Vasily Petrenko and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Oslo’s young music directors at the Philharmonic and the radio orchestras, were asked for their views about women conductors, provoking a firestorm of media protest. Here’s what they said:
Today in Aftenposten’s pages Vasily Petrenko and Miguel Harth-Bedoya (newly engaged Principal Conductor in the Radio Orchestra) meet in a ‘duel’. Among other topics, they were asked why men continue to dominate the world of conductors.
Petrenkos view of women: extreme and insulting. ’I believe that when women have families it is difficult to be as dedicated as is required in this business. Another side is that orchestra musicians respond better to men at the podium. They have less sexual energy and can better focus on the music. A sweet girl on the podium makes them think about other things, says Petrenko.
Harth-Bedoya is slightly less bombastic discussing gender differences:You should ask women about this. Why are there so few femail presidents or prime ministers? It is difficult to explain. I have not played under a female conductor, but my impression is that as long as a conductor is good, the musicians will respect whoever stands on the podium.The Oslo Philharmonic swiftly published an apology by Petrenko on its website:I realize my statements in Aftenposten have caused a lot of discussion, and I’d like to clarify a few things.- What I said was meant to be a description of the situation in Russia, my homeland. This situation is worsening with some new initiatives of the government. I deeply respect that many musicians, for example the famous violinist Gidon Kremer, feels the same way about the situation there. Taken out of context I understand that what I said can very easily be perceived in the wrong way.- I have the outmost respect for female conductors, for instance the extraordinary talented conductor Marin Alsop and the famous Veronika Dudarova. I’d encourage any girl to study conducting. How successful they turn out to be depends on their talent and their work, definitely not their gender. I also want to add that my beloved wife is a choral conductor.- I’m truly and deeply sorry that I expressed myself in a way that made people misunderstand me, but I’m also glad that the misunderstanding brought about so much discussion that I now can take the opportunity to clarify what I really mean. The dicussion shows that this is a specially important issue, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the Norwegian society better and to learn more about the important issues here.- And I wish that all the people who participated in the discussion also would come to a concert to experience what it’s all about; that is the quality of music and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra – regardless of the gender of the conductor or of the musicians.Firestorm in a teacup, then.