A female concertmaster for Vienna Philharmonic ?!?!

February 26, 2009 at 04:12 AM ·

The article is officially about Clemens Hellberg, the president of the VPO; but it's mostly about Danailova:



Pretty cool... and about time.

Replies (27)

February 26, 2009 at 01:55 PM ·

Wow, this good but sexist orchestra once and for all recognize the talent of a woman! Great!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Very happy for her!


February 26, 2009 at 02:21 PM ·

Of 149 players in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, seven are women; of 120-some full-fledged members of the Vienna Philharmonic (the numbers shift regularly because of the probation period), three are women.

We heard the Vienna Philharmonic on Tuesday in Philadelphia (Zubin Mehta, with Lang Lang as the soloist). It's the first time I've seen them onstage and their visual presence is a shock-- so male, so white, and with the three women wearing trousers and hidden in the back.Their demeanor is very different from an American orchestra.

February 26, 2009 at 03:14 PM ·

Change for the better happens slowly.

February 26, 2009 at 05:31 PM ·

Take cover, everyone! Surely, this must be one of the Seven Signs!

February 26, 2009 at 08:47 PM ·

E. Smith you are right!  I always look at their playing on New Year's day and can't believe Europeans can be like this (not all, I am sure!)...   It's as shocking as these Golf clubs "Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden...   Are they aware that some woman can play as well as Sarah Chang, Hilary Hahn, Ida Haendel etc ?  Their is something with the government accepting this and juges when they audition people and may I call it corruption...  It's stinks! Corruption is not an old thing or only in China and ex Soviet Union, it is everywhere!


February 27, 2009 at 12:38 AM ·

I didn't know Ida Haendel played golf, Anne-Marie! :-0

To me, music has always been completely sexless - gender just doesn't get any consideration, I wouldn't even notice whether it's a man or a woman, that's the good thing about it.  And I find this is reciprocated, too - no performer would go out of their way to make themselves appear 'sexy' (apart from Venessa Mae and, if you're unlucky, Nigel Kennedy ...).  So what's the issue?

February 27, 2009 at 01:32 AM ·

Speaking of trying to look sexy, there's the group,  Bond.

February 27, 2009 at 02:09 AM ·

Haha, Jim Boyle about Kennedy. I think Josh Bell goes out of his way to market his sex appeal. In fact, quite a few violin soloists and/or the marketing departments of their record companies have being doing this for some time. Vienna was not only a very male orchestra, it was a very white male orchestra, not a reflection of the current population of Europe.

The concert sparked an interesting conversation with my daughters on the ride home, for in their experience of the music world, the majority of the most serious string students are female; American orchestras appear to be highly feminized, but most concertmaster positions are male. There seem to be an even split among top soloitsts.

By the way, a very mixed review in today's Philadelphia paper.

March 2, 2009 at 01:03 AM ·

You know, this debate has been raging for years about both women and minorities in orchestras, and frankly, I'm sick of it.

There are 2 closely linked issues, which are the ONLY issues: Musical tradition and auditions.

If the majority of students emerging from the best Austrian and German conservatories are male, logic dictates that a male will be more than likely to get the job IF he wins the audition and survives the jahrprobe, or probationary year.

Some random kid cranked out of Juilliard will have NO chance of getting that job, as he/she will not have been taught HOW the Vienna Philharmonic plays, or have even heard them...

Auditions in Europe are heavily weighted towards the auditioner's musical delivery, based on the traditions of the different schools of performance which often vary from city to city.

Auditions in the US are based most significantly on the auditioner's cleanliness and accuracy of playing. Most orchestras prefer to take younger, and therefore lesser formed musicians, to be able to mold them.

Believe me, I have been on both sides of the screen too many times. When you're on the committee, you have to arrive at a decision by quorum which often is antithetical to individuality. When you're auditioning, you not only have to have your chops in order, but you have to know the sound of the individual orchestra for which you are playing (if they have one...).

The fact that there are few women in the WP is because they they didn't win the job...




March 2, 2009 at 01:10 AM ·

and additionally, why should an orchestra be ethnically and gender representative of the metropolitan regions where they reside? look at the traditions. look at the conservatory enrollment. look at the educational system. the Vienna Phil is also a private organization which is run by its own members. this idea would be inconcievable in this country. 

March 2, 2009 at 01:52 AM ·

I, for one, am not very PC as I'm sick and tired of minority and gender quotas. May the best person win regardless of race or gender. Now THAT"S equality.

March 2, 2009 at 02:47 AM ·

This is really interesting.

March 2, 2009 at 03:16 AM ·

Look out! The next target is the Gay Men's Chorus.

March 2, 2009 at 03:30 PM ·

Gabriel, while I agree that there is truth in what you are saying about producing a Vienna Phil-type player in Europe I have to stand against what you say about random music students here in the states.  I find that the people I went to school with were quite eager to see the Vienna Phil when they come around to play in NY and music students in general enjoy learning about the orchestras of the world.  It doesn't take a genius to hear the difference between the Chicago Symphony and the Berlin Phil for example.

