Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Vasily Petrenko - sensible words

Not "sensible words from Vasily Petrenko" but sensible words about Vasily Petrenko's comments on women conductors, from Ivan Hewett in The Telegraph. "Gender should have nothing to do with conducting". There have been calls for Petrenko to resign but frankly that's hysterical over-reaction, and will only fuel misogynist paranoia. Petrenko is far too good a conductor to toss away because he makes a silly off the cuff remark. Better that Petrenko should be open in public than be hypocritical in private. There are a lot of women musicians in Oslo and quite a few in Liverpool, where he's much loved..

Unfortunately the reality is that a lot of people share those views even if they're wrong. As a feminist I would say we "need" Petrenko's comments to remind us  what women face in all professions. The hard fact is that female employees have a lot to deal with in the workplace. Any workplace. Tokenism is demeaning. Change won't really happen if women are promoted for the sake of PC publicity. In fact, the opposite happens.

As for the "erotic" charge of a conductor? Of course there are sexy conductors (Petrenko himself)   but unless you're turned on by grumpy old men , it's hardly the norm. Ivan Hewett makes an extremely telling point when he refers to Lorin Maazel's self-conscious pose at the end of a performance. All conductors hold the applause for maximum effect. People who don't go out much assume that it means the performance was good. But it doesn't actually mean a thing. Nearly all conductors do it, because it's like unwinding after heavy exercise. In fact, the worst concert I have ever heard was one where the conductor was so inordinately full of himself that he didn't seem to notice the orchestra, who gave up on the conductor and took their cues from the Leader. Maybe a genius conductor can close his eyes and hear the divine but most musicians are trying to do their job right. This conductor, whose CV proudly stated that he gets "invited back", held the silence with extreme reverence. Those who had been listening weren't impressed, and listening is what really counts, not image. Oh, and I enjoyed Petrenko's Prom 69, though I'm not normally into Bruckner.
ADDENDUM : Sadly. the fuss made over the "first woman conductor" ath the Last Night of the Proms proves Petrenko was right about "erotic". Such lubricious salivation !  Shame ! It sets the case for women conductors back into the dark ages. We should be listening to the musician, not her gender.

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