Sunday, March 08, 2015

International Women's Day 2015

Last year for International Women's Day I posted about Edith Hamilton. This year I want to write about something a little different. Instead of writing about Classical Studies, I'm going to write about classical music, and in particular Marin Alsop.

There are plenty of female virtuosos on piano, violin, etc., such as Nicola Benedetti and Arabella Steinbacher, the latter of whom I'm always ready to go and hear. But there aren't many female conductors, at least not in prominent roles. There doesn't seem any particular reason why this should be, other than institutionalized sexism. Conducting doesn't particularly need strengths that are particular to men - after all, Sue Perkins won the BBC's celebs-learn-to-conduct series Maestro, and has done some conducting since. Vasily Petrenko supposedly said that orchestras are too much in danger of being distracted by a pretty woman, to which the only reply is "Do you think with your penis all the time?"

Anyway, in about ten years of going to classical concerts, I don't think I've ever seen a woman conduct. So when I saw that Marin Alsop was conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in February, Kate and I decided to go. It's unusual for us to go to the LPO - we're usually loyal to the Philharmonia. But as far as I know, Alsop has never conducted the Philharmonia (they should try to rectify this).

Anyway, we went to see her conduct three Beethoven pieces, Leonore Overture no, 3, Piano Concerto no.3, and Symphony no. 7 (which I always forget I know until I hear it). And it was great. Alsop really brought the music to life. She's a bundle of energy on the podium, and is clearly having a wonderful time. I would definitely go and see her conduct again, and I urge you to. And I hope that by the time I am put in the ground, a female conductor is not such a rarity.

1 comment:

T Guy said...

The two terms 'women' and 'classical music' instantly turned my mind towards one woman.

In case you weren't aware of her, here's a sample: