Vienna Phil Circle Jerks Are Still Jacking Off;
Government Pays, Despite Cancelled Contract

News from the e-mail bag:

Austrian Federal Government cancels Vienna Philharmonic funding contract, but transfers money to twin orchestra, the Vienna State Opera

By William Osborne

On October 16, 2000, the Austrian Federal Government signed a contract with the Vienna Philharmonic that gave the orchestra yearly funding of $2.91 million (€2.29 million) for a period of 10 years.[1] In return, the Philharmonic agreed to offer women equal employment opportunity.[2] Nevertheless, over the last 13 years the 124-member orchestra has only increased its representation of women from one to three.[3]

In the 13 years since the Philharmonic agreed to admit women, about one third of the orchestra has retired and been replaced, which comes to about 40 musicians.[4] A larger increase in the number of women was thus expected.
During the 10-year period of the contract, the government gave the orchestra $29 million, which comes to almost $10 million for each woman hired. (This is in addition to the salaries, health insurance, pensions, administration, and facilities the musicians receive as members of the Vienna State Opera.)
On May 19, 2010, the Green Party of Austria requested that the soon-to-expire contract, known as the Republiksvertrag, not be renewed.[5] Cultural Minister Claudia Schmied consented but immediately transferred the money to the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, which is essentially the same orchestra as the Philharmonic. (All members of the Philharmonic are also members of the State Opera Orchestra.)
In an interview with the Austrian Press Agency, the Green Party cultural speaker, Wolfgang Zinggl, said: “It is encouraging that Cultural Minister Schmied has responded to the long-standing request of Greens and dissolved the democratically completely unacceptable Republiksvertrag with the Vienna Philharmonic.” But in light of the immediate transfer of the funds to the orchestra under another name, he commented on the cynical
“…it doesn’t look like Claudia Schmied and the Philharmonic Chairman, Clemens Hellsberg, seriously want to change anything in this men’s group. If Hellsberg cynically presents a claim of equal opportunity, then the many excellent women musicians in Austria are actually being ridiculed, especially since the money will still flow into the pockets of the Philharmonic’s members via the detour of the State Opera Orchestra.”[6]
Over the years, the American press has often erroneously stated that the Philharmonic agreed to admit women due to pressure from the Austrian government. In reality, the Austrian government has done very little. By massively funding the State Opera Orchestra/Vienna Philharmonic, it continues to break its own laws against discrimination. The current transfer of funds from the orchestra’s Philharmonic formation to its opera formation is a case in point. It is in effect, a form of bureaucratic money-laundering that allows the government to continue giving the Philharmonic’s members almost $3 million a year in spite of the orchestra’s continuing discrimination against women.
[1] “Kulturministerin Claudia Schmied und Wiener Philharmoniker lösen ‘Republiksvertrag’ auf,” Austrian Press Agency (June 10, 2010.)
[2] ibid.
[3] “The Representation of Women in European and American Orchestras, Update 2010, Web site of William Osborne. See also the personnel roster of the Vienna Philharmonic on the orchestra’s Web site.
[4] The average orchestra musician works for about 30 to 35 years before retirement. Since 13 years is more than a third of that period, at least a third of the orchestra has retired since it agreed to admit women in 1997.
[5] “Entschliessungsantrag des Abgeordneten Zinggl,” May 19, 2010. The complete text is on the Web site of the Austrian Parliament.
[6] “Frauenanteil von 1 auf 3 erhöht …,” on Web site of the Green Party of Austria (June 25, 2010)

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