Ivan Hewitt’s deferential piece in the Telegraph about Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons who receives a Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal tomorrow is an interesting read.
“The great thing about the maestro Mariss Jansons is that he has all the good qualities without the bad ones,” beams Hewitt. That is, Jansons has the thorough knowledge, but not the egomania or the vanity. Gold Medal stuff.
Later in the interview Hewitt asks the conductor about the present-day conducting scene.
“Is he enthused by the biggest change in the conducting scene, the rise of young women to positions of prominence in the orchestral world? “Hmm, well…” Jansons pulls an embarrassed face, knowing he’s about to say something deeply politically incorrect. “Well, I don’t want to give offence, and I am not against it, that would be very wrong. I understand the world has changed, and there is now no profession that can be confined to this or that gender. It’s a question of what one is used to. I grew up in a different world, and for me seeing a woman on the podium… well, let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea.
It’s a brave man now who admits to such a sentiment, and it will no doubt bring on a storm of social media condemnation. But Jansons doesn’t do social media, and in any case he’s weathered far greater tribulations …”
I get that Jansons is revered. I get that he’s a different generation. I get too that seeing a woman on the podium would be different from his lifelong personal experience.”
But dear God Mariss, why on earth wouldn’t it be your cup of tea? What difference does it actually make? Conducting is about communication, and as far as I can tell, the ability to communicate isn’t dependent on gender.
Long before it’s retrieved from its box, that RPS Gold Medal is tarnished already. An outdated view condoned and an opportunity missed. Shame.