, and frankly, over her time in Baltimore she has improved vastly in standard repertoire. Just this past week I heard a magnificent Brahms 4 and Tristan P&L. She may yet be one of the few American conductors to fulfill her potential. And even if it took her thirty years to get there, think of how long it took dozens of other conductors we remember as great who delivered duds for decades before they figured everything out….

    • Steve says:

      How often do you hear the names of those other conductors on pages like this compared with Alsop? Hardly ever. She’s getting gigs based on her gender, not her talent. Then orchestras can say they “support women and equal rights” or some such BS.

    • Henry Cohen says:

      Speaking of 20th-century repertoire, I thought that Hindemith’s Sancta Susanna was the highlight of the concert that included Brahms 4 and Tristan P&L. Hi, Evan.

    • The View from America says:

      “The only answer I can come up with is that she is a woman, and is therefore singled out.”


      And to underscore the point, take a look at the comments below this SD article from just a few days ago:

      They’re like night and day.

    • David says:

      Evan, your comments are very apt and accurate, and don’t forget that quite superb Mahler Sym #9 we heard at the end of last season.

    • Evan Tucker says:

      I don’t know what I expected but some of the responses here are incredibly ugly, and whether you’re conscious of your prejudices, they scream from the page.

      If she’s getting gigs based on her gender, why did Lenny mentor her, he could have picked dozens of women conductors. Why do modern composers entrust her with their premieres again and again when a lot of them could choose half a dozen others? No, she’s not Leonard Bernstein, who cares? She’s a good professional who can sometimes give fantastic performances, it’s all you can ask from most conductors at American orchestras these days. If you really think that she’s worse than a hundred other conductors who are not a woman, you are not looking at her skill, you’re just assuming that she got to where she was based on her gender, and that somehow the person she got ahead of would be another Leonard Bernstein, when in all likelihood the conductor who’d fill her space would be just another mediocre male conductor – of which there are hundreds on the professional circuit.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Evan: “Gilbert, Robertson, Spano, Gaffigan, Nagano, Schwartz…and Alsop”.

        I have to agree, she is definitely as good as the others you mention. Sure, she is not one of the very best, but nevertheless a competent, reliable and solid professional. I really do wish people would give much more credit to such middle-tier conductors.

  • PHF says:

    In Brazil she was considered almost a Goddess… yes, sad, but that’s the joke.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Mediocre conductor.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Ps: one among many.

  • I’ve known Ms. Alsop for 35 years and she’s one of the finest musicians I’ve ever worked with. Years ago, I was playing with the visiting Stuttgart Ballet at Lincoln Center when she stepped in on a day’s notice (conductor left for family emergency) to conduct Mahler 5 for the first time in her career. She did not make one mistake and triumphed musically on top of it — in one of the most high-pressure situations ever. I don’t believe social media started until she had already been MD of many major orchestras for decades. But hey dude…why don’t you go out there and show us how it’s done? We’re waiting with bated breath.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Well Bernstein loved MA and did much to promote her.
    So there must be something there !

    • Lenny says:

      FYI, the whole Bernstein thing that MA is constantly using to promote her career is nothing but cheap publicity and fake news. Yes – she attended his masterclass as a student and got 5 awesome pics with him (which she is putting on social media every couple of days). However, her own created stories about how close they were and how he helped her with her career because he thought she was a great talent HAVE NO PROOF. That’s the thing with Alsop – she is very good with creating an impression by using the media and using people / students to vouch for her. And yeah – sadly enough, she manages to fool some of the public. However, judging the comments and votes here, it looks like most people are not falling for it. If Bernstein was alive today and knew what she is doing, I’m sure she would have already been sued by now.

      • Blair Tindall says:

        Marin is terrific. Thank you for vouching that your gender (male) is (sometimes, thank goodness most are not) biased and unfair. AND…please let us know when you are on the podium! We can’t wait. Usually, people of your sort insinuate women are using men sexually. This is obviously not the case here. Again, we await your masterful conducting video!

      • Stereo says:

        And the critics Lenny!

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    Well, if this article informs anything, it’s that Slippedisc REALLY hates Marin Alsop.

  • Debuschubertussy says:

    So many bu++-hurt comments here about MA. Guess what people…a conductor’s job is to be a public face, an ambassador, a compelling presence, a PR person, a social media maven…all these things in addition to being a musician (and, some might argue, more important than being a musician). Marin Alsop might not be the best conductor in the world, or whatever other musical measure you might want to try to impose, but by the counts that matter most (i.e. the ones that involve being a visible face, being somewhat who makes headlines, someone who puts classical music on the map, someone the public can really behind)…she is phenomenal.

    I hate to say it, but sometimes music skills don’t matter quite as much.

  • LewesBird says:

    I’m often amused to have a forensic look at the “likes” and “dislikes” engendered by Slippedisc articles. Never until this article here have I seen so much correlation between unusually huge numbers of likes for any comment negative of Alsop, or likewise huge numbers of dislikes for any comment positive of her.

    One can ascribe this to the divisive nature of the topic — i.e. lots of people love her and lots of people hate her, and this is therefore reflected in the likes / dislikes.

    Except that in some of the most intense or divisive topics discussed on Slippedisc in past years — far more incendiary and controversial than the specious topic of just how good or bad Marin Alsop is — these sorts of like/dislike numbers achieved here were never reached… it’s really rare to hit triple digits, particularly for a pedestrian topic.

    So if I were a betting person, I’d bet that some dedicated haters of Marin Alsop — perhaps a whole damn orchestra or professional mailing list — advertised this post to their like-minded members to go on here and pack the like/dislike “vote”. Not like we haven’t seen that happen before on Slippedisc.

    I have, of course, zero proof of this. #justsayin.