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Vienna Philharmonic states its anti-women defence

They’re getting ready for the big New Year gig next week and, as always, the world will look on in amazement at the biggest exclusion zone for women outside the Vatican and Mecca.

There may be five or six female players in the ranks on New Year’s Day, but that’s no more than tokenism as the orchestra maintains its stubborn antediluvian resistance to human rights and European law.

ORF, the state broadcaster, ran an item today on the orchestra’s inequality. The orchestra’s chairman, Clemens Hellsberg (below), was asked why they persisted in refusing to admit a fairer representation of women. His response: ‘In art, you can’t impose quotas (“In der Kunst kann es keine Quote geben”)’.

clemens hellsberg

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Comments

  1. Mike Williams says:

    “‘In art, you can’t impose quotas” unless it’s 100%

    • I mean it does not matter how many women or men who are in the Vienna Philharmonic,
      the most important is, and hear the beautiful music
      and
      for my part it has not been the beginning of a new year
      without this beautiful New Year’s concert.
      and I find it very strange and talking about Nazi time that was in the World War 2 og mix this in.
      it is now so many years ago.
      so I consider this to be a silly thing to talk about , becuse people like to hear the New Year’s Concert from Vienna
      for the beautiful music and the gorgeous entry of bale dance.
      that is moust importe, all that Nazi talk is silly talk…
      the person who is so interested. in Nazi hour.
      we want and are not interested in the time that has been in World War

  2. People should be allowed to have whatever type of club they like. If it’s a men’s orchestra it’s a men’s orchestra. I noticed that no one ever complained that the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic was a women’s orchestra. People should grow up and stop complaining about those awful people over there who don’t have the same type of club as us Politically Correct people over here. There are neurotics who feel the same way about making bathrooms unisex also.

    • I’d be all for that, provided they call themselves the Vienna Men’s Philarmonic, or something related. I agree that people should have whatever clubs they like, but there’s a difference between explicitly being a one-sex zone and implicitly doing so.

    • I agree with Dr Fulkerson absolutely. And to talk of ‘human rights’ in his context is utterly obscene and insulting to that swathe of humanity that genuinely does not have human rights.

      • A workplace free of sexual discrimination is surely a human right. I agree that female orchestra musicians have it better than many people. However, the VPO’s issue with women is easy to fix, unlike many other rights abuses.

    • The Vienna Philharmonic is the same orchestra as the Vienna State Opera Orchestra which is owned and operated by the Austrian Federal Government. It is against both EU and Austrian law for publically funded institutions to discriminate on the basis of race or gender. The Austrian Federal Government is thus breaking the very laws it is sworn to uphold and enforce.

      • If what you say is correct Mr. Osborne then most of this discussion is moot, unless there be hope that a stupid law can be changed; there will only be further incursions into common sense, as we see in the U.S. all the time, where the most extreme examples of eccentricity prevail before common sense – there are even police escorts for traffic violators, if they are violating the law as part of a protest. Having made one foothold the PC crowd then looks for the next “injustice” to then correct. Now there is a feeling of sexist injustice that bathrooms are reserved for one sex each only. I had hoped the Austrians were more sane than this.

        • Apparently the particular PhD course followed by “Dr.” Fulkerson did not include information about the U. S. Constitution. What were your studies in? It is hard to devine from your postings here.

          • Oh, the U.S. Constitution, that wonderful piece of paper that had no problem allowing racial apartheid and slavery for a major proportion of the U.S. history. Great argument…

            Btw, what does the word “devine” mean? I never heard of such a word.

          • Dear “Frank,”

            I do know the U.S. Constitution quite well enough to have sent an amicus curiae letter to the Supreme Court (on a matter on which they happen to have agreed unanimously with me), but there is no relevance of that document to this discussion. We are talking about things in Austria.

      • You are incorrect. Let’s be factual about this

        They may be the same people, but the Vienna Philharmonic is an “association” (their words) that is distinct from the Vienna State Opera. To quote them:
        “In accordance with Philharmonic statutes, only a member of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra can become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic. Before joining the Philharmonic therefore, one must first successfully audition for a position with the State Opera Orchestra and prove oneself capable over a period of three years before becoming eligible to submit an application for membership in the association of the Vienna Philharmonic. …”

        If effect, an associate of the VPO is actually a member of two orchestras. This would be similar to me owning two separate corporations.

        • The point is that the Vienna State Opera Orchestra discriminates on the basis and gender and race which is against both Austrian and EU law. In spite of any nominal or legal differences, they can’t hide behind the VPO’s legal standing as private.

        • How on earth is being a member of two orchestras remotely similar to owning two corporations?

      • The Vienna Philharmonic is separate from the Vienna State Oper and funded differently.

    • David Forder says:

      Does the VPO (VSO) receive state funding? If it does then it is not a ‘private club’.

      • First of all, you are reading my words too narrowly; If you are going to be fundamentalist about things there is no discussion. “Club” here is obviously just another word for “group which I also use interchangeably. You are fastening on something to argue about and ignoring the point. This is degenerating into another online rabble.

        Whether or not the orchestra receives private funding may be defined as a “club” only by the laws of that nation, whatever they may be. Perhaps they fund actual “clubs” all the time. I doubt the VP doesn’t get funding and they are a male orchestra, or mostly so – except evidently the harp players. You speaking from England about what “should” constitute a club in Austria is sheer bunkum presumption. Stop “shoulding” your Democracy on someone else.

    • Thorbjorn Sjogren says:

      That, Mr Fulkerson, was a surprising, irrelevant comment from a Ph.d. Very cautious expressed from me! The vienna Symphony Orchestra is definitly not a male Orcherstra according to other rules then what some men in the ochestra decided. That decision has absolutely no legitimate basics related to the public commission for the “Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra”. Chairman, Clemens Hellsbergs remark:”In der Kunst kann es keine Quote geben”, is an insolence on all the competent female musicians around the world! It is a deep discusting lie that the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra represents the thrue figures of competence between the sex in the symphonic orchestra world. Shame on the orcxhestra and you Mr. Fulkerson.

      • This discussion is degenerating more quickly than I thought it would.
        It appears I may have misunderstood what orchestra was under discussion, but I certainly don’t change my view on the matter in any respect, and if it needs to be said that I think someone should be allowed to change the nature of their club, then let me also speak the obvious: that too should be their prerogative. Hello, people should be allowed to change their minds, too.
        As to “shame” on my part, I think you should feel greater shame than I for using such poor English in this discussion. Even as sketchy as my German is, I doubt I would misspell things so strangely. In any case, I cannot imagine any person on Earth being able to browbeat me over ridiculous “politically correct” preferences: I have lived in Northern California all my life, and worked for decades in San Francisco, which is an open-air low-security mental institution for people with opinions like yours.

  3. Kincaidiana says:

    Bring on Karin Bonelli!

    Karin Bonelli is the young Austrian woman who won the Vienna Phil 2nd flute audition a few months ago. She’s doing her trial with Vienna Staatsoper and will apparently being touring with the VPO.

    We, her fans, would like to make sure she makes it successfully through her trial period and right into the VPO as a regular member. If she passes, she’ll be the 1st female wind or brass player with the VPO!

    Miss Bonelli is just 23, a superb player, and we would like to see her playing on the New Year’s Concerts!

    • I’m happy to see people watching the developments around Ms. Bonelli. She was hired last May, eight months ago, but her name is still not included on the web page that lists the Staatsoper’s personnel (as of December 28, 2012.) It is often late in listing new personnel, but never that late. See:

      http://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/Content.Node/home/kuenstler/orchester/uebersichtsseite-Staatsopernorchester.de.php

      This is already becoming a concern to some who watch the orchestra closely. It’s as if she is already being erased. About a quarter of the few women the orchestra has hired have been fired during their trail year, while the ratio for fired men is around 70 to 1 (the one man being the Japanese tubist Yasuhito Sugiyama.)

      I too hope Ms. Bonelli will be included in the New Years Concert. There has been a close correlation between playing that concert and passing the trial period in the opera orchestra.

  4. Daniel Farber says:

    Since Charles Munch appointed the great flutist, Doriot Anthony Dwyer, to a first chair position in the Boston Symphony back in 1950 (almost 65 years ago), one would have thought the world’s orchestras would have been long past the idea that merit has nothing to do with gender. Doriot was the best auditioner, just as Sabine M. was the best, and so on and so forth. Vienna is suggesting that neither Jacqueline DP nor Ida H. could ever have made it into the ranks! (I guess Yo Yo would have missed the cut too?) Think for a minute how ludicrous this seems.

    • The first woman member in the history of Boston Symphony’s brass section was hired just last year — a hornist.

    • You are confusing “merit” with the plain desire of a group to constitute themselves as they prefer. The Vienna players are setting themselves up for a certain amount of inconvenience – for example, even in Europe there is an old tendency for males not to be attracted to playing the harp (pace the exceptions, the trend is the trend and it is not new); therefore, if they are going to keep an all-male profile, they will have an ever harder time of it filling those positions. Still, I note that the rehearsal videos I have seen, such as with Boulez, suggest the female harpists they have allowed in weren’t any great shakes anyway. Even Boulez could not rehearse them. But again, a club is a club, and railing from the outside is socially stupid. Why would a person, knowing they were not welcome in it, want to join a group? The insistence upon such reduces their career to just a political statement, going to work day after to day in one place rather than another specifically because they have a vagina, which is not what a musical career is supposed to merely be, and invites all sorts of personnel problems, such as, if it is found that a woman is not competent to her job, she will, though never welcome to begin with, say she is being fired for sexist reasons only. Those of us who witnessed the Elayne Jones debacle decades ago in San Francisco during Seiji Ozawa’s tenure knew she was a crackpot who was at best no better than many another timpanist. She stood in front of a group of UC Berkeley academics who knew better and said that you could tell from his use of rhythm that Beethoven was a negro; everyone there caught their breath over this, and anyone there who would have been foolish enough to contradict her would have been accused of racism. Such is the stupidity of someone who sticks around claiming their adversaries are racist or sexist when they are not. Why would someone want to set themselves up for these pains?
      Again, let a group constitute themselves as they wish. Not to let them do so is yet another injustice. If they were to pretend to use your idea of “merit” they would not be the group they want to be. Even if your idea of “merit” is functional, why should it even be the primary standard for these people to work together? What is wrong with a men’s club? What is wrong with their working under the paradigm “We want to be the best men’s orchestra we can be?” And what is the psychology of a person who would barge in pretending the criteria are other than they are? Not one that any reasonable person ever wants to work with!
      The only effective reply to the injustice you want to cry is to eventually show such players that they are not able to make adequately competent music without admitting women, by clearly raising the standard of orchestral music-making that employs women – if you can do it.
      But once again, this is not as burning or clear a justice issue as you want to pretend – it is an even greater injustice to tell someone what kind of group they are allowed to make. Why should 100 people be made unhappy because you think a person who is willing to work in unwelcome circumstances should be allowed to? Then 101 people are unhappy, and this is progress? You are getting your nose out of joint because the sign that says “men’s club” happens to mean “women not admitted.” Well, there is a negative spin to be found in any positive definition. A men’s club is a positive thing, let it be that. Let them choose their players and take their toys where they want to take them. No other kind of social situation is acceptable.

      • If the male members of the VPO wanted to build a treehouse, read comic books, make a cardboard sign reading “Girls Stay Out”, they’d receive few complaints. But this is a state-sponsored cultural institution with an international reputation…as well as a workplace. Should other state institutions be allowed to discriminate as such? Should, say, the University of Alabama be allowed to keep African-Americans off their faculty or out of their student body?

        This issue underscores the fact that, with just a few notable exceptions, Germany and Austria remain hostile environs for female musicians. I play in an orchestra with a German music conductor, and he’s been heard at auditions to profess his desire to not hire any more women than we already have (women make up perhaps 35-40% of our ranks at most). How nice to be a white male in the US, Christopher! Living a life of never being discriminated against is a wonderful luxury.

        • Dear Cravenly Anonymous,

          Yeah, I’m a white male, and you presume far too much to think I have never been discriminated against, personally or politically, or enjoy any position at all due to sex or race. Apparently you don’t know the first thing about white people in America, which is that the rich white people crap on the poor white people all the time. There is no solidarity among white folks here and if you don’t have money in this country you don’t have any advantage that accrues merely from being white. And I am one of the poor white people. As just one example of my personal experience I was a white male living in a drug ghetto for thirteen years, up to fairly recently, and the only white male in a crack house for most of that time, in the area with (part of that time) the highest murder rate in San Francisco, and I guarantee you I was shot at and people threw things at me and shouted deprecations and smashed my car windows repeatedly and pounded on my front door – in crowds! – because I am a white male. And what was the whitey behavior they identified me with? Reporting prostitution and drug usage as an ordinary citizen. After one particularly violent group attack that was entirely racial in nature, possibly from the likes of the racist “La Raza” types thereabouts, I papered my front door with copies of the kind recognitions I have gotten from various Mexican towns when touring there singing Gregorian Chant… they ripped that off and did not refrain from further race hatred directed at me. And if you think that I was out of order or in any way racist for doing that you are a pathetic twirp. All that being a white male meant was to call the police when prostitutes brought johns into the garbage room, or to my neighbors for getting blistering drunk in the laundry room. You may be pleased to know that the situation is nothing like you imagine. I got more than anyone’s share of discrimination and violence to my person, and I have never in my life lived a life style even approaching that of the middle class – never within tens of thousands of dollars of income, EVER. And perhaps it will further please you that the Affirmative Action programs prevailing for most of that time were guaranteeing women and minorities academic jobs I could not get. So watch your mouth, you’re way out of line.

