I don’t know if it’s God’s will, or nature’s, that women give birth and men do not. That’s something that no one takes offense at. But if you say that a women can’t conduct, then everyone’s offended. As Marx said, in response to the question “What’s your favorite virtue in a woman?”—“Weakness.” And this is correct. The important thing is, a woman should be beautiful, likable, attractive. Musicians will look at her and be distracted from the music!– Yuri Temirkanov, Music Director and CHief Conductor of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic
The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.– Yuri Temirkanov, Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic
Did you know that…
- Women weren’t allowed to join the Vienna Philharmonic until 1997. Today only 6 of its 138 members are women.
- Anna Lelkes played with the Vienna Philharmonic for 20 years, before being considered an official member of the ensemble.
- Blind orchestral auditions lead to a 50% increase in female audition success rate.
- Today, Blacks and Latinos only comprise about 4% of major American orchestras.
- "There has only been one opera by a woman ever presented at [the] Metropolitan Opera House, the one-act Der Wald by British composer Ethel Smyth which received its American premiere on a double bill with Il Trovatore back in 1903”.
Above: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Violin Concertos performed by Jean-Jacques Kantorow and l’Orchestre de Chambre Bernard Thomas (The Bernard Thomas Chamber Orchestra)
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (who was often referred to as “The Black Mozart”) was born in Guadeloupe, in 1745. His father was George Bologne de Saint-Georges (a wealthy planter) and his mother, one of Saint-Georges’ slaves, was called Nanon.
During the French Revolution, he was colonel of the Legion St. George, the first all-black regiment in Europe. However, today he is mainly remembered as the first classical composer of African descent.
"There really should be a rule against women having children in science."
"Well I’m not hiring her, she was on maternity leave."
"Sorry about all the women in this laboratory, but at least they’re good to look at."
The problem isn’t that misogyny runs rampant in the music world; it’s that the classical business is temperamentally resistant to novelty, whether in the form of female conductors, American conductors, younger conductors, new music, post-1900 concert dress, or concert-hall color schemes that aren’t corporate beige.– Alex Ross
During my research on Yuja Wang, I also found Eve Queler's story of sexism in the classical music industry equally disturbing.
In the late 1960s, as a one of few female conductors, she was judged harshly on her choice of dress. Ridiculously enough, one critic even wrote that the zipper on the back of her gown distracted him from the performance.
Is the attire of a classical musician really more important than the caliber of their performance?
Yuja Wang, an AMAZING classical pianist, has come under storm recently for her choice(s) of concert attire. Unlike most female classical musicians, she normally dons mini bodycon dresses and stylish heels during her performances.
Although, this style of dress is fairly common among people of her age group (especially in pop music), critics are still appalled by it.
For instance, Mark Swed (of the LA Times) commented that “her dress…was [so] short and tight that had there been any less of it, the [Hollywood] Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult”. And one youtuber even posted one of her performances, referring to her as a “street walker” in the title.
However, after the negative reactions to her Hollywood Bowl performance, she wasn’t disheartened. She hopes that critics will focus more on her actual playing in the future, and she continues to wear what she likes.