Philharmonic Bigwig: Male Conductors Are Just Plain Better, Duh


Vasily Petrenko, 37, the principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, has royally pissed off many by saying that orchestras “react better when they have a man in front of them” and that “a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things”. Dude.

“Musicians have often less sexual energy and can focus more on the music,” he said as he continued to dig his own hole, adding that “when women have families, it becomes difficult to be as dedicated as is demanded in the business”.

Fortunately, this oversexed/undersexed/sexist man’s point of view is not expressed by his superiors:

The chief executive of the National Youth Orchestra, Sarah Alexander, said it was very disappointing that Petrenko should “express such a narrow view when he is chief conductor of an organisation that is run by a woman, half of whose teaching staff are women, all of whose senior management team are women and 50% of its members are young women, for whom we actively encourage a vision as future leaders”
She added: “It’s not an opinion I have ever heard him express before.”

Understandably, lady conductors are fuming mad. The Norwegian conductor Halldis Roenning said she found Petrenko’s comments “ridiculous and totally unreasonable,” and conductor Cathrine Winnes Trevino said Petrenko’s views were “antiquated” and “unacceptable.”

Looks like Petrenko has some ‘splaining to doooo! And explain he did, as he issued this cumbersome retraction/explanation on the Oslo Philharmonic’s website:

What I said was meant to be a description of the situation in Russia, my homeland. This situation is worsening with some new initiatives of the government. I deeply respect that many musicians, for example the famous violinist Gidon Kremer, feels the same way about the situation there. Taken out of context I understand that what I said can very easily be perceived in the wrong way.
I have the outmost respect for female conductors, for instance the extraordinary talented conductor Marin Alsop (…) and the famous Veronika Dudarova (…). I’d encourage any girl to study conducting. How successful they turn out to be depends on their talent and their work, definitely not their gender. I also want to add that my beloved wife is a choral conductor.

I’m truly and deeply sorry that I expressed myself in a way that made people misunderstand me, but I’m also glad that the misunderstanding brought about so much discussion that I now can take the opportunity to clarify what I really mean.

Women have made some serious strides in the upper echelons of conducting recently, but the podium is still filled mainly by men.

[Guardian, Oslo Philharmonic]

Shutterstock/Ferenc Szelepcsenyi

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