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March 22, 2010

Wonders never cease: Vienna Philharmonic gives permanent status to its first female concertmaster

Gee, history was being made all over the place over the weekend.

While major health care was being enacted Sunday in Washington a century or so after being proposed, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday appointed its first female concertmaster in 168 years. Women weren't even admitted on a trial basis as players into the august ensemble until the 1980s, so we're talking a painfully slow process.

I'm not sure how frequently audiences

will see Albena Danailova in the concertmaster's chair -- I wouldn't be surprised if it were more often on tour than at home (the Philharmonic invariably took heat for its male-dominated traditions whenever it traveled, especially to New York). But the fact that the Bulgarian-born violinist has now been given the permanent appointment is still big news. Danailova, a former concertmaster of the London Philharmonic, was named acting concertmaster in Vienna two years ago; she formerly begins her tenure as tenured concertmaster on Sept. 1.

(I tried without luck to find a YouTube clip of the Philharmonic with her playing in the first stand; if you spot one, please let me know and I'll post it.)

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:22 AM | | Comments (2)


This is a clear victory for equality of the sexes! (And it's taken bloody long enough to occur...)

I recall the story of Abbie Conant:

I had all of the respect in the world for Sergiu Celibidache as a conductor (especially of Bruckner) until I read about this particular bit of extreme foolishness and small-mindedness a few years ago. Now, while I still respect his legacy as a conductor (certainly a visionary in many aspects, even if one doesn't agree with the results), I cannot help but think of Conant's story and be utterly baffled. He came from a different generation (and culture) with different standards, I guess, so maybe I shouldn't judge too harshly...

Bravo for Albena Danailova!

Actually, you may have seen Albena Danailova seating next to Rainer Küchl (the first concertmaster) in the 2009 New Year's concert - the one conducted by Barenboim. Here are two links to youTube videos:
Polka "So ängstlich sind wir nicht!":

And the Radetzky Marsch:

As for Sergiu Celibidache, well, there is the eternal story of conflict between the genius musician and the flawed human being.

Thanks for the video links. TIM

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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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