French composer discovers the Vienna Philharmonic lacks diversity

French composer discovers the Vienna Philharmonic lacks diversity


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2021

A tweet from the French-Lebanese trumpeter and jazz composer Ibrahim Maalouf:

Seems he’s been watching every year – chaque année – and only just noticed it.


  • Presumably this person has observed the lack of Muslims or Arabs. Perhaps the Koranic ban on music has something to do with what he considers a deplorable condition. Frankly, I dont pay much attention to all of these grievances any more since they have little to do with
    reality and more to do with “joining the gang” to disrupt
    some organization or society.

    • Christopher Culver says:

      “Perhaps the Koranic ban on music has something to do with what he considers a deplorable condition.”

      Absolutely not. If you travel the Muslim world, you hear music everywhere: music videos playing on the television in whatever eatery you go to, blaring from the cars driving by you, being performed in town squares. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and Tajikistan, to name just a few countries in the region, have local classical traditions that they are very proud of.

      Sure, some ultra-devout people in the Muslim world believe that music is strictly forbidden, but it is a pity that many people in the West have mistakenly assumed that this view is representative of what you actually get among Muslim countries. They are veritable assaults on the ears sometimes.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The Wiener Phil. is diverse enough.

    • kind but mad Jane says:

      More than diverse enough.

      [redacted: racial abuse]
      Be that as it may: The Vienna Philharmonic can do whatever the hell it wants to.

      Yes I’d applaud if they kick out a few current members, but that’s not for me to decide. It’s their decision and I respect it.

      What I do not respect, and frankly disgusts me, is when an orchestra’s “sovereignty” is run into the ground by some political or social issue that is brought up. Stop this damn madness. It’s the orchestra’s decision. It’s art; and art is freedom; and needs to stay in the realm of freedom.

      If Ibrahim Maalouf wants a diverse orchestra, he’s free to be the founder of one. That damn politically correct hypocrite, is busy pushing all the buttons of that “hypermoral woke sameness” agenda. I hate people doing braindead agenda-amplifying. It’s just so cheap and makes me go all queasy and mad!

      • Reducer says:

        “[redacted: racial abuse]”

        Norman: You sound like Ibrahim Maalouf yourself. I suggest you change it to just a single word:

        • John Borstlap says:

          It is exactly like [redacted] after his [redacted]….!

        • doth we do "Censorship"? says:


          Ibrahim Maalouf can basically say “get rid of the native whites from the orchestra” and it’s all quite civil fine and dandy. Nobody screaming “abuse”.

          But have a person voice the opinion that maybe the orchestra should be more conservative, noting that very obviously there are Japanese-looking musicians playing in it, and suddenly it’s termed “racial abuse”.

          So yes; I’d also say… perhaps get rid of the “racial abuse” part. That’s not really neutral.

          Yes, the statement about the Asians (or whatever) was a bit of a though one, but do we really need to censor it?? No. And the writer goes a long way, to explain that it’s the orchestra’s choice.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Get used to this; there will be 4 more years of it – and worse – in the USA. Beyond hideous.

  • V. Lind says:

    What, they are only violins?

    As far as |I am concerned, the main issue of an orchestra is making sure each musical section is at capacity. In other words, a diversity of instruments. Everything else is sociology.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But also among the instruments there is lack of diversity. All the woodwinds are blown into, and the only difference with the brass is that they are made of metal. All the strings are strings, even their voluptuous forms are the same, be them small (violins) or big (double basses). The continuous injustice of objects being slammed in the persuccion section is also an important point needing reform.

      And then we are not even speaking of the inequality of the separate parts that instruments have to play in a concert. Why do bassoons have to rumble most of the time below the middle C? And get into suspicious relationships with bass clarinets so that they can not be heard separately? It’s a scandal. The same with the other parts: flutes always high, oboes always penetrating – another behavior type justly considered as indecently intrusive – and then we are not even speaking of the dominance of brass in tuttis. The whole orchestra, including players and the instruments themselves and the despiccable parts they have to play, is a violation of civilised values, and an immoral orgy of injustice.

    • David says:

      By this logic, why should anyone care about anyone else’s welfare? All I care about is that the end product I purchase be good and reasonably priced, so why care about all the white people of the rust belt who’ve lost jobs due to globalization and concerns for the environment? Why care about people below poverty line stuck with multiple low paying jobs? Why should you get unemployment benefits? You got rightly fired, I don’t care because you are replaced by someone better. Why are you even receiving social security/pension/tax breaks? Why should we even pay for your education?