        • Dear Cravenly Anonymous,

          Yeah, I’m a white male, and you presume far too much to think I have never been discriminated against, personally or politically, or enjoy any position at all due to sex or race. Apparently you don’t know the first thing about white people in America, which is that the rich white people beat up on the poor white people all the time. There is no solidarity among white folks here and if you don’t have money in this country you don’t have any advantage that accrues merely from being white. And I am one of the poor white people. As just one example of my personal experience I was a white male living in a drug ghetto for thirteen years, up to fairly recently, and the only white male in a crack house for most of that time, in the area with (part of that time) the highest murder rate in San Francisco, and I guarantee you I was shot at and people struck me with their fists and threw things at me and shouted deprecations and smashed my car windows repeatedly and pounded on my front door – in crowds! – because I am a white male. And what was the intolerable whitey behavior they identified me with? Reporting prostitution and drug usage as an ordinary citizen. The police literally carted drug users out on poles and the racial majority thought I was an evil white oppressor for possibly participating in that. After one particularly violent group attack that was entirely racial in nature, possibly from the likes of the racist “La Raza” types thereabouts, the situation being the exact opposite of what you imagine, I papered my front door with copies of the kind recognitions I have gotten from various Mexican towns when touring there singing Gregorian Chant… they ripped that off and did not refrain from further race hatred directed at me. And if you think that I was out of order or in any way racist for doing that you are a pathetic twirp. All that being a white male meant was to call the police when prostitutes brought johns into the garbage room, or to my neighbors for getting blistering drunk in the laundry room. You may be pleased to know that the situation is nothing like what you presume. I got more than anyone’s share of discrimination and violence to my person, and I have never in my life lived a life style even approaching that of the middle class – never within tens of thousands of dollars of income, EVER, doesn’t that delight you? And perhaps it will further please you that the Affirmative Action programs prevailing for most of my life was guaranteeing women and minorities academic jobs I could not get, doesn’t that make you happy? It did me no good to choose a black adviser for my dissertation; maybe I am even be the indirect victim of racism against him. So watch your mouth, you’re way out of line.

          • Dear Christopher,

            I am also a white male who grew up in the US, so you can remove yourself from your soapbox. You did not respond to any of my other points so I assume they are conceded.

            Sincerely,
            Cravenly Anonymous

          • As an addendum, I should note I spent a number of years in East Cleveland, just so you don’t think you have a monopoly on the “poor white guy in a dangerous neighborhood” card.

            Yours sincerely,
            Cravenly Anonymous

          • Now Officially “Cravenly Anonymous,”

            You are really over the top when you seem to suggest that I claim a monopoly on poverty.

            To all others,

            Let me say that I am sorry to find that this string is like so many others, rife with trolls who take personal potshots at dissenters. I had hoped that there was some meaning to the approval process, and that there thus might be some possibility of a serious discussion. Instead this is yet one more mailing list with impertinent mud-slinging.

          • Dear Christopher,

            Sorry to post so frequently, but I’m still stunned by your blatant hypocrisy. You mock women for choosing to audition for an orchestra that would likely discriminate against them, yet you try to elicit sympathy from us for choosing, as a white male, to live in a crack house in a neighborhood that would likely discriminate against white males. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.

          • Dear Still Cravenly Anonymous,

            Re your post including “You mock women for choosing to audition for an orchestra that would likely discriminate against them,” you are completely gratuitous in your accusation that I am mocking anyone. There is not one particle of mockery in anything I have said. I have not written one single syllable against women. Nor, lest you try to claim that too, have I spoken in any way against women in orchestras, an absurd position generally. I am speaking only about a particular cultural tradition, and I have seen this go too far in my own community so I am offering my observation for those who care to listen.
            And if you think that a poor person has any genuine choice over where they live, you are not worth having an intelligent discussion with.

        • From one Anon to another – the idea that because this orchestra is state-sponsored, therefore should be different, is utterly daft.
          All over threads on this site, we read how essential state sponsorship of orchestras is. Therefore, should this not be the case without hindrance or favour to the ensembles way of making music, if it is to happen at all? If you say that the state should control how an ensemble constitutes itself, why not allow the state – and with those who control arts funding, often non-arts educated, unelected pen-pushers – to dictate programming too? Isn’t there a danger of then forming all orchestras the same?
          If the state is to sponsor more than one orchestra, surely there need to be differences to justify that?

          • Dear Anon,

            I agree with your post saying “The idea that because this orchestra is state-sponsored, therefore should be different, is utterly daft.”

            What is astonishing is to hear so many people assume that their usual campaign of “churn” on PC attitudes applies in Austria as in, say, the US or Britain, where a lot of this comment seems to be coming from. But the cultural differences, and how they are implemented in law, are considerable.

            For example, Austria is a nation with an official and state-sponsored religion. The people pay for the state religion in their taxes and they don’t appear to have any problem with that. The American would think that is outrageous, but Americans sure as hell can be outrageous. The Austrians do not think as we do, nor should they. They have decided in favor of maintenance of certain traditions, that are different from what is assumed in, for example, the US. And they do not seem the lesser for it, in fact, they are the better for it.

            They can take just as different an attitude toward a tradition involving the constitution of orchestras. I hope they do not bow to non-Austrian sentiment, trying to be Politically Correct. A lot of Americans get caught up automatically in any liberal issue and try to pretend that American lunacy should be everybody’s law. The American policy is NOT working in America. Our PC agenda is tearing up our arts community. One PC agenda, the right, doesn’t want to pay musicians, only wanting to give bricks-and-mortar (the problem in Philadelphia); others try to make their orchestra part of social programs beyond the scope of an orchestra (the problem in Los Angeles); most others limit their programming thinking that will draw audiences in, but it clearly doesn’t. Our orchestras are going under left and right, and no amount of ossification of the programming to imagined “market” considerations helps. I hope the Austrians continue to be circumspect about how they choose to enforce their laws on these matters, and do not allow their traditions to metamorphose their society beyond recognition for no reason.

        • “This issue underscores the fact that, with just a few notable exceptions, Germany and Austria remain hostile environs for female musicians. I play in an orchestra with a German music conductor, and he’s been heard at auditions to profess his desire to not hire any more women than we already have”

          I don’t think you know anything about Germany and what the working conditions are there for female musicians except maybe that irrelevant unnamed “music conductor” you happen to know. Female musicians enjoy excellent work conditions in the better German orchestras, great pay and very generous maternity leave options.
          Mr Osborne’s wife holds a professorship at a Germany music academy which is very well paid, comes with a ton of paid vacation time and a lot of freedom. One can hardly have a better job as a musician. And there are many female professors in German music academies. There are also far more ladies in orchestras than Mr Osborne wants you to believe.

          • Actually, I haven’t spoken here about general stats. About 30% of the personnel in German orchestras are women. They are concentrated in lower paid orchestras, but the situation is improving. The Bruckner Orchester in Linz has 40% women, one of the highest ratios in the world for a major orchestra. The Berlin Phil, however, still has the fourth lowest ratio in the world at 14%. And Bayreuth only has 9%. The ratio in the winds and percussion in Bayreuth is 63 to 1. One important observation is that Germany has so many more orchestras than the USA, that a woman here still has a far better chance of getting a job even if degrees of sexism are higher. So it is a very mixed and complex picture.

            Please watch out for the posts from the anonymous “Michael.” They are often ridiculous, which is no doubt why he lacks the integrity to use his real name.

          • “william osborne says:
            January 1, 2013 at 7:02 am

            Actually, I haven’t spoken here about general stats. About 30% of the personnel in German orchestras are women. They are concentrated in lower paid orchestras, but the situation is improving.”

            M: Nonsense. The distribution is pretty random. Recently I saw the NDR Sinfonieorchester in concert and they had a lot of ladies in the orchestra. More than half of the first violins were female. And they have a number of female principals, too.
            The NDR SO is one of the most highly regarded and well paid orchestras in Germany.

            “And Bayreuth only has 9%. The ratio in the winds and percussion in Bayreuth is 63 to 1.”

            M: Nonsensical comparison. The BFO only plays for a few weeks in the summer and they are actually not that well paid at all. It is more a kind of summer fun gig for the players who enjoy playing the repertoire under the special conditions in this special place with its rich history. And that rich history is not only the years 1933-45, BTW, although you will without doubt try to reduce it to that to suit your sensationalist agenda and cater to the prejudices and clichés held by our anglophone audience.
            Plus, it’s a pretty nice area fairly central in Germany, not a bad place to go for a little while in the summer with the family and play some operas. They usually take turns in the different runs of the various pieces. Some just play Meistersinger, some just Parsifal, some the whole Ring or parts of it, etc.
            Playing in Bayreuth is also quite the grind. The operas are long, the pit is deep and stuffy and it gets really, really loud at times.
            Can we therefore conclude that women are less enthusiastic about playing when the money isn’t all that much or that men are being exploited here more than women? I don’t think so.

            “One important observation is that Germany has so many more orchestras than the USA, that a woman here still has a far better chance of getting a job even if degrees of sexism are higher. So it is a very mixed and complex picture.”

            M: Funny to read that from you, the great simplifier and hurler of “-isms”.

            “Please watch out for the posts from the anonymous “Michael.” They are often ridiculous, which is no doubt why he lacks the integrity to use his real name.”

            M: “Michael” is not an “anonymous”. It is a real name. And it happens to be my real name. “Anonymous” is Greek and it means “no name” or “without name”. Apparently you thought it was some kind of insult.
            Like so many people who like to criticize others, you seem to fold very easily when you yourself or your comments are criticized. Looks like I have hit too close to home here so that all you have left is this feeble attempt to try to censor or silence me. Whatever little “integrity” you may have had has just gone completely out of the window with that.
            I think it is pretty clear by now that you are just abusing this important subject to draw more attention to yourself.
            I also find it pretty shameful how you play to the gallery for your anglophone audience and its typical prejudices and clichés about Germany and Austria, all the more so since you have apparently lived in Germany for decades, so you must know that the openness with which the problematic past and the important social issues of the present are discussed in Germany is pretty much unparalleled in other countries. In particular in your own in which you grew up in a time and place when racist legislation was still effective.
            In Austria, things are a little less open when it comes to the nasty bits of history and also current issues, but they aren’t by far as bad as you make them look here.

          • An article in “Das Orchester” in September 2007, pages 32-35 entitled “Herr-liche Orchester” documents that women are concentrated in lower paid orchestras. Here is the exact quote “Zwischen 0,8 und 32 Prozent – so groß sind die Schwankungen des Frauenanteils in deutschen und österreichischen Kulturorchestern. Noch immer gilt: je höher Einkommen und Ruf des Orchesters, desto weniger Frauen sind engagiert.“

            Similar results were also published in Das Orchestra based on this study by
            Sabrina Paternoga: “Orchestermusikerinnen. Frauenanteile an den Musikhochschulen und in den Kulturorchestern. Geschlechts- und instrumentenspezifische Vollerhebung an deutschen Musikhochschulen und in den Orchestern”, in: Das Orchester, 5/05, page 8.

          • william osborne says:
            January 3, 2013 at 12:32 am

            “An article in “Das Orchester” in September 2007, pages 32-35 entitled “Herr-liche Orchester” documents that women are concentrated in lower paid orchestras. Here is the exact quote “Zwischen 0,8 und 32 Prozent – so groß sind die Schwankungen des Frauenanteils in deutschen und österreichischen Kulturorchestern. Noch immer gilt: je höher Einkommen und Ruf des Orchesters, desto weniger Frauen sind engagiert.“”

            I just did what you seem to be spending a good deal of your time doing, that is, I went to the website of the NDR Sinfonieorchester and counted how many ladies they have. Currently, they have 34 out of a total of 104 musicians (9 positions are currently open), a number of them in exposed principal position, e.g. principal horn. 21 out of 32 violins are women. Does that mean that men who play the violin are being dicriminated against there? Only 7 out of 19 first violins are Germans. Does that mean that violin-playing Germans are being discriminated against there?

            And, again, the NDR SO is one of the most highly regarded and well paid orchestras in Germany, they have excellent working conditions and a lighter work load than many opera orchestras, for instance. I mentioned that before, and I noted you simply ignored that. So here is a little reality check for you.

  5. In agreement with Clemens Hellberg and Mike Williams, I am 100% against quotas and any kind of tokenism or discrimination (negative OR ‘positive’ – which is why I also had a problem with any of the all-women orchestras, past or present). However, this is not the issue here, this is discrimination, pure and simple. The statistic to back this up can be seen in any other orchestra in the world, where there are far more women in orchestras than in the VPO.

  6. In mid-20th century, the oboist Laila Storch, desperately oppressed by the male-dominated market, went as far as “dressing like a man”, together with a short hair and all, in order to be considered for an audition. And..she won! The fact that a fellow human being, and colleague, must go to this level of humiliation to be treated as equal (let’s see how many male players would put on a dress, shave their legs and wear a long-hair wig, and still be able to concentrate enough to win a top-ranked audition…) is shameful to all of us, at any generation.

    • How many males would “put on a dress, shave their legs and wear a long-hair wig” to win a music gig? I guess you haven’t seen “Some Like It Hot” …

  7. another orchestra musician says:

    There are larger problems to concern us than whether or not the VPO hires women. The VPO is magnificent. Many other things are not. Let’s fix the less-than-magnificent things first. Afterwards, we can decide whether truly we want to repair something that isn’t broken.

  8. In the article, the Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, Clemens Hellsberg, says that discrimination in the orchestra is impossible because the auditions are behind a screen. He neglects to mention that the screen is removed for the final round. A history of statements like these have damaged the orchestra’s credibility.

