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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000519.txt from 1996/01

From: "William Osborne (by way of
Subj: Vienna Phil & Women
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 20:19:53 -0500

After living in Germany for the last 16 years, I have some material useful to
those of you interested in the employment policies of European orchestras toward
women musicians. My complete post is in in three sections, as follows:

1. Letters from the Vienna Philharmonic, explaining why they categorically
forbid membership to women.

2. Comments from an Austrian professor of horn, defending the Vienna
Philharmonic's policy, since in his view ethnic and gender uniformity create
aesthetic superiority in orchestras.

3. A statement made by Lorin Maazel defending the orchestra's exclusion of

I. The Vienna Philharmonic's letters were written to a film maker, Brenda
Parkerson (, who recently made a 90 minute
documentary about trombonist Abbie Conant. They explain that the orchestra
forbids membership to women because they take too much sick leave. I quote here
the salient points from the letters, and can fax or mail the originals, which
are on Vienna Philharmonic letterhead, to anyone interested. In answer to Ms.
Parkerson's questions they write:

"There are no women in the Vienna Philharmonic, and there are 149 members,
exclusively men."

"There have been no women in this orchestra since it was founded in 1842, and
there were no women in its predecessor, der Hofmusikkappelle, which was founded
in 1497."

"For the last 35 years the auditions have been held behind a screen."

Ed. note: I should note here that no women play behind the screen, since their
applications are rejected at sight. In a second letter they explain this is
because women are too often on sick leave. They write that the Vienna State
Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic are drawn from the same pool of 149 musicians
who rotate between the opera and the philharmonic. Then conclude:

"Due to the statistically expected sick leave stemming from the employment of
women it would be necessary for us to employ nearly 200 musicians, which would
not permit us to break the pool of musicians into two integrated parts: The
Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic."

In other words they assert that 25% more personal would be needed if the
orchestra hired women. In answer to another question they write:

"In Austria there are laws against gender discrimination in employment. The
Vienna Philharmonic, however, is a private club, which it has been since 1842,
and thus these laws are not applicable."

Women commonly face such discrimination in German and Austrian orchestras. At
my last count the Berlin Philharmonic had 121 men and 3 women. The Czech
Philharmonic also categorically forbids membership to women. These orchestras
stand as national symbols for their countries, and represent western culture
through out the world.

II. I posted a notice about these letters on the net and it was forwarded to
Horn-List. Prof. Hans Pizka, principal horn of the Munich State Opera,
responded with a defense of the orchestra's discrimination. He often subs with
the Vienna Philharmonic, and is one of the world's foremost hornists. He is
influential in the International Horn Society, a sought after teacher, and a
very respected professor in Germany, Austria, and internationally. He is a
recording artist and has a well-known publishing company for horn music.

He is German speaking so there are some some grammatical errors in his
english. These quotes are exactly his writing and not a translation. All
spelling, grammar, capitalization and punctuation are his. The quoted excerpts
do not change the meaning of what he wrote. They are all from posts dated
October 23, 1995 by the horn-list server.

I will send the complete text to anyone who wants them. He states a belief not

uncommon in the German speaking world that ethnic and gender uniformity create
aesthetic superiority in orchestras. Prof. Pizka writes:

"The organisation of the VIENNA PHILHARMONIC is a male society. It is their
decision from the very beginning in 1842 and we have to respect

"First of all, the Vienna Philharmonic is a private club like organisation.
They can make their own laws for their own club. This has nothing to do with

"Again a word about the Vienna Phil: the same educational & musical & ethical
background together with the same male feeling created this unique body of
music, or is there any doubt ? An all women orchestra with all having the same
educational & musical & ethical background will sound phantastically harmonic
also, no doubt, but how about all the intrigues ????? Sorry, perhaps without.
Men used to have intrigues also, but seem to handle them easier."

"And be fair to me, isn't the general spectrum of feelings (psychical
sensations, enthusiasm, sadness, etc.) different between man & woman? Isn't the
same the case between nationals & no-nationals? It is, believe me. And because
of this particular uniformity, the Vienna Philharmonic have this very particular
sound & expression & success & success as best selling recording orchestra.
This is the success secret of the Vienna Philharmonic."

"Dear (female) sexists, you should understand, that until now, some jobs will
remain men's jobs, but others will remain women's jobs. May be, medicine could
change that in the future, but how about the ethical question ? The fe"male"
sexists are now fighting for their superiority above men. Wanting to become a
"domina", hey ? Sorry, but it seems like."

Ed. note: At my last count the Berlin Philharmonic had 121 men and 3 women.

"How about the Berlin Philharmonic ? Will you throw away their CDs also? How
about getting mad by ambition ? Hasn't that become a typical female illness now.
Sorry, but the truth. Many of them (not all, no generalisation) like to perform
everything better than men, no matter at what costs, - and they will lose
everything. Can you do weightlifting as we can do it ? No, as your muscles are
not built for that. Can we (men) get children. No, as our body is not made for

"Best solution: respect each other, help each other, but do not reach for the
unreachable or unwanted as there are many many other chances."

In addition to gender uniformity in the Vienna Philharmonic, the Professor also
spoke of its national or ethnic uniformity, and illustrated his point with a
joke and remarks about there being no "native colored Austrians".

In the German speaking world these are not the remarks of an isolated crank, but
rather views that are commonly found in many orchestras. This is why orchestras
like the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics can be national symbols and exclude
women with little or no protest.

Perhaps I should note that only 3% of the professors in Germany are women.

III. In a interview in the last 1995 issue of _Bunte_, a well-known German
magazine, Lorin Maazel was asked why there are only men in the Vienna
Philharmonic. He responds:

"Because it is a guild like the Meistersaenger. Only the sons or male students
of the musicians were allowed to enter. It is, therefore, the only orchestra in
the world that has held on to its own style for over 150 years. The members
decide who directs each new years concert. In 1996 I will do this for the ninth

There was no explanation quoted about why women would damage the orchestra's
musical style.

The situation of women in German and Austrian orchestras is incomprehensible to
many North American colleagues. If you would like to read a detailed
description of trombonist Abbie Conant's 13 year struggle in the Munich
Philharmonic please find it on the web at:

These documents tell an absolutely incredible story! I think they could be
very useful for research about women in orchestras.

If I can be of further assistance with the information in this post please be in

touch. I would be happy to help.

William Osborne

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