What you are basically saying is that yes, the Vienna Phil IS a rich white boy's club.  "Whoever wins the audition" does not sit well with me because somehow in some way women and minorities have made their way into prestigious orchestras all over the world from the NY Phil to Hong Kong, to Berlin, you name it, there are women in prominent posts all around the globe.  Have all those orchestras lowered their standards to allow women and minorities to play and is the Vienna Phil the only orchestra that has retained standards that only white men can live up to?  Perhaps learning the "Vienna Phil way of playing" is only made available to a small segment of the population then.  Anyway you look at it though there is something not right about it.

I don't like to take away from the brilliance of the Vienna Phil.  I have seen them in concert many times and their sound is breath taking.  That being said I can't imagine what a glorious sound it would be if only they had more women in the group.

March 2, 2009 at 03:11 PM ·

Some random kid cranked out of Juilliard will have NO chance of getting that job, as he/she will not have been taught HOW the Vienna Philharmonic plays, or have even heard them...

I guess that's supposed to be hyperbole, that American teenage classical musicians have not heard of the Vienna Philharmonic? I spend a lot of time with American teenagers and I can assure you the kids I know are very interested in hear ing the differences between orchestras when they have the opportunity.

Anyway, throwing insults at me only amplifies your insecurity. I merely said that we were observing the very different demographic, demeanor, and sound of this orchestra, not that it should be changed. I don't think you can argue with my point that the orchestra does not reflect the demographic of the city, but I don't recall saying that I believed it should. Unlike some of you, I'm trying to keep my political opinions in the background of these discussions. 

Buri, would you please explain your comment?

March 2, 2009 at 04:24 PM ·

Listen to every old recording you can get your hands on. Then listen to modern orchestras. There is almost no difference between modern orchestras. They modern ones all sound the same. I could give a listening test and the chances that anyone would pick the orchestra would be no better than random. 

Not so in yester-year. There was a very distinct sound.

I say it doesn't matter who you let in your orchestra if they have the chops to play the notes. There is no unique sound to propagate through the generations and no one to give it to them. The Vienna Phil lost its sound during the Anschluss  and its aftermath and it has been down hill ever since. 


March 7, 2009 at 01:30 AM ·


>If the majority of students emerging from the best Austrian and German conservatories are male, logic dictates that a male will be more than likely to get the job IF he wins the audition and survives the jahrprobe, or probationary year.

I think this is a misapplcation of logic.  A majorit of male garduates does not presuppose them all being bette rthan the female ones year in year out ad infinitum. I also wonder if this doesn`t raise another issue about the origins of (not yet proven of course) of a sexist muscial infrastruicture having its roots in musicla insittitons prior to turning profesisonal.

Incidentally,  for what its worth,  on rof my teacher sat the RCM (John Ludlow) wa sin the Londn Symphony Orchestra when it admitted a woman violinist for the first time.  He said that the string sound did change although he didn`t intimate that it was for the worst..  I don`t know if he felt it wa sbecaus eof a change in human dynamics or a quality of the playing.

Personally,  I have often felt that the presence of attractive women in an orchestra can make a difiference between life and death during an intemrinable rehearsal of Bruckner by a conducer whose main isntrument is the trumpet.




March 3, 2009 at 01:19 AM ·

I was writing in old Dutch after visiting a coffee shop.

March 3, 2009 at 02:22 AM ·

Hahaha, you're forgiven.  

March 3, 2009 at 02:45 AM ·

Whew! Close call. Prunes all around. Buri-sensei makes so many tipos that we have to forgive him on those grounds alone.

March 3, 2009 at 03:20 AM ·

Well, a typo in tipos..

March 3, 2009 at 03:58 AM ·

heck, anything in roughly the same area of the keyboard is fine by me. Learnt to type form a viola player.....

March 3, 2009 at 04:44 AM ·

Yts those peski i's and y's. There's just one key in between them and us vyola-tipists oops typists have a  hard tyme with them.

March 7, 2009 at 01:32 AM ·



March 7, 2009 at 07:49 PM ·

I seem to recall that Fritz Kreisler tried and failed to get a job with the Vienna Philharmonic. What are we to make of that? 

March 8, 2009 at 02:24 AM ·

Most soloists would make terrible orchestra players - at least, playing the way they play as soloists.  Two very different skill sets.

March 11, 2009 at 08:03 AM ·

Remarks purported to be by Zubin Mehta - years ago but interesting:   "I just don't think women should be in an orchestra.  They become men. Men treat them as equals; they even change their pants in front of them.  I think it's terrible."  Zubin Mehta, New York Times, October 18, 1970 (as quoted on page 228 of An Encyclopedia of Quotations About Music, compiled by Nat Shapiro)

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