      So in conclusion, no, the only thing that matters in music isn’t music. It’s also about the wellbeing of musicians lives, and the freedom and justice that surrounds musicians lives. Please have some more imagination and empathy, and refrain from separating music from society, as if it somehow magically appears by the gods of music?

    • William Safford says:

      “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)?’ and my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

      –Ruth Bader Ginsberg

      • Hayne says:

        Similar great jurisprudence as when Thurgood Marshall was asked by another justice about affirmative action being racism. His answer? “It’s our turn now.” States should nullify and/or
        secede to deal with these kind of morons. That’s right I said it.

        • Bone says:

          Being a southerner in the US, I believe I am uniquely qualified to comment regarding secession:
          Been there. Done that. Can’t wear the t-shirt, though.

          • Patricia says:

            I am an American who lives in Central New York State. I’d be happy to see corrupt Gnu York CIty and California secede. To paraphrase the Mikado, “They’d none of them be missed.”

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            They remind me of the old Italian city states; too powerful and caring nothing about what goes on beyond their gates.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            Patricia: YOU’RE FIRED!

          • Greg Bottini says:

            Bone – short for bonehead.

        • William Safford says:

          You clearly do not understand or accept the issues, or the history that lies behind that quip.

  • Garib says:

    Rather than doing stupid statements, he’d better practice his soloing if he wants to be recognized as a “jazz musician”, because for a long time he’s been the laugh of the Jazz community…

  • Jambon beurre says:

    Welcome to french dogmatism…

    • jaypee says:

      I prefer French dogmatism to American stupidity.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        Both choices are unwise, but on further analysis I would keep to stupidity. While stupidity can be opposed by reason or by alternative stupidity (what works best), by using some kind of obscure (stupid) logic the dogmatic has always right.

  • Stehplatz says:

    The Vienna Phil is very diverse. The trumpets love beer, the trombones whisky and the harp cocktails.

    • Bone says:

      As a trombonist, I believe I’m uniquely qualified to comment regarding drink preference for my ilk:
      scotch, not bourbon.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Schoenberg was used to drink a gin when taking an aperitif before a meal in a restaurant, but insisted: ‘… without TONIC, please.’

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Does he want orchestras to jettison blind auditions?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Hey, I thought diversity is supposed to be bad (re: a few postings ago).
    Is diversity supposed to be good now?

  • christopher storey says:

    Why do you give publicity to morons such as this Man ?

  • E says:

    One finds diversity in the last names of the musicians. Within the past ten years, women have begun to be accepted as permanent members of the orchestra.

  • JussiB says:

    I’m not white but I would not want to see Vienna Phil succumbing to PC pressure to hire minorities and women and compromising their unique ‘Vienna Phil sound’. Sadly it’s already too late.

  • Nick says:

    Back to Lebanon!! Lebanon is more diversified!

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Well, it was…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Doesn’t he have a city to repair after that explosion? Or should somebody else be wheeling the barrows and clearing the rubble? I wonder if that cohort is diverse enough to be doing that job. Or is diversity only to be found in the most highly desirable jobs?

  • Maria says:

    A whole load of blokes and the token women. Boys club, unless half are trans!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Shocking, isn’t it. Just so typical of composers and so yesterday!!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Recent undercover research has discovered that 34% of the members are actually women, but disguised. There is a special private school in Vienna where female musicians learn to behave masculine and devise perfect make-up. It all contributes to the special sound.

  • Philomena says:

    If the Vienna Phil would emulate other cultural institutions in non-Western nations, they’d establish a rule of the orchestra being limited to native-Austrians. Nothing wrong with that. They owe nothing to “diversity”, grow a backbone. If they want to open it up to foreign players, that is their right to do so but it should never be assumed or forced.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Exactly. Why would a local ensemble be forced to adapt? The London gentlemen clubs are left alone, as Italian mandoline ensembles which are female. Every other orchestra in the world is uninterested in gender equality but nonetheless do include females. But the exception draws all the attention and has to excell also in the social justice field, which is not their job.

  • Gustavo says:


    They’ve played “E.T.'”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List”.

    How more diverse can you get?

  • french horn says:

    Maalouf is lebanese, not french ! When I see african football teams, I think they lack diversity as well : they are ALL blacks ! What a surprise !

  • Da-vid says:

    You want a job in Vienna Phil? Fairly simple: take the audition and be the best one for the job on that day! Doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, the audition is usually behind a screen.

  • JussiB says:

    The American basketball players are mostly black and their coaches white…..lack of diversity there but nobody says anything.