    • Mr Osborne: Correct me if I’m wrong, but somewhere I read that the applicants are drawn from the Vienna State Opera, which itself has a very low percentage of women. (The article I’m referring to was written by Monique Buzzarte 15 years ago, and can be accessed at: http://www.iawm.org/articles_html/buzzarte_advocacy.html and it noted your own efforts and contribution in the struggle to make the composition of the orchestra more gender balanced.)

      • The Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic are the same orchestra. After a three year tenure in the State Opera Orchestra members are elligible for membership in the VPO.

    • Orchestral violinist says:

      Mr Osborne,
      There is absolutely nothing unusual about this kind of auditioning. It has nothing to do with discrimination and is common practice world wide. It gives the jury the chance to not only see the finalists but also to hear them better. The VPO has excellent credibility worldwide because it chooses the best players for the positions. If that happens to be a woman the orchestra has no problem with that. You are way behind the modern times. Please inform yourself before making more ridiculous statements…Thankyou.

      • I’m afraid it’s the VPO that is way behind modern times. If the VPO and you are correct in saying that the best players are men 95%+ of the time then the clear implication is that other orchestras are hurting themselves by hiring women.

        The Met orchestra also claims to hire the best players for positions. Quite a few of them happen to be women. EIther the VPO or the Met orchestra must clearly be wrong in their hiring approach.

        And if one were to say, “That’s simply because more women audition for the Met than the VPO”, one would have to ask, “Why is that?” What about the VPO could possibly discourage women from trying to gain a position there? And if the VPO really wanted the best players, wouldn’t they bend over backwards to try and fix that perception?

        One can come up with some twisted rationale why having a nearly all male orchestra is better. But don’t insult people’s intelligence by saying the VPO simply chooses the best musicians. That is obviously bullshit.

        The VPO claiming not to be sexist is like an overly proud man wearing an obvious and ridiculous toupee. We may still listen, but yes, we’ll point, groan, and giggle at the sheer absurdity of it. Finally, when that man takes off the toupee, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Of course we knew. You stopped fooling everybody else years ago. We’ve been wondering for years when you’d stop fooling yourself.”

        • Comparing the VPO to an American orchestra is out of order. America does not have a tradition of all-male orchestras. America has a “tradition” of general hostility to high arts in general, and the very idea that any community in America would have the wisdom of, say, Salzburg in the preservation of, say, Mozart’s heritage is unthinkable.
          In America, artists huddle as survivalists. We do not form inclusive organizations because we are superior, we do this because we are all in the same boat. In that respect we do this because we are culturally inferior, in that we have no tradition of support of any kind. It is not out of the question that some group like the Century Club might also get up an occasional all-male shindig as the Bohemians do, but the idea of an entire orchestra of “huddled hungry masses of musicians yearning to be free” and all one gender AND full-time employment has a very different significance here than in Europe.
          I agree with the gentleman who suggested that those of us not in Vienna and dealing with this are not wise to “should” on other people. I believe Maria Theresa would agree. Let the Austrians make and/or enforce their laws as they see fit.

      • It’s true that removing the screen during the last round is not unusual. The point is that the VPO’s argument that discrimination is impossible because the auditions are behind a screen is untrue. People can see the candidate in the last round.

    • There is no hypocrisy in putting the auditions behind a screen until the final round, there is only stupidity in participating if you know you’re the wrong gender for the group. And there is crass enmity in the very action of politicizing one’s gender in this way and making an issue of it. Who wants to hire such a person? It is a blatant personnel error. The correct response to this is “Now that you have wasted our time auditioning for a position we do not fill this way, please do not similarly waste our time again.” But really, the office simply shouldn’t allow it.
      The auditions are not behind a screen only because of gender identification, they are behind a screen in important measure because of ACTUAL identification, to prevent genuinely qualified people from getting to the finals on only the “old-boy” system. These people KNOW each other, and apparently want to do something to keep the clubishness in reasonable check.
      You need to consider what they would do to obviate your complaint – doing away with screens altogether would be one solution.
      If this is allowed now, there will be women auditioning for men’s choruses because they supposedly make better sopranists than men. And ever further downhill the cart will drag, picking up speed until you have unisex bathrooms and the whole nine yards, and the horse will begin to run things when it realizes it is being overtaken by all the baggage. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where every species of this insanity regularly reigns – I guarantee you, you are inviting social stupidity of a truly clinical variety. Stop pretending to be logical and “just,” and let people make the kind of group they like.

  9. There’s a simple solution to the gender issue: Adopt the practice of so many major American orchestras, i.e. Auditions behind a screen, no speaking by any candidate, and women candidates are instructed not to wear high heels.

    • Robert, you’re right of course, but the problem is the vast majority of American orchestra(and all over the world) take the screen away for the final round. Then there is the trial period which is not behind a screen. It’s a good idea, but at some point that screen is going to come down.

  10. Laurie Sokoloff says:

    The club analogy doesn’t work for me. I suppose clubs may be exclusive. In my mind at least, there is a large difference when it comes to employment. Employers should not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or sex. That seems to be a precept of many civilized nations. Of course, Austria doesn’t have a sterling historical record on any of these. That said, the hiring of women recently does seem to indicate change, and I agree it would be a mistake to impose quotas. The VP is a cultural jewel and should be treasured and preserved. I personally cannot see how women, extraordinary enough to win one of their auditions, would impact negatively their uniqueness.

    • Jennifer West (@Westjet007) says:

      Hear hear! Well said.

    • another orchestra musician says:

      Life is not an equal opportunity employer. We can agree that governments, and private businesses, should strive to be; yet balance is not always achieved through symmetry or parity; and there are times and places where political correctness does not lead to better health.

      The VPO is indeed a cultural jewel. Among major symphony orchestras, in the 21st century, it is the only one that remains faithful to its 19th-century origins. It does so at an artistic level that is seldom equalled, and more rarely still exceeded. Few of its peers can lay claim to success similarly consistent, or longer-lived. What evidence have we, as outsiders, that our vision of what the VPO ought to be is better than the vision the VPO itself has held, these past 170 years?

      A Viennese friend once confided to me, over wine served in goblets from Maria Theresia’s own collection the Austrian government, in gratitude for services rendered, had bestowed upon his family, that “people often imagine music to be a universal language. But they are mistaken. Music is a secret language. Few people understand it; fewer still, speak it.” On the chance that my friend was right; and in recognition of the very great contribution to the symphonic art the VPO has made, I think that we, outsiders, might best avoid wagging our fingers, and quietly let the VPO sort out personnel matters on its own.

  11. My advice to VPO is to appoint the ‘best’ they can get, irrespective of gender, race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation and disability … and get on with it! If you don’t believe me, do a survey of their audience-customer base, after all, without them, there is no orchestra, period!

    • Orchestral violinist says:

      That is exactly what they are doing….. The best candidate regardless of race creed or gender.

    • Why should the orchestra be so concerned about audience opinion? It is not even democratic to accept the will of outside groups. If they have some fundraising or audience problems, perhaps that is a job they want to accept. But perhaps the same condition makes things easier for them. It matters not either way. It is a democracy if the people can form the kinds of groups they like. Are enough of the people in the group happy with things that it is best to go on as before? That is democracy. You’re not going to please all of the people all of the time. Again, let them have the club they want to have.

  12. We know there is a hard-core element of the WP which would prefer that women are allowed nowhere near their special “club”, but when one looks at the many younger chaps who are now in the band, one wonders what their opinion on this issue is? One of the big issues with the Philharmonikern is their utterly restrictive policy of forbidding players talking to the press unless approved/chaperoned by Hellsberg and his cronies. It would be great if Norman could persuade some of the younger players to post anonymously on here.

    • You are speaking out of line, the Women’s Philharmonic disbanded in 2004. I attended some of their concerts, including their first ever, and was disgusted at the frankly sexist significance made out of the entry of the female tubist. If you think that isn’t the rankist kind of sexism, you are, as we say, smoking dope. And my compositional work was turned down because I am a man. So cut the rubbish about the WP being some kind of qualified success. Do the gays cheer when the male harpist comes out onto the stage in Vienna? I don’t think so. Their club is less sexist as a men’s club than at least one supposedly equivalent women’s example I know.

      • Kincaidiana says:

        Dr. Fulkerson,

        It was because the tubist had come all the way from LA to SF to play the concerts. It was a courtesy and a show of support for her and the distance she had traveled.

        There were no female tubists in the SF Bay Area at that time. BAWP had a very difficult time filling the tuba position, and it was a tremendous gesture of goodwill on the part of the woman you mention to have come such a long distance to play with us. We were showing our support and our thanks to her.

        Yes, I was there, too.

        • I know swagger when I hear it.

          • Kincaidiana says:

            Dr. Fulkerson,

            Please do not make generalizations or jump to to assumptions about every woman who played in the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic.

            I have never “swaggered” in my life. Not then, not now. There were women from all walks of life on that stage. We were all seated and we were definitely not “swaggering”. That’s insulting, quite frankly.

            Your resentment, your bitterness is coming thru loud and clear. I’m sorry that BAWP didn’t accept your compositional work, But I don’t see SF Symphony programming much of it either.

          • You are presuming to understand what you do not, and taking offense where you need not.

            I said I know “swagger when i HEAR it.” I was referring to the swagger in the hall when the dyke in the pendleton brought out her big honkin’ instrument.

            You are completely gratuitous to impose the incorrect notion that my remarks are a generalization about “every woman who played in the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic.” They in no way did so. You are simply not reading the words I wrote, and you are reacting with an inaccuracy typical of persons with hardening of the attitudes.

            Believe it or not, my remark about “swagger” was not about you.

            As to whether I wish to be insulting, I very certainly did mean to be insulting, but not to you, except perhaps by calling your bluff, that you still maintain, that your tidy description of that incident fits the facts. It does not. It was obviously a tasteless roar for the bitch-dykes in the audience, and only the most naive observer would fail to understand things that way. Yes, I knew that she had just gotten in, but that was, absolutely, not the tenor of understanding in the hall. It was a shameful embarrassment, AND A DEGRADING OF THE ISSUE OF A WOMEN’S ORCHESTRA INTO MERE LESBIANISM. My wife, who was in the violin section, was shocked and embarrassed by it, and there was no doubt in her mind as to the meaning of the audience reaction. They were a bunch of lesbian punks, who put a scabrous slant on the evening’s meanings.

            As to my resentment and bitterness, you are off-base with your examples, but I don’t think you win any prizes for perceptiveness to gather these. Oh, I’m a bad person, because I’m resentful and bitter, or are my opinions worthless, because ‘m resentful and bitter, or is it both of these? Telling an unhappy person that’s he’s invalidated because he’s unhappy is pretty crass and stupid, “Kincaidiana.”

            I am witnessing the complete collapse of any hope in an integrated genuine contemporary music with a viable and healthy performing community, and make no mistake, I deplore it.

            Taking things personally is only one way you are needlessly being part of the problem. If you did not cop a pre-existing attitude, you might, for example, believe that for me to be unhappy about things is a positive sign that I takes these issues seriously. You could, couldn’t you, disagree with me, but respect my concern, instead of trying to invalidate it. And as far as insulting is concerned, there is no call for you to remind me that nobody is performing my music. This discourse isn’t about me, and you can’t get your digs in quite so easily. I have been in the field a long time, and I live in the world capital of oblique, self-absorbed bimbos such as yourself. After all, this is where the incident in question occurred, on my own territory, and I am fully competent to evaluate its social significance.

          • OK, can we now depersonalize this thread? Thanks. NL

  13. Another very interesting article about the Philharmoniker was published by ORF on December 19, 2012. It discusses the orchestra’s close collaboration with the Nazis and how it appears to still be hiding some of the most serious details of that history. And perhaps even more seriously, allegations have been made that records of these events are missing from the orchestra’s archives. The ORF article is here:

    http://oe1.orf.at/artikel/326116

    One of the most potentially serious historical ommissions has been raised by the Green Party politician Harald Walser. In 1942, the Vienna Philharmonic gave the “Honor Ring of the Vienna Philharmonic” to the war criminal Baldur von Schirach, who was responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Austrian Jews to death camps. The Chairman of orchestra, Clemens Hellsberg, has written an extensive book about the history of the orchestra entitled “Democracy of Kings.” It includes a section about the orchestra’s history under the Nazis, but makes no mention of the award given to Schirach.

    And it gets worse, according to Walser. After the war Schirach was imprisoned in Spandau (a special high security prison for war criminals in Berlin whose most famous resident was Rudolf Hess.) When Schirach was released in 1966, an emissary of the Vienna Philharmonic had a new copy of the ring made and gave it to him.

    Hellsberg denies that there is any record of these events in the orchestra’s extensive archive. Since Schirach was the Gauleiter of Vienna, one of the highest political positions in the city under the Nazis, it would be very odd if there were no records in the archive. The archive is massive and includes documents from countless events, even very minor ones.

    Calls have been made for the formation of a commission of historians to research the matter to determine what actually happened regarding Schirach and why the archives seem to be incomplete – including possible cleansing. Hellsberg has said he will not allow such commission access to the archives because any historian can research the matter.

    The ORF article notes that critics claim the orchestra’s website also presents an incomplete history of its Nazi era – one that has been “prettified and is against historical facts.” Hellsberg says that people can’t expect the orchestra “to immediately change everything around to a one correspondence” regarding new information that appears.

