The 18/19 brochure for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, titled Create your… just arrived. Coincidentally a post on a friend’s blog recently listed several female conductors, some well established, some up and coming.
I set out to compare my friend’s list in one hand with the CSO line up for next season on the other. I was stunned to see that the CSO had but only one female conductor, Karina Canellakis leading a pair of the 40 concerts in the upcoming season.
Check my math: I think that is 5% of the potentially available CSO gigs for gals. And I think that’s not good enough.
The Swedish National Orchestra, similar in size and budget to our top ones (and note that I include Cincinnati’s there) has 47 concerts this season. Of those, 8 are led by female conductors. Check my math again: that is 17% of the Swedish orchestra’s concerts.
Can we not do better than or at least as well as the Swedes?
The Gothenburg ensemble is welcoming this season Barbara Hannigan, Simone Young, Han-Na Chang, and Joanna Carneiro. There are other female conductors, some Caucasian, some of color who would do the CSO musically proud and help diversify the traditional parade of WMAM’s (white, middle-aged maestros) who stand year after year on the Queen City podium.
Here is a short list of women conductors.
Giselle Ben-Dor (Israel). Xian Zhang (PRC). Odaline de la Martinez (Cuba), Susanna Mälkki (Finland), Emmanuelle Haim (France). Sian Edwards (UK). Jane Glover (USA). JoAnn Falletta (USA). Alondra de la Parra (Mexico). Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (Lithuania), Zoe Zeniodi (Greece).
Ms. Mälkki is a superb cellist. How about programming the Haydn or the Boccherini cello concerto and have her solo and conduct one of them. Emmanuelle Haim is a Baroque specialist and a fine harpsichordist. How about programming the rarely performed (at least in these parts) Concert champêtre for harpsichord of Francis Poulenc, pairing it to selections from Les Indes Galantes by Rameau and flying Ms. Haim to Cincinnati for an appearance with our fabulous orchestra in a future season?
The possibilities are endless.
Now all we need to do is send out to some of these female conductors’ agents and artist reps emails with dates detailing when the French maestro will not be at the helm in Cincinnati and offer a contract to any one or more of those women conductors before other orchestras snap them up.
Look at the program book of the symphony concert you are attending. Then look again at the musicians on stage. Then have a third look at the conductor just entering the stage. Take one more look to one side of you and then the other, and then glance in the direction of those sitting in the rows in front of yours. Once you’re done looking at all this tell me in a few words what you see.
I still remember back in the early years of this century when the first pioneering women conductors took on major podiums and rocked the music establishment. Antonia Brico guest conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1930, but outside a gig here and another there, she had to go it alone and found her own orchestra in 1937, which at first had an all-female contingent. After that, years of unemployment for women conductors followed.
Gallons and gallons of water flowed under the bridges of the musical establishment until we finally saw Marin Alsop come on board to helm the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2007, years after JoAnn Falletta took up the baton in Buffalo in 1999. The classical music world moves at a snail’s pace.
For us to build a future for classical music in our country we better have a good look around and see where we need to go from here, so that our grandchildren will be able to enjoy the wonder of classical music written and performed by people of all races and all ages and all sexes that look and sound like those seated in the darkened auditorium that make it possible for the music to go on and for the players to get paid.
Rafael de Acha