January 1st, there are those who sober up, others who make their list of resolutions and then there are all these people who watch television, including the Concert of new year in Vienna. High mass of popular orchestra music, broadcast in more than ninety countries, this concert started in 1842 and was introduced on the television in 1939. Since then, nothing (or almost) has changed. Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, same Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Vienna, and same musical program, which goes from Strauss to Strauss (two Viennese composers of the nineteenth son fathere century). Even the public seems to be frozen in the 1930s.
Only small improvement, there are now women in the ranks of the Orchestra. There are only fifteen on one hundred musicians. But it’s already a lot. Their arrival within the whole is very recent in the history of music. In February 1997, after heavy pressure from the Government of Austria, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra joined his first musician, the harpist Anna Lelkes.
It is the last great international Orchestra to feminize, 15 years after the Berlin Philharmonic, a little behind on the issue at this time, and eighty-eight years after the Orchestra of the Paris Opera.
Two orchestras for the price of one
Before going further, it must focus on the specificity of this Orchestra. There is not one, but two orchestras: one of the Vienna Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic, but these two entities are in their ranks the same musicians and musicians. The first is a State Orchestra, it belongs to the public service and ensures the productions (ballets and operas) given to the Wiener Staatsoper, the Viennese Opera. The second is a made up in an association, private, much more independent order set, who plays the Symphonic repertoire so what an orchestra can play off operas and ballets.
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To become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic, first, including the Orchestra of the Opera of Vienna. Classic recruitment which includes several auditions with two laps behind a screen to the blind. After a trial period of one or two years, a jury decides the tenure of the musician or the musician.
Once the holder of the Orchestra of the Vienna Opera, the artist plays in both sets but he or she is not yet an official member of the Vienna Philharmonic, a status that is kept all his life. This, to make the request, three years after his arrival minimum, and that this application be approved by the Committee of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, consisting of musicians of the ensemble.
“Three women, it’s already too.
This obstacle course made the Philharmonic of Vienna one together unique, prestigious, demanding, and perhaps one of the best orchestras in the world. Founded in 1842, it has undergone some changes, especially through the leaders coming to direct it, but the most important is probably the opening to women in 1997.
Before that date, the files of the candidates disappeared mysteriously. Only a musician was allowed to supplement the ranks of the Orchestra in the 1960s. Christine Stavrache, the harpist, accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on tour in the United States as a substitute. Positive reviews of this musician are unanimous, and the Orchestra, at that time, lack of serious candidates for a vacancy of a harpist. The musician, supported by the conductor of the Orchestra of the Vienna Opera, Herbert von Karajan, auditioned and integrates. She remained in this post until 1970, but will never become Member of the Orchestra Philharmonic of Vienna because she is a woman, everything simply.
The Vienna Philharmonics (the name given to the musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) have never hidden their reluctance to integrate women in all. A year before the first licensee happens in the Orchestra in 1997, the flutist Dieter Flury said in an interview broadcast by German radio:
“The way we play the music is not about skill, technique, that is also something that has to do with the soul. The soul cannot be separated from the cultural roots that we have here in Central Europe. And must be separated from gender.”
Have the musicians erased the soul of this Orchestra? Not yet, according to a violinist who, in 2003, complained in The independent: “three women is too. “When we get to 20%, the Orchestra will be ruined.”
Don’t worry, there is still a margin. Since the opening of the recruitment of women in 1996, they are still a small minority and make up less than 10% of all when, in the other large symphonic phalanges, this figure reached 40 percent or more.
The eternal argument of motherhood
One of the first arguments brandished before recruiting a musician is motherhood.
“You can’t have a woman to the post of soloist because if she was hired at age 23, you can be sure that in 10 years it should take two years leave to have children, which is impossible in a band situation” testify anonymously a musician of the Orchestra of the Vienna Opera, always in The independent.