    This is not the first time the orchestra has faced criticism about its website. On December 31, 1999, I reported that it included quotes by former orchestra Chairman, Wilhelm Jerger, to substantiate the orchestra’s claim to stylistic uniqueness. Unfortunately, Jerger was not only the Chairman, he was also a Lieutenant in the SS. In 1942, he wrote a highly racist book about the orchestra, which contained long father/son genealogical tables of some of the major string players in the orchestra. True to Nazi ideology, Jerger placed asterisks by the names of all individuals who were “non-Aryan.” In my report, I noted that the Vienna Philharmonic is the only all-white orchestra in the world, and the only one still substantiating its claims to stylistic purity by quoting an SS officer. By the next day, January 1, 2000, all references to Jerger had been removed from the Vienna Philharmonic’s website

    • Some corrections to my above post. That should read “only all-white major orchestra in the world.” There are lesser known orchestras in Eastern Europe that do not have any Asian members — mostly due to low pay. And the last sentence in the penultimate paragraph should read “one-to-one correspondence.” I have a really bad stomach flu which is making it difficult for me to write long posts without small errors.

      • Orchestra violin player says:

        This is all irrelevant, Mr Osborne. The VPO was founded in 1842, almost a full century before fascism ruled Germany and consequently Austria (and France, the Netherlands etc. You are not in need of a history lesson or are you?) and that for a relatively short time when one considers the age of the orchestra. I simply do not understand your point and I fear it is because you have not got one.

    • I should have known that eventually Godwin’s Law would apply:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

      So, the VPO is now such bad-BOYS that their affiliation with the Nazis has to be brought in, well that must mean that their desire to be a men’s orchestra is not only sexist, its completely redolent of Nazism and implies crazed urges to hurt people, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

      In my research for my opera THE NUERNBERG TRIAL I have found a thing or two out about the Viennese during the Nazi era and learned that the Austrians staged PARSIFAL when Hitler made it illegal (for more on this, including the Nazi suppression of performances of Wagner outside Bayreuth, see Bryan Magee’s THE TRISTAN CHORD) and created a punishing tariff for Germans crossing the border to go to the production, which can therefore be understood as a not-so-very small detail in the alleged capitulation to Hitler that is usually ascribed to the Viennese.

      As a foreigner who can only say from firsthand observation in his own crazed state that running people’s organizations from outside gets results at least as uncivil and crazed as the ones they purport to resolve, I wish the tendency to meddle in people’s social preferences should be a two-way street, and not one heading directly toward ever more increasing degrees of change through social blame.

      • Godwin’s Law, as referenced in the troll’s link to Wiki, is an “inappropriate” comparison to Hitler or Nazis, done often in the US describing a politician a troll does not like. It in no way applies to Austrian history described above by Wm Osbourne. And speaking of trolls, just because someone is verbose, pedantic and pompous, with a PH.D attached to their name, claims to have composed an opera, does not mean that person is not a troll. Constant insulting, soapbox replies, notions of great superiority, all point to a troll. The moderator might want to give us all a break or we all just stop feeding the troll.

        • troll indeed. Offensive troll too. Has to have the last world in everything ( and then accuses me of having to have the last word simply because my name would indicate – shock! horror! – that I may possibly have breasts and other girly bits! Pure troll, has to make a discussion on the Vienna Phil all about himself.

        • And posts without reference to the content of the string, making only attacks on contributors, aren’t indicators of trolls?

        • montiel says:
          January 2, 2013 at 4:22 am

          “Godwin’s Law, as referenced in the troll’s link to Wiki, is an “inappropriate” comparison to Hitler or Nazis, done often in the US describing a politician a troll does not like. It in no way applies to Austrian history described above by Wm Osbourne.”

          It most certainly does, especially when he drags in decades-old stories in order to discredit the Austrians of today.

  14. The Vienna Philharmonic is NOT a corporation and should not be run as one (just look at the debacle with US orchestras, where the players are considered employees who report to CEOs who know nothing about an orchestra). The musicians run the show, and management reports to them, as it should be. That being said, NO orchestra, be it Vienna, New York, or The Middle of Nowhere, should be given a hiring quota. It’s all about the playing – nothing more, nothing less. Yes, I am a female double bassist. No, I have never been discriminated against for playing jobs. In the end, it’s all about the playing – nothing else.

    • So, Stephanie, while ALL other major international orchestras have large female membership, you believe that the female musicians who have applied to the Vienna Philharmonic have consistently been inferior to the males who won. From what you said, there can be no other interpretation. Can you explain how that has happened?

  15. anin nomis says:

    The VPO’s racism is indicative of a wider range of racism within the country. They need to reeducate themselves on a broader level to address the issue of hiring women in VPO.

    .

  16. Kincaidiana says:

    Interesting what Alex has mentioned about Laila Storch and her choice of attire.

    In studying older videos of Mravinksy conducting Leningrad Philharmonic, Mravinsky’s wife, Alexandra Vavilina, is Principal Flute and the only woman in the orchestra. You barely notice she’s there because she pulls her hair straight back and wears something that looks exactly like the suit and tie all the men in the orch. are wearing. She blends in both with her attire and her mannerisms, and doesn’t stand out at all visually.This looks like a very conscious effort. Sounds like Laila Storch was thinking the same way!

    Alexandra, of course, enjoyed a very successful tenure with Lenigrad Phil as Principal Flute, as its only woman member for many years. This was during a time when women players, esp. women Principals anywhere in the world were unusual. She handled her appointment with dignity and professionalism and set a wonderful example for future generations of Russian female orch. musicians.

    • I have to say I disagree about how successful Alexandra Vavilina was as a principal player. I have heard several recordings of Leningrad Philharmonic where the playing of the principal flute is clearly not at the same high level as the rest of the orchestra. Knowing that the player is Mravinsky’s wife makes me doubt she would have been able to stay in the orchestra by her own merit only.

      Also, the standard of Russian flute playing has not been high until recently. Some people blame this on the fact that Alexandra Vavilina was the long-time flute professor at the Leningrad conservatory. If the professor is not great how can the students achieve greatness? And who would dare to challenge Mravinsky’s wife? Having studied in St. Petersburg myself I know how full of politics the Russian music world is.

      • Kincaidiana says:

        Interesting observation, Sasha. Very little is known about Alexandra Vavilina in the English speaking flute community, so I’m glad you’ve offered an opinion.

        But here’s the thing: Mravinsky began recording with Leningrad in 1946. Alexandra Vavilina was appointed Principal Flute in 1962. So unless you’re specifically listening to post-1962 recordings, it’s not her you’re hearing.

        Similarly, she was appointed Flute Professor at St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1987. You’re right, the Russian level of flute playing has been low until recently, but since she began there only 26 yrs. ago, she might be considered more part of the solution than the problem. In any case, to blame the low level of flute playing of an entire country on one professor is a little short-sighted, in my opinion.

        Lastly, Alexandra Vavilina continued in her position as Principal Flute with Leningrad until 1989, 8 yrs.after Mravinsky’s death. So it’s clear that she was able to hold her own in the orchestra without her husband’s help.

        In Mravinsky videos of many major works, she’s playing. Her Brahms 4 is fine. Her Shost 5 is fine. In these videos I’ve never noticed any discrepancy of level between her and the rest of the orch. Also I seriously doubt that a legendary conductor like Mravinksy would risk his reputation and that of his beloved orchestra by appointing someone who was not qualified to a Principal position.

        Yes, of course, who would argue with the conductor’s wife? Good point. But on the other hand, perhaps being Mravinsky’s wife was the only way a qualified young woman orchestral player could be considered seriously for a position, particularly a Principal position with the Leningrad Phil.

        I’m not saying that Alexandra Vavilina was the world’s most brilliant Principal Flutist but she did the job satisfactorily for 27 yrs. much of that time as the only woman in the orchestra. Artistic level is a matter of taste, but to serve as Principal Flute, with all that it entailed (concerts, tours, recordings, and premieres) for as long as she did counts as success in my eyes.

  17. Why nobody complains about the discriminatory practices in sports everywhere? There is not a SINGLE woman in the UK Premier League. Also not in the NFL, etc. Isn’t that discrimination as well? Of course there are many fine female soccer/football/baseball/hockey players. They can work in female leagues, but not in the male dominated premiere leagues.

  18. Kincaidiana says:

    I’d like to add that I’m not a fan of cross-dressing to hold an orch. seat, – Alex is right, it’s humiliating. And silly. But if it opens the door for the 1st time for leagues of women, as it did with Ms. Storch and Ms. Vavilina, it’s a pretty mild concession. Just think “Some Like It Hot” in reverse!

  19. Having read the Vienna Philharmonic apologia using a Babylon online translator, since I don’t speak the lingo, especially German the way the Austrians do (though from the garbled text, apparently, neither does Babylon),
    I became convinced that the orchestra management was on to something. After all, let’s be honest, women can be as nasty as men, so the orchestra would not necessarily become more civilized by importing more of the faux gentler sex into its venerable Viennese halls. (Recall that Clinton and Rice (both of her)…and Albright have been the biggest fans of making war not love…and Golda Meir, who was everyone’s favorite grandmother, including mine when I was a kid, had at one time, or perhaps more than one time, threatened a first strike nuclear attack against the Soviet Union while smoking a cigar of the good ol’ boy variety, probably Dutch Masters or White Owl…..god, she was hot!) OK, mea culpa, so the article didn’t address that specific, yet salient, issue anywhere.

    As for getting rid of half the competition for the limited number of good paying orchestral jobs- which the article did address- don’t our biggest corporations slice, dice and ice out their competition to limit the market, and get away with it while the European Commission is closing its eyes and turning the other way? So, if it is so political anyway, why should women be treated differently to get a better deal than the rest of us poor suckers? I’d also note that Asian women make up a large portion of the 36% (or whatever the number is) in the NY Phil, and wonder how the frauleins would view it if their sisters from Korea, Japan or China, etc. who have gotten an earlier start than many, and have often turned out to be the best orchestral players, were, accordingly, welcomed with open arms into the top symphony of uber right Austria. (Oops, is this being too politically correct, or not politically correct enough, or just juvenile and insulting to dignities, individual, tribal and national?)

    Also, I was curious about how the NY Philharmonic musicians thought about the discrimination issue, and it became clear that, as in life generally, it can be complicated and very political, e.g., with connections, and what not, whoever might have the upper hand. (See, for example, the 2005 case of Anton Polezhayev at:
    http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/20191-ny-philharmonic-drops-anton-polezhayev/ The article and comments are interesting reading, and I found it curious, if not ironic, that Loren Maazel, himself a darling of Vienna, and one who has conducted there many times in the past, would have adopted the position he did in denying some fair process to the young man. I guess in corporations and political life you keep your mouth shut and don’t make waves, and instead use powerful proxies to do it for you. But without all the facts, even this speculation is probably presumptuous.)

    In the end, the comment by Celloting, above, is right on, and it would be encouraging to see merit win out on a playing field that was not tilted, and economies that were healthy instead of under siege so that there were fewer cutbacks and more jobs, and a labor market in difficult times that was cooperative and at the same time without a sense of entitlement or discrimination; but changes seem to be occurring, orchestras are slowly opening up, even if glacially (though glaciers do melt, even if you don’t want all of them to), and life will go on…….until, in the end (again) we will all drop dead, individually if not collectively, and then none it it may matter so much.

  20. Vienna Resident says:

    Regarding auditions behind screens, one mustn’t forget modern technology where candidates text their contacts when it’s their turn. Further, candidates are selected from applications and can take part only by invitation, so the selection can be made in favor of those who are expected to win the job. Any threat for the desired candidate will not be invited to the audition. Any thoughts why there are quite a few offspring in the orchestra, because Daddy will fix it, not because of the outstanding quality of playing.

    • If it’s a family orchestra, then it’s a family orchestra; that too is OK. And I see I was not wrong to believe we were talking about the Vienna Philharmonic.
      I really find it astonishing that so many people here think that their version of democracy is the same one everywhere. I don’t like it when people “should” on me and I think the Austrians probably feel people shouldn’t “should” on them either. A lot of major differences in detail exist between rules on matters of this kind, and in Austria there is even a state religion supported by the state, so there of all places I think we English-speaking people should not be so presumptuous that our understanding “should” be that of others.

  21. Cynthia Katsarelis says:

    I think the winds and brass sections of orchestras like Chicago, Cleveland, the Met, and orchestras I’ve heard in London totally outplay VPO. Better intonation, articulation, and tone quality. I think there’s an artistic cost to their policies.

    I don’t know about Europe, but in the US if you accept public funding you are bound to have a strong anti discrimination policy. It still isn’t perfect, note the lack of women conductors, for example, but at least it is the law of the land and helps move things in a progressive direction.

    Note that when the union insisted on blind auditions, back in the 1960′s, the inclusion of women skyrocketed. Clearly, ability wasn’t the problem.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:
      December 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      “I think the winds and brass sections of orchestras like Chicago, Cleveland, the Met, and orchestras I’ve heard in London totally outplay VPO. Better intonation, articulation, and tone quality. I think there’s an artistic cost to their policies.”

      Completely disagree. None of the named American orchestras comes even close to the WP brass section as far as artistic and sound quality is concerned. Especially sound quality. American orchestras play brass instruments which are all geared towards making them easier and safer to play so there may be fewer mistakes, but at the cost of exactly that tone quality which the Vienna brass maintain and which is ideal for the core symphonic and operatic repertoire. Mistakes are obviously not desirable but tone quality and style of playing are more important. In the latter department, you can pretty much write American orchestras off, too. Especially brassocentric bands like the CSO try to play louder than everyone else because they cling to the naive belief that that somehow makes them “the best orchestra in the world”. The result is a forced, blaring sound with a very narrow overtone spectrum which does not mix and amplify well with the rest of the orchestra so the overall sound is also pretty thin and glaring.

      It is pretty astonishing what high level of playing the WP brass maintain even though they don’t make it easier for themselves. Especially the playing of the Vienna F horns which are hellishly difficult and treacherous to play is very impressive. They make have a few accidents here and there, but the sound quality they produce is unmatched, and since it also happens to be exactly the horn sound composers like Wagner, Bruckner, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler and many others had in mind when they wrote their music, it is the ideal instrument to play in that kind of repertoire.

      Technical perfection is a great goal but it shouldn’t be the only one, otherwise one ends up with the musical monoculture created in the US in the last century by tyrants like Toscanini, Szell, or Reiner who screamed and tantrumed their orchestras into making as few mistakes as possible, with the effect that even today, American orchestras still play mechanically and display very little real ensemble culture.

      Oh, and BTW, the vast majorities of American brass players are boys, too, so the idea that the WP have a quality problem because they don’t hire women brass players is pretty nonsensical to begin with.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        I respectfully disagree. The woodwind and brass sections of the great American orchestras play better in tune and have a broader musical range of style and articulation. You speak of difficult instruments? Well in London I’ve heard the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and found their playing beautiful and technically amazing on those instruments, played by women and men. And in London I tend to see more female brass players than in America. That’s anecdotal, perhaps Mr. Osbourne has actual statistics on that.

        Hearing Vienna Phil playing American music is a painful experience. Hearing Chicago play Mahler is not. Best of all, I believe, is the Met.

        Yes, you note that in the US the majority of brass players are still guys. There is a big difference between between barring women totally vs. having 35 to 50 percent female membership in general, and open to participation in the brass, even if hasn’t evened out yet. There are a fair number of female horn players.

        You have not convinced me that VPO is not sacrificing quality to maintain their club.

        • Eduardo Vieira says:

          Let´s say that yes, they are “sacrificing quality to maintain their club”, So what? It´s a problem for themselves and for the people who fund them or pay full-price tickets to watch them.

          As public, you can reprove them using the best tool you have: NOT HEARING OR ASSISTING THEM. It´s easy. There are millions of records from other orchestras to hear. There are a lot of other concerts to watch.

          If politic correctness and issues from the past are more important than the music they play for the majority of the audience, soon they will have to rethink their strategy.

          But, I think that classic music lovers are not so worried with these problems and their tickets are still selling.

          The same is valid for Wagner: he was an asshole, but an asshole who made great music. Why can´t we get the good part of him and let the bad part to the historians?

          Eduardo

        • “…brass sections of the great American orchestras play better in tune and have a broader musical range of style and articulation. ”

          Really?? Being a hornist and having listened to these orchestras, I can only chuckle. In fact, I rarely go out of my way to here big American orchestras (Cleveland Orchestra recordings and broadcasts of a certain vintage excepted) mainly because brass sections are so lacking in style.
          Trombonists usually being the worst offenders. La, la , la — It’s always amusing to hear trombones think that they are playing staccato.

          While I’ve heard the OAE, if I want to hear single F horns playing Bruckner, Brahms, Mahler, ect. , I’d rather listen the the real deal –Vienna Horns. Might as well listen to the likes of Roland Berger, Thomas Joebstl, and, especially, Wolfgang Tomboeck, Jr. Now that is Tone and style…

          • Pete says:
            January 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm

            ““…brass sections of the great American orchestras play better in tune and have a broader musical range of style and articulation. ”

            Really?? Being a hornist and having listened to these orchestras, I can only chuckle. In fact, I rarely go out of my way to here big American orchestras (Cleveland Orchestra recordings and broadcasts of a certain vintage excepted) mainly because brass sections are so lacking in style.
            Trombonists usually being the worst offenders. La, la , la — It’s always amusing to hear trombones think that they are playing staccato.”

            That’s pretty funny, but unfortunately all too true. I find the brass playing of the CSO, in particular in Bruckner which they seem to think is all about playing as loud as possible, almost comically lacking in style. Listen to the recordings they made with Barenboim and Solti, for instance, technically the playing is certainly very adequate but they play everything exactly the same with little tonal nuances or that careful tapering off of notes in some passages where not just loud playing, but balance and transparency are required. It almost sounds like a tone generator which is just switched on and off when they come in. They are not helped either by the recordings themselves in which they are directly miked and every time they come in, they are switched to the foreground to make them sound more “impressive”. Unfortunately, it seems that some people are indeed “impressed” by that.

            As for the “la, la la” – I also noticed that they often cheat in difficult legato passages by attacking every note. A good example for this is the chromatic passage in Bruckner 9, 2nd movement, around bar 100. Listen to the Barenboim recording at about 1:37-38 to hear what I mean. Then listen to the Giulini recording with the WP to see how that really goes.

        • “Well in London I’ve heard the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and found their playing beautiful and technically amazing on those instruments, played by women and men.”

          Most of the repertoire they play is 18th and early 19th century repertoire which is not generally as demanding on brass instruments than later 19th century and early 20th century repertoire, so the comparison with orchestras who play a much wider repertoire doesn’t really make sense. I heard the OAE play Das Rheingold on period instruments – more or less, because they weren’t really consistently of the period and type of instruments used in Wagner’s time, more general sort of late 19th century instruments – and they were all over the place, lots of fairly serious booboos and intonation problems. It was still interesting to get an idea of the kinds of textures produced by the instruments of – roughly – the period.

          “Hearing Vienna Phil playing American music is a painful experience.”

          How so? I only heard them play American music once, that was Bernstein’s Divertimento with the man himself conducting, and they were great in that. They understand the concept of style because they have their own style, so they can recognize other styles. American orchestras have no style to begin with. And, BTW, American music is next to irrelevant in the world’s concert halls even though there are a few nice pieces. Few orchestras play them though, and that includes American orchestras.

          “Hearing Chicago play Mahler is not.”

          It is for me. Although I wouldn’t use the word “painful”, that is such an over-the-top expression. I would say I find them highly unsatisfying to listen to not just in Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss, but in pretty much everything. I just heard them in Carnegie Hall in a wooden and very unstylish runthrough of Dvorak 5 and Feste Romane which, predictably, turned into a loud blarefest but the many subtle colors in the score were underexposed. Although Muti has managed to make them sound a little rounder and deeper than usual. But the string sound is still very thin as they completely lack the kind of ensemble culture which produces a deeper string sound. They are all very good players, and they play well together in a metronomic sense but they don’t really *play* together.

          “Best of all, I believe, is the Met.”

          I have never heard them live. On the Ring recordings they made for DG and the later videos, they certainly play very well but the sound also appears kind of thinnish. In nothing I have heard from them do they display that really advanced ensemble culture that marks “the best” orchestras, whatever that may mean. “The best” is a pretty naive concept anyway, and something I note Americans cling to as if it was still the 50s, probably a reflection of a deep-seated cultural inferiority complex. There is a difference between having and living a culture and merely participating in cultural activities.

          Best of all, I believe, is the Met.

          Hearing Chicago play Mahler is not. Best of all, I believe, is the Met.

  22. Marko Velikonja says:

    I was about to say that one shouldn’t confuse the VPO – a private club that probably can exclude women if it wants – with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, their primary employer and a state institution that presumably has to follow modern non-discrimination laws. But sadly, a look at the latter’s roster shows only 8 women (including two harpists), which, as others have pointed out, seems surprisingly low given the number of women in other great orchestras.

    I think the real campaign needs to be lodged not at the VPO, but at the Staatsoper, which presumably would be under greater legal and political pressure not to discriminate. And once that wall is breached, a greater influx of women into the orchestra should eventually bring it tumbling down in the VPO as well.

    Meanwhile, people should go listen to the superb Vienna Symphony, which not surprisingly has a lot of women in its ranks.

  23. Let those antediluvian fogies have their boys’ club. I think female musicians should form a kick-ass, world-class ensemble and call it the Vienna Women’s Philharmonic.

    • Kincaidiana says:

      Rosenkav,

      I believe it’s been done already. If you google Vienna Women’s Philharmonic you’ll find more info and videos.
      It doesn’t solve or prove anything. It just emphasizes VPO’s belief that women don’t belong in a men’s orchestra. An all women orchestra is just as discriminatory as an all male orchestra. It makes us, as women, no better than those we’re trying to change here.

  24. Paul Mauffray says:

    In fairness, one must consider how many male members of the Vienna Philharmonic are already members of the Vienna Philharmonic. Sounds logical, right? Should they be expected to simply quit their jobs to make room for more women? Perhaps we should look at the statistics of how many men have left or retired recently. I have been regularly attending their concerts, and I can see what would be a normal expected turn-over rate and an appropriate influx of new female players. One of the best things about this orchestra is of course the low turn-over rate, and the inherent connection to tradition. If Norman wants to be thorough, maybe he can publish information of how many openings/auditions they have had for new players recently.

  25. Lets admit it. Music is not science. It’s not objective, so there is no truth in what is good or what is bad. You cannot “measure” how good a musician is, you can only measure how much you like his/her playing. In such circumstances, getting “the best player they can”, is a total bullshit discussion. Ladies, do you want to play in a total bullshit orchestra?

  26. Michael Endres says:

    Nice to see some sense prevail here,at the FB part of this article the PC correct brigade has taken over and calls for boycotts are announced. So where do we stop the boycott ? It would have to include also all the CDs and DVD’s. wouldn’t it ? And the conductors and soloists who play with them would also face the chop.
    Welcome to a wonderful new world.So no more Lenny with Mahler,no more Kleiber with VPO,all in the bin.

    In seriousness: it is a pity that the status quo is unsatisfactory,particularly as there must be for sure a reasonable number of graduates from Vienna, taught in the right tradition,who are females and should be part of this orchestra. Time will move on and I am optimistic hat it will change for the better.

  27. Radames Paz says:

    I would love to see some african and some latinos and especially some turks in the orchestra, ;)
    Meanwhile i dont care how good they sound i wont support racist and gender biased orchestras with my time and money

  28. By not considering women as members, the VPO will on many occasions deny itself the better player. In a world where 99% of orchestras are sex-indifferent, it is only the VPO’s loss to continue to discriminate by sex. Let them do as they wish, let them hire whom they wish. We, similarly, can attend concerts and purchase CDs according to our own preferences.

  29. Years ago, during my career as a classical music programme host with CBC Radio, I interviewed the concertmaster of the VPO and asked him about the conspicuous lack of women in the orchestra. His defence had to with the maternal leave laws in Austria. It’s possible for a woman of child-bearing age to be on leave for many years without ever actually playing in the orchestra. The VPO has a longstanding tradition of “ensemble playing”, based on years of mentoring and playing in the orchestra. Prolonged absences don’t foster this policy/tradition. That was the “explanation”. He did, at the end of the conversation, concede that it is inevitable that the policy will have to change. However, that interview was back in the 90s, and the policy hasn’t changed much.

    • Orchestras throughout Europe work under maternity laws similar to Austria’s but none of them discriminate against women like the VPO. You might want to read this article about the VPO and matnernity leave:

      http://www.osborne-conant.org/birth.htm

      • That’s a very disingenuous article because it purposely fails to take into account that the members of that orchestra do nearly double duty as members of the opera orchestra and as members of the Philharmoniker. In the latter organization, they share duties and income equally. Even for an ensemble with 149 or so members, that is an extremely challenging schedule, especially with all the touring they do. If they had more women, they could not do that and at the same time the female members would not have the option to have children. It’s that simple.

        We live in a far from perfect world in which, however, there are far worse problems than those you spend such a great deal of time being “activist” about. The WP are a somewhat quirky and strange and anachronistic organization, but in a world in which the majority of the women on the planet don’t even have the most basic equality and in which many are brutally suppressed and exploited, your “activism” in this matter seems somewhat odd and completely out of place. I had wondered for a while why that is until recently, when you told us your “activism” had cost you your “career as a composer”.
        Sure…
        I am sorry things didn’t work out for you as a composer. But please don’t blame it on other people and please don’t play the martyr.

        • Michael,

          I agree with your important point, that I would describe saying a prioritization of discrimination imperatives is in order. As I have said, if women can’t get elected to public office, or are forbidden to start their own orchestra, then there are serious discriminatory problems. Whether an existing tradition of a men’s orchestra ought to be understood as anti-female is I think a different question, and even if it is understood as discriminatory, cannot be as serious as other problems.

          If Austria were a place where women could not get elected, were actively prohibited from forming and maintaining their own ensembles, AND could not get hired to an existing orchestra, I would not be making these remarks. The society would then be summarily describable as blatantly discriminatory. But this is not the case.

        • Michael’s information is false. The VSO/VPO doesn’t have double the number of services of other orchestras. It has about the same as most. The VSO has 149 members which allows them to share services. In 2011, the government gave the VSO an extra 3.02 million dollars a year for hiring subs and to help with other costs. Several of the women in the VP have taken maternity leave and it has not been a problem.

          • You are wrong. In Germany/Austria orchestras that share opera and concert duties usually have a substantially higher number of “Dienste” than others, particularly radio orchestras, at app. equal pay.
            Around 50% higher number of “Dienste” more or less. Examples are Wiener Staatsoper, Staatsoper Dresden, Gewandhaus/Opera Leipzig.

            Now if women had maternity leaves, and the government drops an additional 3 million dollars for covering for that, it could be described as a problem, a problem that can be solved with more money, but a problem nevertheless.

          • Actually, you reinforce my point. The VSO is not very different in number of services from Dresden, Leipzig, and many others.

