Vienna Philharmonic plays American woman composer for Christmas

Vienna Philharmonic plays American woman composer for Christmas


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2020

This is the orchestra’s musical Christmas card:

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra offers their Holiday gratitude with the latest installment of their Musical Greetings series. The video contains two romantic and lyrical pieces played by the Orchestra’s Concertmaster, Rainer Honeck, on the violin and Anneleen Lenaerts on the harp: Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s, Tanzlied des Pierrot, Op. 12 from Opera ‘Die tote Stadt’ and Amy Beach’s Berceuse, the second of her Three Compositions for Violin and Piano, Op. 40. These beautiful pieces have been recorded just for The Vienna Philharmonic Society in the Brahms Saal of the Musikverein in Vienna.



  • Pianofortissimo says:

    I loathe certain “PC” attitude overrating female composers just because of their gender, but I have to mention a very good Swedish composer who has been “re-evaluated” because of her gender but is a very good composer: Elfrida Andrée (1840-1929). If you are going to give a chance to this “discovery”, check her chamber music, especially the early Pianotrio nr 1 c-moll (1860) – I did not listen to much of her music for orchestra.

    • Herbie G says:

      Try Augusta Holmes Augusta Holmès’ Andromède, Lili Boulanger’s Psalm 24 or the overture to ‘The Wreckers’ by Ethel Smyth. That will clean the wax out of your ears!

    • Marfisa says:

      Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: awarded a Pulitzer in 1983 for her first symphony. Her second features a solo cello: Exciting, enticing, well-structured, beautifully orchestrated. Listen.

      And, a completely irrelevant fact, she is an American female composer!

  • E Rand says:


    (rolling eyes)

  • James says:

    Yes, wonderful, next to the piddling salon output of this minor hat-wearing socialite, “Mrs. Beach”, we can throw all of Wagner and Brahms in the trash!

    • BruceB says:

      Yes, because that’s exactly what’s happening, isn’t it.


      • Lena says:

        Life is too short to listen to garbage promoted by the “political correctness” police, and have it played by a world-class orchestra is adding an insult to injury.

        • Marfisa says:

          Lena indeed didn’t listen to it, or even read the description, unless she thinks that one harp and one violin constitutes an orchestra. So her ‘garbage ‘judgment is meaningless.

          PS on political correctness: I assume from the name that ‘Lena’ is female; but if not, I apologize if I have offended.

  • Pete kurian says:

    (bautiful gesture by Vienna Philharmonic.. one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Merry Xmas and Happy New year to all it’s members…

  • Anita Tipping-Wheeler says:

    I’ve been there and enjoyed it immensely. I take all my husbands to Vienna….just not at the same time!!! Vienna such a beautiful city and great music. Can’t wait to go back. No 3rd husband to take….but I have time!!

  • IP says:

    So poor Amy Beach is to become something akin to Comrade Stalin?

  • BruceB says:

    The Beach starts at about 4:55 for those interested.

  • Ed says:

    Johanna Kinkel, Soledad Bengoechea, Pauline Viardot…

  • I am sure that performing a work by Amy Beach will be considered very meaningful and much appreciated by the many women who worked for years to bring women into the Vienna Philharmonic. It is a kind and noble gesture that does the orchestra and Austria credit.

    Another positive development is that about a month ago, the German language Wiki article about the Philharmonic finally addressed the orchestra’s late inclusion of women. That topic has been part of the wiki articles about the orchestra in all other languages for the last 20 years, but has been notably absent in the one in German.

    The German article now also notes that Asians still have very little chance of becoming members.

    The ongoing problems aside, many are happy to see the continuing progress.

    • Marfisa says:

      “… very meaningful and much appreciated by the many women …” “A kind and noble gesture …”.

      Somewhat patronising. You seem to be implying that this piece was chosen for the sex of its composer, not for its merit. Do women need kindness offered in a spirit of old-fashioned chivalry? Judging by a quick search through YouTube, works by Amy Beach are performed just as often as, or perhaps more often than, her fellow members of the Second New England School (with whom I’m sure you are familiar).

      Women may in fact find the choice of Berceuse meaningful in a demeaning way: a woman’s place is by the cradle? I’m not sure that Mrs Beach would be happy to think of her work being represented by this sweet but undemanding trifle.

      • William Safford says:

        I read Mr. Osborne’s comment in a different way.

        I did not read it to say that the piece was chosen “for the sex of its composer, not for its merit.”

        Instead, I think his point is that the piece was chosen for its merit, and not *rejected* “for the sex of its composer.”

        • Marfisa says:

          I hope that your reading of the comment is correct, since that is exactly how it should be. But Mr Osborne said nothing about merit (and I do wonder if he actually listened to the piece), and quite a lot about women, so I have some reason for my uncharitable suspicion.

          But in the end it hardly matters whether gender or merit is the primary criterion, provided that good composers do get recognized, and that the old nonsense about women not having the right sort of brain to compose music is buried completely and forever.

          (I would have preferred Rebecca Clarke’s Lullaby on a old Irish tune.)

          • William Safford says:

            I have read several of Mr. Osborne’s monographs, and I am familiar with his wife’s direct experiences with sexual discrimination in an orchestra.

            If you click on his name, it will take you to his website, where you can read what is there.

            Try reading his post again, this time at face value, without reading any hint of irony into it.

            Again, without speaking for him, I feel fairly confident in my reading of what he wrote.

      • Violin Accordion says:

        Wot ? No British female composer ?

  • Barbarian at the Gates says:

    In past times, women were often put down with the comment that they were ” too emotional”. When you read some of the hysteria generated by some men here you have to laugh!!