Report in English
The South Bank Centre in London took on the commendable job of hosting a one-day Women’s Conducting Workshop for young conductors, with the American conductor Marin Alsop. Out of 120 (!) conductors from across the world, five were chosen to rehearse Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony together with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and then to perform it at a lunchtime concert at the South Bank Centre.
Marin Alsop is the first woman to conduct one of the big five orchestras as chief conductor, taught the young conductors from Australia, Brazil, Taiwan and Poland with great empathy, clarity and humour, so that the plentiful audience was spellbound as well. It was a great pleasure to experience such a highly competent musician dedicating so much attention to the next generation of conductors without having to resort to any ego-show – which is not to be taken for granted in the competitive music business! The BBC concert orchestra presented itself as a thoroughly professional, patient and constantly supportive partner.
Women at the conductors’ stand are unfortunately still not the norm. At conducting master classes they are, among men, an absolute minority: everyday life only changes’ molto adagio’
It’s exciting to see how five competent young conductors work with their very own personality and thereby show their strengths and their weaknesses. It’s difficult to say who would be my personal favourite…
And then, at the end of the lunch concert I have a eureka-moment: I now no longer ask myself whether this or that little idiosyncrasy of a conductor has something to do with her being a woman. I realise that I always asked myself this question at conducting courses or when watching videos.
During morning rehearsals Alsop corrected a conductor only once, asking if she could increase the tenseness of her right wrist, otherwise it looked “girlish” which caused a convulsion of giggles among the audience. Beyond that it’s only good work that matters when conducting. When you have the opportunity to compare several good female conductors, the gender issue completely resolves itself.
Many thanks to Marin Alsop and the organisers for helping me and surely many of the others present, to feel more comfortable addressing “the issue of women in charge of the baton“.
Translation: Ursula Troche, London und Linda Summers