          • Not really. All of the above mentioned orchestras have substantially more services per tutti player than most other orchestras. Ballpark figure 280-300 a year last I heard. Plus additional duties.
            Now Leipzig has more women in it’s rank, but at a significantly higher cost for more positions, they have a whopping almost 180 IIRC. Dresden is somewhere around 160. Vienna is “only” 149. They would need to have more positions altogether, if they wanted to increase their share of women. That could be done of course, but to completely negate this problem as nonexistent is not realistic.

          • Realist, It’s sexist because, in 2012, yes women still carry and give birth to babies, but parents share in parenting duties. It’s no more difficult for a woman to care for a child while maintaining a career than it is for a man. It’s a matter for a family to work out between themselves, not a matter for an orchestra to consider when hiring you.

            Unbelievable, that this would need explaining.

        • “If they had more women, they could not do that and at the same time the female members would not have the option to have children. It’s that simple.”

          I can’t believe that you and people at the VPO actually hold this to be a logical argument. It was once argued to me by a tour guide at the Musikverein, where apparently this line of “reason” is fed to everyone as the party position.

          It’s so blatantly sexist it should not even need refuting.

          I am wary of the piling-on to the VPO for their supposed hiring bias, but this goes too far!

          • Is it really sexist? I don’t think so. It’s a rational statement and fact. The problem can be partially solved with spending more money for more positions and substitutes, as all the other public institutions who hire more women do.
            The problem that their local particular style requires continuity and strong group interaction can not be solved easily on that background though.

          • Realist, This is 2013… yes women still carry and give birth to babies, but parents can share in parenting duties. It’s no more difficult for a woman to care for a child while maintaining a career than it is for a man to do so. It’s a matter for a family to work out between themselves. It’s not a matter for an orchestra to consider when hiring you.

            Unbelievable, that this would need explaining to anyone.

            I’m unaware that this rationale has been given by the VPO’s leadership as a reason they would not hire women. I do know that it has been given as a rationale by the orchestra’s adherents and fans, and by that one tour guide at the Musikverein I met. It shows not only a crazy attitude from people who run the VPO, but more frighteningly, a scary conservative mentality among the Viennese in general.

  30. Instead of wondering who may or may not be playing on this year’s Vienna Philharmonic New Years Concert, I’m thinkin’ that folks on this blog (and classical musicians in particular) might want to take a look at how the VPO got to be the envy of the musical world.

    I was looking at some of the figures of these concerts: it will be viewed in some 80 countries around the world by millions of the folks. Tickets to the actual concert are assigned by a lottery with the top ticket fetching 980 Euros.

    I love that! 980 euros. That’s flippin’ Fantastic!

    So, there has to be multiple business and marketing lessons in this. Something to study before the big show on New Years’ Day.

    • This keys in on the central point here, money. The VP is a private enterprise whose membership is selected from members of the VSO Orchestra, who are public employees. Becoming a member of the VP means sharing in revenues above and beyond their VSO salary, including touring, recording, and broadcasts like the New Year’s concert, which can be significant. The VP routinely tours, records, and concertizes with non-VP members who do not participate in revenue sharing. Also, a great deal of these officially “private” activities are, effectively, subsidized by the state, from upkeep of concert facilities to state broadcasting services. While the VSO membership must be selected according to Austrian and EU employment norms, selection into the VP does not have similar restrictions and a termination of trial membership in the VP typically ends the player’s tenure with the VSO as well.

  31. The Maltese Falcon says:

    I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it but vision (mostly tele-vision) of string players doing gigs with quasi classical groups or concerts show that they are almost always exclusively women. Wonder what’s going on there? Are they rejects from the Vienna Phil?

  32. Outraged violonist says:

    I can’t help thinking that part of Prof. Hellsberg’s words have been taken out of their original context and used for different purposes than what they were initially used for.
    Music or art in general don’t stand quotas, only the best performance and interpretation count : can anyone deny this fact ?

    The first reason for the little number of women in the orchestra is that the VPO started hiring women just a few years ago (1997), whereas other orchestras have been doing it for decades. So many people didn’t retire yet to fulfill a 50% ratio of women in the orchestra.
    Another reason is that all the women of the orchestra can not be playing the New Year’s concert at once, each year. It would be unfair on them comparing to the other male members, who play the New Year’s concert in turns. That is why one doesn’t see so many women.
    Moreover at the same time as the VPO concert takes places the “Fledermaus” in the opera, which also has to have female players in it.

    And just a word to all those in the comments that advise that the auditions sould be held behind a curtain and that women are encouraged not to wear high heels at the auditions in order not to get discriminated (this is a common advice for every orchestra… ) : they are already.
    Yes the last round is without curtain, and this is yet again absolutely normal. The members of the orchestra are allowed to face the person they are going to hire and probably spend the next 40 years of their professional life with.
    Wouldn’t you do the same ?

    So please, Mr. Lebrecht take some information before you write such articles, and moreover publish them, for they do not reflect the policy of the orchestra. By doing so, you just spread hate and false informations about one of the world’s leading orchestras.

    And I also encourage some of the commenters to take some more information before answering hateful comments.

    As we say in Austria : “Guten Rutsch ins 2013″ and enjoy the New Year’s Concert !

    • Since 1997 when the VPO agreed to admit women, about half of the orchestra’s musicians have retired. Only about 1 in 10 of the approximately 70 new hires have been women.

      • Graf Nugent says:

        Maybe, but why should they be obliged to take women just to catch up with other major orchestras who have been hiring women for decades? Did the others go from 0 to 45% in fifteen years?

        • The international average for the increase of women among orchestral personnel is about 1% per year. In the VPO it is only about 0.3% per year. By international norms the VPO would now have about 15% women instead of 5.5%.

    • Violinist,
      As I understand, the Neujahrskonzert takes place the “vormittag” of Jan. 1… Fledermaus is scheduled for 19uhr.

  33. Just a thought:
    Let’s assume an orchestra made up of mostly men believes, that there are differences in the quality of sound and homogeneity – it’s particularly the groups (string groups in the orchestra that are the issue – if the groups are unisex vs than mixed.
    Let’s also assume that such orchestra believes that there are physical differences in anatomy between the sexes, that have influences – in average, not in all cases – on sound production. That would be the case particularly for the bigger instruments that require more physical stamina, Celli, Double basses, etc.

    Now if such an orchestra believes in it’s majority these parameters matter to the sonic quality of music making, and if this orchestra is also undisputedly one of the best in the world – particularly in the sound of the groups in question (strings) – then would it be right to accuse them of discrimination based on sex, while they actually discriminate based on sound?

    It’s a tricky question, because part of the issue is an empirical experience, that “group think” or “swarm intelligence – when a cello group plays together and tries to produce the homogenous sound the Vienna Phil are famous for – is not possible to evaluate in auditions. In auditions you can evaluate a players individual capabilities. Only in the probation period you can evaluate, how well a new member will fit into the orchestra.

    The above mentioned issues are taken for granted in sports, where there is strict separation between the sexes and there is no legislation that would render that unlawful.
    There is a bit of that in music making as well, as many classical musicians can testify. Ask string players… It’s avery different sublimal “group mentality” while playing if the string section is all male, all female or mixed.

    The issue is even more complicated, since some members of the opposite sex can blend better with opposite sex sections, than others. I could imagine a Sarah Willis in Berlin has no problem blending in in the “group think” of her otherwise male dominated horn group.

    If you make music on the level Vienna Phil or Berlin Phil do, you have to look with the necessary sensitivity to these sublimal psychological and intersubjective issues.

    Bottomline, as long as there are enough orchestras open to all sexes, why don’t we just let a few traditional ensembles structure their setup in a way that they see fit. Vienna Phil and Berlin Phil are top ensembles, world heritage, let’s protect them the way they see fit.

    • Realist,

      but then you must take into mind also the nationalities (if following your example about the sublimity
      of a bigger mass). They would such case only take people with enough of body mass, e.g. Dutch people
      or Swedes. So what is the average mass of players in Vienna Philharmonics vs other orchestras?

  34. Frank-Michael Fischer says:

    Maybe we are all missing a point here: Mr Hellberg was just a little bit imprecise. What he actually meant, was: “In der ORCHESTERKUNST kann es keine Quote geben”. And now it makes all sense. When looking e.g. at this roster here: http://bit.ly/YW1ooL it is obvious that (in least in Hamburg) males are discriminated in the top soloists field (including pop stars!).There the first male (Rolando Villazón) is no. 6 behind six women only. And amongst the top 20 there is not one single male instrumentalist! it So male musicians should at least be allowed to make their living in an orchestra not overshadowed by females. Leave them alone to heal their traumata, please.
    Just to prove my point, Vienna Philharmonic excepts female soloist with no hesitation: http://bit.ly/VqqGFf

  35. QUOTE:
    “The VPO’s racism is indicative of a wider range of racism within the country.
    They need to reeducate themselves on a broader level ”

    REEDUCATE !?
    - yes, let’s have some reeducation programmes! And how about a couple of showtrials?
    And if they work well, we can have some autodafes as well.

    Do some of you guys posting here actually think before you type?
    And do you realise what you wish for?

  36. For those interested, I’ve written an update about the latest status of women in the Vienna Philharmonic/Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Some of the developments are quite significant and potentially very positive, to my mind. I also include photos of the ten women now in the Staatsoper Orchestra along with biographical information about each one. And I address the Schirach affair at some length (it’s about an award the VPO gave to a convicted war criminal who sent 65,000 Jews to death camps (Baldur von Schirach,) how they re-presented the award to him in 1966, and about the fact that the files about Schirach’s award are currently missing from the orchestra’s archive.) The update is here:

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/vpo-update-2012.htm

  37. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Oy gevolt. Blind auditions are the only way to go. If the panel feels that the screen interferes, they should be blindfolded for the final round. If they’re serious they won’t object, especially since visual cues actually change one’s perception of the music.

    http://www.psmag.com/culture/visual-cues-impact-judgment-of-piano-performances-35579/

  38. My opinion is that Vienna has prevented itself from being one of the very very best orchestras in the world because it has remained closed to the best international talent, preferring instead to train and promote its own Austrian raised players instead. I don’t blame anyone from seeing this as xenophobic, but how many other orchestras do the same? It’s virtually impossible to get an orchestra job in Paris unless you came up through the conservatoire (and the orchestras in Paris stink as a result.) Boston successfully raised and trained its own talent, to a point that bordered on nepotism, with legacies and families in the orchestra. That probably happened with screened preliminary auditions, too. All this scrutiny of Vienna’s hiring practices, and yet… how many female musicians can claim they got all the way to the final round and were knocked out as soon as the curtain was raised? When they start coming forward and sharing their experiences, then we’ll have a story. Orchestral hiring politics is messy and mysterious even if you AREN’T a former-Nazi men’s club.

    • “My opinion is that Vienna has prevented itself from being one of the very very best orchestras in the world because it has remained closed to the best international talent, preferring instead to train and promote its own Austrian raised players instead.”

      Good point, but it also depends what you define as best orchestra. If you consider the addition of the world’s best soloists will generate the world’s best orchestra, then you are right. If you think – as the so called more traditional orchestras (Vienna Phil, Staatskapelle Dresden, Gewandhaus(?)) do – that homogeneity of a certain sound is best achieved by careful local (in-)breeding, then your point could be challenged.

      What most outsiders here don’t even know, is that you first of all have to be a world class orchestra like the above mentioned, in order to even think about what is best for your sonic and musical ideal.
      Most orchestras just have to take what they can possibly get without the luxury of choosing between locally initiated talent and others.

      • I concur fully, Realist. Let it be up to the orchestra if they wish to cultivate the top international talent in a melting-pot like Berlin Phil has done, or if they wish to remain true to a local idea of tone and musical style. The latter is going to come with some difficult choices, and may not increase the varieties of color or gender among the ranks, but that is not necessarily the same as overt discrimination.

        The Nazi past has no real place in this discussion. Forcing the issue, like demanding VPO discuss it on their website is unproductive. Everybody always wants to smell a conspiracy, it seems, and there will be no stopping them.

