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March 24, 2010

So much for the encouraging news about the Vienna Philharmonic

The other day, I got on the bandwagon celebrating the appointment of the Vienna Philharmonic's first female concertmaster -- the story emanated from the AP. Can't trust any news outlet these days, I guess.

My diligent colleague Susan Elliott of reported Wednesday that the story is not quite what it seems, that Albena Danailova was actually named a permanent concertmaster of Vienna Opera Orchestra --not entirely the same thing as the Vienna Philharmonic.

As Susan points out, while Philharmonic members play in the opera ensemble, it doesn't mean that everyone in the opera plays in the Philharmonic. So it appears that Danailova has not landed the concertmaster post at the august Philharmonic after all. Bummer.

Posted by Tim Smith at 5:57 PM | | Comments (3)


Well, thank the AP for not clarifying the nature of the ensemble in question, though I can understand the confusion.

While these ensembles have a lot of player traffic back and forth, the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Wiener Staatsoper are "Tiers 1 & 2," respectively. This rather odd setup ensures the "exclusivity" of "Philharmonic Association" membership. (Talk about having to jump through hoops!!!)

Be sure to read Wikipedia's article on the Wiener Philharmoniker, especially the section on "Acceptance of women." I'm quite disturbed (though not at all surprised) at some of the racist/sexist attitudes displayed -- and this further illustrates the culture from which Celibidache surely emerged (as I mentioned the other day). I would argue very strongly _against_ those attitudes.

Believe me, the Wieners can flub a line
just as easily as any orchestra -- no matter how much Central-European "ethnic uniformity" they maintain. (They have their good & bad concerts, too! I have many "live" recordings with examples.)

Promoting the concept that the musicians need to be "white skinned male musicians, that perform exclusively the music of white skinned male composers" guarantees nothing toward keeping the orchestra's "special tone." Instead, it clearly demonstrates that the "best musician" is _not_ always chosen, for reasons which are, IMHumO, absolutely-misguided rubbish -- see Otto Strasser's quote from the article.

I regret that the Philharmoniker has not seen fit to elect their "acting" concertmaster to the position of "Wiener Philharmoniker Konzertmeister." If and when they finally choose to bestow that honour, to either Ms. Danailova or someone of comparable qualifications, then may they, in fact, elect the best and most deserving musician for the job.

Well, since we are on it, we might as well get it exactly correctly.

The orchestra that Danailova received a position in is the Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera Orchestra) which is a part of the Vienna State Opera which gives over 300 performances a year. That entity is under the direction of the Austrian Federal Theatres.

The Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic) is a private, self governing organization made up of members of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. After 3 years in the Staatsoper orchestra, a musician may apply for membership in the Vienna Philharmonic Association. Employment decisions are made by members of the orchestra themselves.

Generally, in Vienna, the Vienna Philharmonic plays its limited number of subscription concerts on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings at 11:00 am. (There are generally not Saturday matiness at the Opera).

what a stupid comment! to become VPO member everybody must start at vienna state opera orchestra, man, woman, poodle .... after one year the musicianis to be approved by a comittee consisting mainly of orchestra members. when this hurdle has been taken it is almost obligatory to become VPO member one year later. mrs. danailove has to commit a serious crime, otherwise she will be VPO concert master in one year.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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