6 men, 6 women contest conductor champs

6 men, 6 women contest conductor champs


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2021

The Malko Competition in Denmark has reached its final 12 with an even gender split.

Among the surviving contestants are two from the UK, Chloe Rooke and Joel Sandelson, Chloe Dufresne from France (pictured) and the Austrian Katharina Wincor.

All Russian and American entrants were eliminated at the first hurdle.

The jury is chaired by Fabio Luisi.


Rooke and Sandelson are also finalists in the Rotterdam International Conducting Competition this week. How can they be at both finals at once?


  • La plus belle voix says:

    No transgender?

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Highlighting the (presumably Panglossian) gender split raises more questions than it answers. What was the gender split of the initial entrants? Was the competition run as a blind audition?

    • BRUCEB says:

      Not sure how you could run a “blind” conducting competition …?

      • Paul Dawson says:

        Easiest thing in the world. The judges listen but do not watch.

        • BRUCEB says:

          So they’d have no way of knowing if the orchestra is responding to the conductor’s gestures or ignoring them completely. Either method can help an orchestra sound better or worse…

          Also, I don’t know but I am assuming that there would be an element of rehearsal involved, i.e. the conductor stops and tells what they want, and the jury judges whether they are effective. Otherwise it’s just a series of run-throughs. You’d have to disguise each candidate’s voice.

        • Freewheeler says:

          That would like judging the quality of wine without being able to read the label. Even the connoisseurs are flummoxed!

      • Nick says:

        Bravo!!!! They need no sound also in Denmark!!

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      Two observations:
      1. Katharina Wincor is (or was) the assistant of Luisi in Dallas.
      2. Women are still a small percentage of the conducting students at major conservatoires. How come so many of the new signings by orchestras/theater/agencies, and half of the participants in this competition are women? Is the average female conductor much better than the average meale conductor?
      3. Competitions should dissapear. They are for horses, as Bartok once said.

      • Saxon says:

        2: reply.

        Um, you seem to believe that the proportion of good conductors should match the proportion of each gender at major conservatories. However, it is certainly possible that many mediocre men enrol at the conservatory, but only highly talented women enrol.

  • Coincidence says:

    Coming from 17 men and 7 women in the first round, Malko has a particularly strong female conductors this year.

    • Maestra says:

      I predict that a woman will win it this year.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Thank you. 11 men and 1 woman eliminated in the first round. Blind auditions?

      • BRUCEB says:

        One possible solution: to make it fair, they could have had a quota to eliminate equal numbers of men and women (6 of each, to bring the original 24 down to 12), which would leave 11 men and one woman.

        In other words, to advance to the finals, you would have to be, in the eyes of the jury, the best female conductor or the 6th-best male conductor.

  • Jean-Pierre says:

    Typical they eliminate all the good conductors. Why not Junping Qian?
    And the orchestra has never sounded worse. Really low level this year.

    This competition is about ‘image’, not conducting. They want young enthusiastic faces to sell classical music. Fabio Luisi picks his own assistant.

  • RW2013 says:

    Let’s hope that the Wincor has learned something about string-playing (or at least bluffs that she does).