      • There is no objective scale of what constitutes a “best” orchestra, and there is serious cultural drawback to opening up an orchestra to an international personnel, namely, that the orchestra then because merely mercenary, and does not have that appropriate allegiance to its native culture that is, in fact, the defining characteristic of a specific culture. In Austria, where the culture is certainly among the oldest and most self-sustaining, there is no urgent need for an international component. They have it all and they have had it all for a long time.
        With the San Francisco Symphony, where of the four years I studied statistically there were never more than 2% of the works written by living Americans (sometimes not even that), and where they do more modern music on tour than at home, there is no sense whatsoever that the orchestra offers a program suited to San Francisco, or even America itself. Foreigners have completely taken over the programming, deciding for the Americans what pieces they will listen to, telling them what they will enjoy. Those who defend these policies try to claim that that is what the people want, but the people don’t know squat about such things, are certainly NOT involved in the selection of repertoire, so the actual decision-making process is indistiguishable from Soviet standards and methods. Scarcely ten percent of the audience can even pronounce the names on the program, and would be hard pressed to even distinguish one piece from another, yet the decision-makers take the line that they are giving the people what they want. The people can at best conclude that this is what they are expected to like, a very different prospect. No thought whatsoever is given to whether the cumulative effect is to raise the cultural awareness of a community to itself as a community – the only such identification that is permitted is in sports, where indeed cities battle it out. In America you cannot understand where Classical music fits into the scheme of things unless you admit that spectator sports are the genuine popular medium. The amelioration of the culture caused by the arts is only permitted if the amelioration is according to some imagined international standard.
        So Classical music in the United States is a culture within a culture, and it is being run by another culture. The Americans are not guarding the gate of high culture so they have suffered a complete invasion in it. If the United States is left off its own programs, it is not the United States that is benefiting from the programs, it is only being inducted into someone else’s culture.
        If the Austrians are wise enough to select their own players first I say more power to them – within Austria. The cry we are hearing from the likes of some of those here in this mailing list, for enforced internationalism, is very culturally suspicious. There is no consensus of what an international culture might or should be, so we should believe that the international politics of earlier regimes are still in the mix. And the only major power from days gone by that had consistent and forceful policies about this was the Soviet Union. So the enforced populism of recent programming indicates that the old Soviet enforced populism is still operative. In this country it has been decades since the Soviets took over all the ballet companies – the Americans think it is a “tradition” to do the Nutcracker at Christmas – and gave the general populist bias to all programming at large organizations. Schoenberg understood the problem and created the Verein. Apparently by dragging their heal some Austrian orchestral managements are maintaining a cultural profile more in keeping with the culture, let us not forget, they did a lot to create.
        Lastly, I want to say that, whatever the Austrian law may be, it is sad that a centuries-old tradition of music-making is apparently being dismantled for no better reason than the overlarding of recent liberal PC politics, and I refuse to believe that the VP’s hiring policies require examination as to the involvement of Nazis 75 years ago, especially considering the Nazi in question served twenty years in prison. Mr. Osborne, you are wrong to bring von Schirach in as though that were in any way relevant to the discussion of whether women are presently being hired. As usual, people bringing in the offenses of the Nazi past as though they must bear on all future arguments is nothing but opportunistic argumentative heckling. It is easy to believe violence of a drunk, but slamming around old carcasses does not a case make, in court you have to prove both cases, and there is no connection between Nazism and any degree of imagined misogyny. (The Nazis could perhaps more reasonably be accused of a kind of faux feminism.) If women cannot get elected to public office, or are denied the right to make their own orchestra, then you have a problem. But forcing an organization to change its centuries-old constitution that has nothing to do with any of the politics you are trying to accuse it of, is going too far. Basta.

        • The current racism in the VPO’s employment practices (the exclusion non-Caucasians) makes the orchestra’s fascist history relevant. It provides context for analysis of cultural values, possible historical continuities, the origins of ideological beliefs, etc. This history also sheds light on the orchestra’s exclusion of women.

          • Your paradigms could not be more clear. If this were 1948 or even 1965 your inquiry would make better sense. But you do realize there is no “fascist history” unless it is indeed a continuity, and that is a long time to have to prove a thread. Dredging up already punished crimes from three-quarters of a century ago is I think you realize insufficient on its own. If you can do it, why then, the case is important.

            But if it is indeed true that the orchestra has a predilection to hire from its own immediate community that should not be ignored, and up to now “insufficient internationalism” is not a crime. And since the orchestra was an all men’s orchestra for much more than a century before, an all-male policy is no support for fascism, in fact an argument for a narrow-community definition of the group. And since the tradition for this goes so far back, that has to be part of the study of the “origins of ideological beliefs,” and calling an orchestra fascist because it started out as a men’s orchestra in 1842 is rather a stretch. I hope that is not what you are ratcheting up to do.

            They might merely be the oldest, most famous “community orchestra” in the world. (In my view they might merit that definition for doing too little contemporary music.) It is difficult to imagine there is an Austrian law putting it under obligation to hire from the entire universe available. If it is hiring from only Viennese or principally Austrians etc., or perhaps from only fluent German speakers or some similar reasonable culturally- or community-defined criterion, and if within this narrow definition there are clear instances of the kind of racism you are hunting, then there may be some significance to your study. But most such “studies” bringing up Nazis from so long ago are just yellow journalism.

          • Orchestra violin player says:

            Another mistake Mr Osborne. Currently there are three full time non caucasians in the orchestra… Two violinists and a cellist. Please try to get your facts right!

          • Could you substantiate that statement, please?

          • Yes, I would like to see the substantiation too. There are two half Asian members (as I’ve mentioned many times here on SD,) but that is not readily apparent and they both have German names. For the VP it is exactly the question of appearances, and what could be recognized in a name, that has been important. Anyway, any *substantial and documented* info you might have would be of interest.

  39. since Christopher Fulkerson has been rejected somewhere as a composer, it would seem, then that gives the Vienna Philharmonic the right to keep women musicians out? The fact that one respondent used less than absolutely-spiffing-Oxford English gives Mr Fulkerson the right to blow that opinion away? You, sir, appear to have serious problems with other musicians in general, and women musicians in particular. You can only hope that as a composer, you won’t somewhere in the future need any help in the form of performance from those who read this blog, and who play in orchestras.
    Do be nice to people on the way up, sweetie, as you’re going to meet them again on the way down.

    • Dear “SusiQ,”

      Your reasoning falls far short of logical. Aside from the gratuitous lack of relevance with orchestras anywhere, and the lack of example in history of only nice people getting orchestral performances, you speak like another person who hides behind anonymity and assumes too much: I worked for nine years at the SF Girls Chorus teaching solfege, wrote a book for them which is downloaded all over the world, and there were no problems of the sort you wish you could speak authoritatively about. As to my “meeting people on the way down,” perhaps you will be among those to be pleased with my having paid in advance for the crassness you’d like to lay at my door, pretending to be oh so sweet about it.

      • Sir: I hide behind nothing. There are those here who know me professionally. I am an orchestral musician. I don’t write books about or on music, I play music. I don’t need to point to my credentials to justify my existence as a musician. And I don’t care how much you ‘paid in advance’, your defensiveness is still amusing!

        • How convenient for you that you are so easily amused, merely to ridicule others with irrelevant PC remarks and laugh at them when they defend themselves, and say like a birdbrain that because someone else might know you, you are not therefore hiding behind your SusiQ mask. I do detect one conspicuous identifier of you as female: you think that if you get the last word, you must perforce be right.

  40. James Weber says:

    I am Just relieved that Julian Day has stopped talking about the Vienna Phi. To which station would I listen if P.C. sullied the lovely music and light commentary I enjoy.

  41. Dario Landazuri says:

    Dr. Fulkerson,

    Your chauvinism is quite amusing and sad at the same time (the “dyke” tuba player?). As is your xenophobia.

    Just sayin’.

    Cheers!

  42. Stephanie Rossbach says:

    As a 67-year old woman I’ve watched and personally experienced the changes that women have fought for and to a certain extent won regarding greater equality in the workplace and society here in the US. My first reaction to the bias against women exhibited so proudly by the Vienna Philharmonic was the same righteous indignation expressed by so many of the contributors. However, on thinking this over I have come to a different reaction. It seems to me that the VPO is a perfect expression of a desire to return to the “good old days”, in particular the mid-19th century, when there was a rigid social order, a solidly-accepted religious point of view and a clearly-understood proper way of doing things. Today, while most of the world’s cultures have evolved (or are trying to) into a more enlightened way of life, there are still pockets of reactionary attitudes and lifestyles. It seems both sad and comic that a group of talented and hard-working musicians would voluntarily ally themselves with an organization that is such a period piece. The VPO seems to be a living museum, a beautiful diorama of how things used to be before the social and political order got all messed up. Except, of course, that the gilt and satin gloss over the reality of what life was really like for most people in these times. Guess a better analogy would be that the VPO is like a slick historical romance . . . a lovely confection to be enjoyed occasionally as a distraction from reality.

  43. Orchestra violin player says:

    The three non Caucasian players to whom I was referring are Mr Jun Keller (section leader of the first violins) and the Hedenborg brothers (first violin and cello). One could argue that it doesn’t count as they are only half Japanese (Keller being German/Japanese and the Hedenborgs being Sweedish-Austrian/Japanese) but as they look for all intents and purposes to be Asian and are completely fluent in the Japanese language, it certainly can not be said that they are Caucasion…..

    • Thank you.

    • One can see Mr. Keller’s photo here. It is fairly obvious that an Asian heritage is not especially apparent:

      http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/index.php?set_language=en&cccpage=musicians_detail&set_z_musicians=9

      Wilfried and Bernard Hedenborg are clearly partially Asian in regular photos, but it is less readily apparent from the stage or in most television broadcasts. Their photos can be seen in the two URLs below:

      http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/index.php?set_language=en&cccpage=news_detail&set_z_news=53

      http://www.lauenenconcerts.com/index.php/bernhard-naoki-hedenborg-cello

      Bernard entered the orchestra only recently (about a year ago.) He is, for example, still not listed among the personnel on the VPO website. And Wilfried entered in 2004. I think their recent inclusion is yet another sign of the slow changes taking place in the orchestra, but it is still essential to note that there are no members who are fully Asian and who have Asian names. This is notable because about a third of the students for the last 40 years at the University of Music in Vienna have been Asian. Many have reached the highest professional standards, but none have ever been hired even though Asians are common in major orchestras around the world. Let us hope that the partial changes represented by the Hedenborg brothers are positive signs for the future.

      • “william osborne says:
        January 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm
        One can see Mr. Keller’s photo here. It is fairly obvious that an Asian heritage is not especially apparent”

        Oh wow, what’s next? Are you going to ask for craniometric measurements of the skulls of all orchestra members in order to determine what “race” exactly they belong to? [redacted]

        • No, just that racial discrimination not be practiced.

          • Less than 2% of the Austrian population are of non-caucasian descent.

            The racial setup of the Vienna Phil reflects the Austrian society well.
            There is no racial discrimination in the year 2012, only in your mind.

            Can you now please just stop? Thank you.

          • For another demographic, a third of the students for the last 40 years at the University of Music in Vienna have been Asian. But as “Another Orchestra Violinist” notes, the Hedenborg brothers represent positive signs that discrimination is ending.

          • There are people who read this and think it might be relevant (one third Asians at Vienna’s music schools). I’m not sure those numbers are correct for the last 40 years, but even if, most of those Asians have no intention of starting a professional career in Europe. They come here for the great and free education and then mostly go back to their home countries, best case starting professional careers or in many cases having raised their value on the home marriage meat market through the label “European educated”.

            Again, less than 2% of the Austrian residents are of non-caucasian descent. That “racial discrimination of non-caucasians” in the Vienna Phil Mr. Osborne is so sure about is not exactly happening the way he imagines. Austria in general is not exactly free of xenophobic resentments, but here the agenda to throw mud on the Vienna Phil is distorting the honest perception of reality for some.

          • The Austrians have been intelligent in at least some cases of what you call their “xenophobia.” For example, they do not permit Scientology, which any common sense observer in the US knows is completely bogus as a religion. They became a “church” about the time I was in college, and one of their members said to me “we’re not really a church, we’re only calling ourselves that to avoid paying taxes.” But they are not even that honest anymore.

            Why force another society to ingest absolutely every last crumb of the American experiment? We are NOT making people demonstrably happier with it, we are now a society of lawsuits and obstructionism, more given to political fighting than ever before. Sometimes peace is achieved through decision.

          • william osborne says:
            January 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

            “No, just that racial discrimination not be practiced.”

            Reducing people to whatever you perceive their “race” to be is a form of racial discrimination, too.

          • Realist says:
            January 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

            “There are people who read this and think it might be relevant (one third Asians at Vienna’s music schools). I’m not sure those numbers are correct for the last 40 years, but even if, most of those Asians have no intention of starting a professional career in Europe. They come here for the great and free education and then mostly go back to their home countries, best case starting professional careers or in many cases having raised their value on the home marriage meat market through the label “European educated”.”

            Good point. I saw that first hand when I studied music because for several years, I had a Japanese girlfriend who studied opera. We also went to Vienna to visit some friends of her Japan who studied there. There were *a lot* of Japanese girls there, very many of them, BTW, studied singing or piano, so their contribution to the “40%” or whatever the actual number may be was irrelevant to the discussion of how many end up working in orchestras. And the vast majority of them didn’t even have the intention of trying to make a career as a professional singer or pianist in Europe. Many of them came from wealthy families who could afford to send their daughters to ウィーン (Uiin), it was the thing to do, often for the reasons stated by you at the end. The fewest of them also spoke more than just a few words of German, most of the singers learned their lieder texts phonetically. So just looking at naked numbers without looking at the background means next to nothing.
            I noticed that looking at the background and context rather than just compiling numbers, carefully selected in order to “prove” the pre-decided is something Mr Osborne rarely does. It’s all reduced to “racism”, and when that isn’t enough, then the Nazis are dragged in from their graves.

          • Realist says:
            January 3, 2013 at 10:18 am

            “Less than 2% of the Austrian population are of non-caucasian descent.

            The racial setup of the Vienna Phil reflects the Austrian society well.
            There is no racial discrimination in the year 2012, only in your mind.”

            Also, quite a few of the players who have joined since the fall of the Iron Curtain are non-Austrians who come from Eastern Europe, from places which at one time were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a traditionally very important resource for the orchestra which was denied to them through the Cold War, and in which places, due to the isolation, exactly the kind of traditional playing style the WP cultivate was well preserved. Many of those ethnic groups were also victims of Nazi aggression back then, so implying that whatever the attitude of the current generation of Austrian WP members may be is still some kind of “Nazi mindset” is just pure and blatant nonsense.

