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My last word on women in the Vienna Philharmonic…

… for another 11 months, unless there is a determined change of policy.

I have written a piece on Bloomberg Muse today, summarising the difficulties the orchestra has got itself into as a result of its persistent sexual and racial discrimination and the untold secrets of its Nazi past.

Over the coming year, the 75th since Hitler’s Anschluss, we may discover the dirty deal the orchestra did with the genocide regime in order to found its New Year’s Day concert. The source may lie in the VPO’s unbroken post-War relationship with Baldur von Schirach, the Gauleiter who rounded up Vienna’s Jews and sent them to their deaths. Several historians are working on the case.


The VPO’s best friend: Schirach in 1940 and, out of jail, in 1966.

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  1. Steve de Mena says:

    “In 1966, 21 years after the Nazi defeat, an unrepentant VPO gave its highest honor to Baldur von Schirach, the Vienna Gauleiter in charge of genocide.”

    On the Internet it says he was given this honor (a ring) around 1942 & that a copy was made in 1966 when he got out of prison.

  2. Your article in Bloomberg was a zinger! What an interesting New Year we will have.

  3. Leanne Bear says:

    I’m not going to comment on the issue at present, merely to point out an error, if I may. There are two brothers in the orchestra who are Australian, and therefore of English speaking origin. Their names are Ben and Tobias Lea.

    • Excellent article. Yes, there are still two members in the VPO from an English-speaking country, the twin brothers Benedict and Tobias Lea who are Australian. Benedict (second violin) entered the VSO in 1993 and Tobias (solo viola) in 1994. And with the very recent addition of Ursula Wex, who was obligated to have a 9 year tenure period due to maternity leaves, the Philharmonic formation of the orchestra now has seven women members. Keeping all these details straight can be daunting. Errors inevitably creep in, but they do not change the basis of the arguments about discrimination. Thanks for supporting this important issue. Your articles and blogs are very helpful and have raised important, cross-cultural discussion

  4. Ariadne Montfleur says:

    After having -conveniently and in spite of saying the contrary, very partially – launched discussions on “illegal” (also worded “against the international law”) gender and racial discriminations in the Wiener Philharmoniker, do please now, doing justice to your self-proclaimed impartiality, examine the composition of the Israel Philharmonic, orchestra that especially in this discussion where you skilfully mix music/politics/ideology/history, should be held up as an exemple. The IPO has 88 listed musicians in its ranks, 17 women/71 men. So much for “gender discrimination”. Let’s see the minorities as asked for in Wien, the Asians, the Afro-Caribbeans, no to speak about all the others loudly claimed: well, let Mr Osborne try to explain who might or might not look half-something as he does so wonderfully with the three half-Asians in the Wiener Phil. He will have difficulties though. Not even with the best will can you find any minorities , lest of course the few American-borns fall now in this category.
    There are other actions, very much “against the international law” , taking place NOW, not in the last century, about which there cannot be any discussion, not today and with certain probability not 75 years from now. That is why singling out the WPh (for now, tomorrow it will be something/somebody else) is a simple but much needed noise-making. Brave attempt, makes people busy, bravo and thank you Mr Lebrecht. Happy 2013

  5. Fantastic… And back to the Nazis if we will…

    Is no one, surely by now, utterly utterly bored of this.

    A real shame that in the end, there is no discussion at all, and journalists just write what they see fit, as if to say, these are universal truths, this is what everyone thinks and should adhere too.
    Luckily, that therein lies no real power at all and true art outlives all commentary.

  6. A slight tangent to the discussion, but brushing up on my history and reading about Baldur von Schirach, I’m astonished he escaped the gallows and didn’t even end his life in jail either… I find that shocking.

    • Only two of the accused at the Nuremburg Trials renounced Hitler, Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach. Perhaps that’s why he was spared after sending 65,000 people to death camps in Poland.

      • I actually heard that one of the reasons why Schirach wasn’t hanged was that he had protected the family of Richard Strauss’ son, whose wife Alice was Jewish (thus making Strauss’ grandsons in NAZI parlance half-Jews).
        Schirach must have done something, as Alice and her children were the only survivors of Alice’s family (all the others having been murdered).
        True or false?

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