I was determined not to write a blog on this subject, as it has already been discussed in great detail. However, the issue of sexism in music has continuously been a headline over the last few weeks. Of course one could argue that this has never failed to be an issue in classical music, the problem really came to the surface a few weeks ago thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s offensive statements about woman conductors leading up to the closing concert at the Proms. When I heard his comments, I was just confused as to how someone in this day and age could have such an old-fashioned point of view. The conclusion I came to at that time was that Petrenko was so incredibly ignorant that it wasn’t a subject worth worrying about. I didn’t think anyone else agreed with him, since I have never personally come across a colleague with any noticeable sexual bias.
In recent weeks as more news has surfaced about other prominent members of the classical musical community sharing Petrenko’s views, it has become a more difficult topic to ignore. The translation of Yuri Temirkanov’s statement made my blood boil. “The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.” Bruno Mantovani’s comments are equally as frustrating. Given his young age and his position as the director of the Paris Conservatory, his thoughts are significantly more concerning than Temirkanov’s.
I could go on for hours about all of the things wrong with what these men have said, but fortunately I don’t need to, seeing as how many others have already covered it. Anastasia Tsioulcas does a great job supporting her argument with a list of the successful, and strong woman, in today’s society. Jessica Duchen compiled an incredibly long, encouraging list of prominent female conductors. Alex Ross’s statement that “it would be more constructive for every male participant in this discussion to examine himself, his record, his biases, spoken or unspoken…Silent neglect can do just as much damage as open contempt” seems to have inspired many men and women to speak up as well. Justin Davidson’s article raised many great points as he concluded that we should all be embarrassed by the sexist comments.
As much as I don’t want to continue having this debate about woman conductors, I agree with all of the previously mentioned journalists that we must all take some level of responsibility in order to progress this aspect of classical music. I am glad to see that so many people have already taken a positive stand on the issue. After all, it is 2013.