      • I just want to add here that I have no problem acknowledging that the Hedenborg brothers looks as much or more Asian than Caucasian, but there are two much more fundamental points to bear in mind:

        1. This should not be used to try to hide the fact that the Vienna Philharmonic has long had a discretely practiced policy of excluding Asians. To deny this would be an attempt to hide a very important truth, even if we are seeing signs this policy is being quietly and slowly ended.
        2. Hiring partial Asians with German names is not the same as actually hiring people who are fully Asian and have Asian names. This is important because the real victims of the Philharmonic’s discrimination have been the many Asian students who come to Vienna to study and who reach very high standards playing in a Viennese style. The belief has been that they cannot sound Viennese in spite of their training. In an interview in Die Zeit last March, Daniel Barenboim put it this way: „Diese Unterschiede kann man lernen. Problematisch, faschistisch wird es erst, wenn man sagt, die tschechische Trompete darf nur von tschechischen Trompetern gespielt werden, und Beethovens Neunte klingt nur richtig ‘deutsch’ wenn ein deutscher Dirigent am Pult steht.“

        He wasn’t, of course, speaking purely theoretically. The attitudes that exist toward Asians in the Vienna Philharmonic, and to a lesser degree in some other orchestras is well known. The problem is also addressed in this 2009 article in Die Welt:

        http://www.welt.de/kultur/article4295385/Deutsche-Orchester-und-ihr-Rassismus-Problem.html

      • Just for fun, I went to the Website of the excellent NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo.

        There you can look at the roster of musicians. Outside of guest conductors, how many caucasians in the orchestra did I see? Zero.

        NEWSFLASH! – I Found one white guy in the horn section of the Tokyo Symphony.

        (sarc off . You may now return to your regularly scheduled axe grinding,)

    • Orchestra violin player-

      Be assured, that long after the fakers, the ninny nannies, and poseurs have had their say, Real music lovers will still be listening to your orchestra.

      Let the VPO be the VPO. And thank you for the great music!

    • I observe of these three just-named non-Caucasian members that two of them are brothers. That is the kind of “community” aspect I am talking about, I have even used the term “family” to describe the way things seem there. It is something that is important and easy to observe and is being insufficiently noticed or considered. The fact they are brothers indicates that the “community” aspect is operative even in the hiring of the non-Caucasian members, and may have, I just say may have, greater importance to understanding the situation than is being allowed.

      When a performing ensemble calls itself after a city (or other community) name the kind of community which that city (or other community) maintains should be allowed to be part of the nature of personnel operations in that ensemble. Hiring by the brother-load is definitely a recognizable and I hope can be agreed to be an honorable thing. There may be attendant problems of a different nature, but nepotism is not automatically fascism.

      • This is true. If the Philharmonic is to maintain family traditions within the orchestra (including now a father-daughter pair), it is essential that the practice not be discredited by racial beliefs. The Hedenborg brothers are thus a very positive sign of partial progress.

  44. Zev Schneider says:

    Clemens Hellsberg is right. You shall not force an orchestra – or any team actually – to hire someone of a certain “race” or sex. They shall hire who they think fits best into their group. And if it is their tradition and believe that they are a “masculin” band, so they shall be free to remain so. No-one is forced to attend their concerts or buy records.

    In December I saw a Gospel choir – all members were black man. I wonder why some of you pathetic equal oppertunity people don’t try to do something about that discimination of non-blacks and women! Yes, that’s ironic… And for Mark B. I add .. get a life!

    • Orchestra violin player says:

      It is my firm belief that many people who have commented on this thread would do well to get a life as you put it. Whether that means playing with the VPO or another orchestra or simply making an honest living in some other area.

    • That is refreshingly pertinent. In the US a few years ago there was a black sports team that got a white coach. Some of the team members hit the ceiling over that. It needs to be said that not all of these paths are sufficiently “two-way streets.” (Personally, I might side with the blacks over that issue, on the principal of community definition.) And during the moment that point is perhaps adequately made, I would like to say plainly that there are too many non-American conductors of US institutions, yet the social implications of such hiring don’t even seem to be on the table. It has been many decades since the call for Americans to maintain their policy of low self-esteem about music, and accept foreign leadership, has been called for… we got a lot of the finest musicians and teachers from Europe as a result of WWII, and some of the most profound teachings in European music, such as those of Heinrich Schenker for example, were maintained here, not in Europe. It is we, not the Europeans, who maintained the Urlinie. In what other area of human activity would it be insignificant that most top leadership is foreign? (I await the usual accusations of xenophobia… from those of you strangers who feel called upon to vilify “outre” ideas.)
      Since so much has been made of WWII conditions, I go on to say one more thing about that. After WWII there was a tendency for American military officers to be retired into arts organizations. This went on for several decades, well into the 1980s. There was a feeling of having to deal with “cultural watchdogs” here and it was not something all of us were comfortable with. Over the years this tendency morphed into others perhaps more natural. But there is still a tendency for foreigners to be hired as artistic leadership.
      On the one hand, we are asked to hire freely of persons of all backgrounds, and on the other, we are expected not to notice that along with the jobs not going to our own people, not even the artistic guidance is ours.
      Vienna doesn’t do either willingly, and I say, that is just fine. It probably means that the Vienna Philharmonic is more Viennese than the Boston Symphony is Bostonian. In fact I think all honest informed observers know that that is what is happening. It may be that what the Viennese are experiencing is jealousy that they have maintained their own leadership and sense of community while some others have not even established theirs.

      • Zev Schneider says:

        Look, this is not about woman at all. This is a blog of a pathetic Nazi hunter. Instead of just accepting that not everything which was approved or deemed great by the Nazis is bad, they still trying to avenge the agony of their ancestors.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

      Zev,

      Re: the Gospel Singers being all black. My understanding is that there aren’t many white singers who can sing “black.” I have been told in no uncertain terms by black singers that it is a style they learn from childhood in the churches. That when white singers try it, they destroy their voices. Or black European singers, for that matter. I can’t tell you the specifics, I can only tell you that I was grilled on the topic. And after listening with awe, and noticing the longevity of the African-American singers singing Gospel, there much be something to it.

      I’m sure that a white singer could learn the technique. They would have to grow up in the cultural setting to learn it. So this is different from the VPO because clearly women are growing up in the same cultural environment as their brothers, yes?

      • Eduardo Vieira says:

        The questions is not if people can or cannot play, if they have technique or not to play at some group. They are not saying that men are best than women.

        The question is if a musical group, or any artistic group, has to accept people on it against their will or not.

        I think that not.

        One thing is the civil society and ONG pressure famous groups (as the VPO certainly is) against their hiring policies. Other, totally diferent, is denying their right of choosing who can work with them.

      • Zev Schneider says:

        Cynthia,

        Well, some people here want equality with no regards to quality – because they want an orchestra to hire someone they might not seem the best candidate. So it doesn’t matter if a white girl doesn’t fit into a male black chorus. For the sake of the their love for equality, the equality lovers must act. Now.

        Yeah, I’m being ironic, because this whole outcry for more women in certain orchestras is nothing but a yell to make all orchestras the same. Which makes them standard, lame and of no interest to anyone. It is totally ridicolous to basically ask an organization to hire a woman just for the sake of hiring women (see the stupid 40% rule the EU discusses). Employers shall hire the best candidate, not the best cantidate of a certain sex.

        If this is seen different, then the one who sees it different shall act the same way in all areas – not just certain orchestras they dislike.

      • Gospel singing is an equal-opportunity voice destroyer. All singers, not just Caucasian singers, lose their voices by singing incorrectly, as is done in almost all gospel singing. Also, it does not take very much time at all for a voice to be destroyed by that sort of so-called singing. Recently I heard a choir of quite enthusiastically-trained Oakland kids in high school, almost all of whose soloists were awful.

        There is only one correct method of singing, and that is the Italian method. That is what is taught in English-, German-, Russian, and French-speaking countries, and pretty much anywhere that there is wholesome singing going on.

        Singing in musicals can vary in its effect of voices; early musicals, such as by Rogers and Hammerstein, are written by people quite well-informed about proper singing technique. But when I was on the faculty at the SF Girls Chorus, as soon as an auditionee said she was going to sing from “Annie,” we knew she would belt it out, and almost certainly have to be turned down, or allowed in at a lower level than she might prefer.

        The fact that some people go on singing after their voices are destroyed does not mean their voices are surviving the experience. It means they are unaware of what they have done to themselves. Which is what is usually going on when you hurt yourself.

        You can play the fiddle, in contradistinction to playing the violin, and not hurt yourself or your ax. There is no vocal equivalent of “fiddle playing.” If you do it incorrectly, you will hurt yourself.

  45. Eduardo Vieira says:

    The women that are proficient enough to play in this orchestra probably can play anywhere (this argument is equal to men, I am not saying that men are better than women in playing classical music). So, if anybody is losing something is the orchestra itself and not the female musicists.

    I don’t know if VPO would be a better orchestra with female musicists. They are very good as they are now and ever. Probably they would be the same.

    But, they are a group. Why should they have to admit someone they don’t want? Have someboy suggested to The Beatles or to The Rolling Stones that they should admit women in the band? It’s ridiculous…

  46. Graf Nugent says:

    When all is said and done, it’s actually rather encouraging to see that there is one international organisation which is at least, in part, a reflection of the city and country in which it is located. How many other orchestras can say the same? Look at virtually all high-profile football teams and see how many players are local. The names of orchestras should be more redolent than just the cities and towns in which they are located, otherwise we just run the risk of experiencing an antiseptic event, much as we do if we watch ‘Chelsea’ FC and the like.

    • Richard Maier says:

      Could not say this better. I don’t like paying for the education of musicians, then finance their unemployment benefits and in addition to that the pensions of forgein musicians. So the more good local or national musicians in a orchestra, the better.

      It is counterproductive to request a single orchestra to hire certain “types” of human beings. May it be women or Asians. The orchestra shall hire whomever they seem fit. If an someone doesn’t like whom they hire, they can refrain attending the concerts or spronsership.

      I can’t see the VPO refusing to hire women, so there is no reason to butcher them.

      • “I don’t like paying for the education of musicians, then finance their unemployment benefits and in addition to that the pensions of forgein musicians.”

        A musician from a foreign country would only get a pension in, for instance, Austria, if he has spent a substantial amount of time working there and paying taxes and all that, correct? So it’s not like “you” have to pay for his pension. He/she already made his/her contribution to the system which pays him the pension.

  47. Michael Endres says:

    Next topic please:

    Wagner’s centennary.

    Rumors have it that the Berlin Philharmonic played Wagner during the Third Reich.
    And they have only around 18% female players ,don’t they ? Now THAT could be a big story……

    That’s finally where the REAL story lies,with those dreaded Germans ( and their most annoyingly high level of classical music culture ) ,not their meek Austrian bedfellows,who cheered when annexed….

    No,it will be the real McCoy.

    Wagner , Furtwaengler, Meistersinger, Bayreuth, Berlin, Hitler, Karajan, Boehm ( back to the VPO ! )….

    Ohhhh, all those juicy connections.
    We are in for a BIG season. I can’t wait…..

    • The representation of women in the Berlin Phil is 14%, a statistic low enough to be very much worth discussion, as is the 5.5% ratio in the VPO. The VPO’s long held attitudes toward Asians are also worth discussion. We should remember that discussion of the Schirach affair has been initiated by Austrian politicians, that it has been widely covered in the Austrian press, and that this history is also worthy of discussion. Wagner reception and the history surrounding it is also widely recognized as worthy of research and discussion on many different levels.

      Mr. Endres’ attempts to portray Slipped Disk as anti-German or anti-Austrian is untrue. Note the crudity of his above post and its lack of reasoned and documented argument. Norman Lebrecht provides more information about the German-speaking classical music world and its valuable activities to English speakers than any other writer, which is a service to all involved. I trust that he will not be intimidated away from this valuable work by the personal resentments of a few readers.

      If his pervious comments are any indication, Mr. Endres will likely respond to me with his usual misappropriation and crudity. If so, please forgive me if I do not respond.

      • Richard Maier says:

        The VPO has had no female member for a while. Now 5.5%. That is a good improvement. You can see they hire women. That’s a good enough reason to leave them alone.

        In your report you also single out other “types” of humans. This is pathetic. You should not be given a platform .

      • Michael Endres says:

        Mr. Osborne ,I don’t expect you to reply to those “crude” and “misappropriate” postings of mine.
        But I do deplore racism in all its varieties and disguises.
        Hence I am in disagreement with postings which are obsessed with racial profiling,and that seems to have become a main topic for you.

        • Michael Endres says:
          January 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm

          “Mr. Osborne ,I don’t expect you to reply to those “crude” and “misappropriate” postings of mine.”

          Mr Osborne doesn’t expect anyone to reply to his postings with anything that contradicts him, then he immediately switches into that pre-emptive passive-aggressive defamation mode.

      • A 14% representation of women in a men’s orchestra is an astonishing over-representation of women.

  48. Graf Nugent says:

    Here’s a Vienna-based orchestra which has nearly 50% women!

    http://www.vegetableorchestra.org/about.php

    So let’s ease up on them, OK?

  49. Someone should contact Reiner “Pure” Torheit “Foolishness” and let him know that people who make scurrilous remarks under assumed names have no credibility to begin with.

    Since the topic is serious I will point out that I am not a Holocaust denier and am working on an opera about the Nuernberg Trial, what Holocaust denier would do that I don’t know. I will assume that the Vienna authorities watch for Holocaust deniers and that I do not need to worry more about your accusation. Further remarks on this topic will be ignored.

    Leaving women out of a men’s group is not misogynistic, nor do I believe the Vienna Philharmonic is misogynistic… but du reiniger Tor, you might consider that if I am wrong, and they actually ARE misogynistic, that it is very weird for women to want to join. Just one more nail in the coffin of the credibility of controlling social groups through legal means. Too much law, no more culture.

    Lastly, I happen to know there is no successful composer named Christopher Fulkerson.

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