Problem found in many circles but that particularly affects the musical world. Ensure touring, accept the staggered and be absent for some time of pregnancy seems inconsistent with the life of a woman. The Director of the Paris conservatoire, Bruno Mantovani, had held the Lunar words at the microphone of France music on the heads of Orchestra. It was in 2013:
“There is also the problem of motherhood that arises. A woman who will have children will be difficult to have a career as a conductor, who will stop from one day to the next for a few months, and then after that, I was going to say vulgar, provide after-sales service of motherhood, raise a child to distance, is not simple.”
Is the Viennese soul a myth?
More curious and more complex, one of the other brakes relies on soul, style, emotion. ‘Soul Viennese is part of the things that take both the reality and cultural stereotypes constructions’, explains Christian Merlin, journalist and author of the book the Vienna Philharmonic , the biography of an orchestra . “Viennese School is still there, there is always a mind that questions still the Orchestra today.” This spirit is found for example in the use of the oboe and the Viennese Horn, two instruments you are looking at and that we play only in Vienna.
“It’s a band attached to the maintenance of the style. However whenever you asked this question, turn quickly around the protectionism and nationalism”, says Christian Merlin.
Within the Orchestra, there are now twenty-two different nationalities. This diversity, which took time to be accepted, yet starts with the end of the XIXe century where foreign musicians (Slovakia, Russia, Croatia,…) are integrated. The problems come when these foreigners go beyond the borders of Europe.
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Male and white
In his memoirs published in 1970 Otto Strasser, former president of the Orchestra, writes about auditions blind introduced after the second World War:
“I am convinced that behind the artist there is a person that should not only hear, but also see to judge his personality as a whole. One day it lifted the curtain on a qualified candidate as the best. The jury, stunned, found himself facing a Japanese. He was hired no because his face didn’t fit with the Pizzicato-Polka of the concert of the new year.”
Since its inception, the Orchestra is concerned about potentially disturbing elements of uniqueness, of his soul. This overcautiousness is expressed through the refusal to integrate foreigners in a European, and even Viennese culture, and women. A radical choice that does not follow the logic but of pride:
“It’s an imperial Orchestra, comments on Christian Merlin.» For them, must not disturb the spirit of caste, clan. They claim a tradition and freedom don’t not feel obligated to do like everyone else.”
In music, this desire for unification, that protectionism can have meaning. An orchestra is a group of individuals and to make everything sound good, it is that the instruments are based, are one. The Vienna Philharmonic boasts a sound and a style that is unique in the world. To maintain, they are persuaded to recruit members who are studying in the same school with the same teachers and share the same culture. If, in addition, we can stay between men, the ideal.
But it’s a myth to think that the excellence of a set meets also closed, discriminatory criteria. The musical qualities are not male, white and Viennese. Today, internationalization of music requires to diversity. Some of the best orchestras of the world welcome in their ranks as many women and foreigners as “local white males.”
A small step in modernity
The Vienna Philharmonic, which has long hampered to this mix, still seems to enter the modern era. Despite the low percentage of female musicians, they feel good, as evidenced by Sophie Dartigalongue, solo bassoonist of the Orchestra since 2015: “the atmosphere is good, we can compare the Orchestra to a large family. Once it has been proven.”
For her, the issue of recruitment of women is no longer topical:
“It’s a change recent but already ancient history. “The last recruitment show: more women than men have been engaged since joining the Orchestra in 2015.”
The Philharmonic of Vienna operates its moult slowly but surely. The recruitment take time because the free positions in prestigious ensembles are rare and expensive. For example, the Orchestra of the Paris Opera who welcomed his first musician in 1909, includes today 32% of women in its midst. It’s still better than the Vienna Philharmonic but it is small compared to other orchestras where parity is almost installed.
Here in 20 years, maybe we can slap hands on the market of Radetzky of Strauss as the tradition of the new year’s Concert in the face of a mixed Orchestra. We can always dream, right?