Graz picks feminist American

Graz picks feminist American


norman lebrecht

May 19, 2021

The styriarte festival in Graz, southern Austria, has named Mei-Ann Chen as chief conductor for the next five years. She will also head the local orchestra.

Chen, who is also music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, has pledged to promote young women composers, Austrians especially.

The first one she has named is the long-forgotten Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868-1941).


  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    ==long-forgotten Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868-1941).

    On the strength of this quartet, looks a good choice :

  • justin says:

    “…feminist American”

    what’s a “feminist” today anyway? Aren’t most people “feminists” in the same way most people believe in equal rights? I mean, do you go around calling yourself a “suffragist Brit” because (I presume) you have all your life supported women’s right to vote?

  • HugoPreuss says:

    I love Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner as well as Verdi, Rossini and Strauss like the next music aficionado. But anyone who promotes forgotten composers, male or female, is welcome nine ways from Sunday. There is so much music out there, and orchestras always play the same stuff.

    Years ago, when most of Eastern Europe joined the EU, Andrey Boreyko, then MD of the Jena Philharmonic, welcomed the new members by devoting one of the regular subscription concerts to each country. So we had the chance to listen to music from Cyprus, from Latvia, from Slovakia, from Malta, and so on. It was glorious, and it earned the MD a prize for the best program of that concert year in Germany.

    If Ms. Chen wants to promote never (or rarely) heard composers in her new tenure: fantastic! I wish I could be in Graz for her concerts!

  • J Barcelo says:

    Chen is American? I thought she was from Taiwan. Anyway, she’s great. Used to be a frequent guest here in Tucson and always exciting, memorable concerts. Her Dvorak New World from several years ago still in my memory – just marvelous. Too bad American orchestras are still unwilling to take up women conductors to the top ranks. Our loss.

    • BRUCEB says:

      Taiwanese-American, according to her website.

      “Too bad American orchestras are still unwilling to take up women conductors to the top ranks. Our loss.” Totally agree. The argument that “there just aren’t any really good ones” is getting stale.

  • Monty Earleman says:

    Young women composers: Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868-1941)- a mere child!

    • Greg Bottini says:

      As opposed to what? “Misogynist American”?
      Norman just loves to throw labels around, for clickbait value – and I for one am becoming weary of it.

      • NJ1714 says:

        dear Greg B,
        I also find it tiresome and small on his part..not to mention it taps into a very real group of trolls on this blog.
        It is a shame because it is often so good and informative.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    She has done a good deal with the Chicago Sinfonietta to champion the works of Florence Price.

    I look forward to hearing what she finds in Austria and brings back to the concert hall after decades of neglect.

  • NJ1714 says:

    dear NL,
    To label her as “feminist” in the title of the post is done by you either 1) trying to push the buttons of the anti-woke, get-a life-ers and get them riled up that the Woke Brigade is ruining culture, or 2) because you think that simply because she wants to promote female composers, she is a “feminist” and is her most headline-worthy feature.
    Either way….