The American conductor Marin Alsop has been appointed artistic director of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, becoming the first woman to take up the prestigious role.
Alsop, one of the world’s leading conductors, and the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, said she was honoured to be assuming the post in Vienna, which she called “the seat of classical music”.
Acknowledging how groundbreaking the appointment was for the classical music capital of the world, which has often been shockingly slow to welcome female musicians, let alone promote them to leadership roles, Alsop said she welcomed the chance to “push the envelope” for women in music. But she said she hoped the time would soon come when being “the first woman” would no longer be news.
“I’m very honoured to be the first,” she admitted, “but I’m also rather shocked that we can be in this year, in this century, and there can still be ‘firsts’ for women.”
Good for her.
The Vienna music world has frequently made headlines for its fusty attitude towards women. Only 20 years ago the Vienna Philharmonic bowed to public pressure and announced it would officially accept female musicians for the first time. What it was reluctant to admit was that it had had a female musician — the harpist Anna Lelkes, for the previous 26 years, but had never acknowledged her presence, and only allowed for her hands to be visible during television broadcasts. Even after officially opening up to women, the orchestra was extremely slow to appoint them and even today it remains overwhelmingly male dominated.
Ah, yes, the Vienna Misogynistic Orchestra…