Sunday, 1 January 2012

A note on women and the Vienna Philharmonic



I only heard the first half of this morning’s concert, which is about as much waltzing as I can take. But that was on the radio, so I didn’t see what caused such indignation on Twitter (views expressed under #spotthewomenintheviennaphil). The Wiener’s well-hidden women also prompted some posts to the American Musicological Society’s listserv. I will have to examine the video evidence myself, but from what I read only two of the six female full WP members were present, with one of them blocked out by a flower display when the orchestra took their bows.

The Twitter and AMS-L comments brought some links to my attention: a new post from William Osborne, a long-standing thorn in the Philharmoniker’s side, who presents some statistics and the scary news that the Philharmoniker has been endorsed by the New Century Foundation, a dodgy American think tank led by this wingnut; and an article published last year in the Independent. Osborne has brought interesting information to light in the past, but has also published journal articles on the orchestra which I’ve found to be somewhat lacking in scholarly detachment (the Philharmoniker, or at least part of its history, is my Fach). But as I’m about to engage in a Philharmoniker Conspiracy Theory I perhaps shouldn’t call his kettle black.

Maybe the four women were on annual leave, sick leave, whatever. I also remember ridiculously large floral displays obscuring male musicians at the Neujahrskonzert in previous years (seriously - that's would Clemens Hellsberg would say). And now for my highly speculative 2¢ on the hidden women of the New Year’s Day concert: this is the Wiener Philharmoniker sticking two fingers at the Austrian political establishment for the way a lucrative public subsidy was cancelled in July 2010. The Indy’s article doesn’t report this quite correctly: starting in 2000 the subsidy was somewhere slightly below the region of 2.8 million euros per year and not on the condition of securing ‘absolute equality between men and women’, but rather ‘Chancengleichheit’, which is something quite different – equality of opportunity. The Philharmoniker claim to have that with screened auditions (the credibility of which has been called into doubt). There was some other vaguely worded stuff about the Philharmoniker being a good ambassador for Austria, and performing a certain number of concerts in service of the Republic (I have no idea if this condition was met, but the Philharmoniker would probably argue that every foreign concert promotes Austria).

Fast forward to 2010. Parliamentary opinion turned against the Republiksvertrag after a damning culture committee investigation spearheaded by the Austrian Green Party. The cancellation came to a vote on Mahler’s birthday and I turned up to observe the debate, which showed that discontent with the WP’s employment practices has spread from the Greens to a sizeable number of the SPÖ (Social Democrats) and most of the women from the ÖVP (conservatives). Many who supported cancellation also continued to affirm that as a private organization (Verein), the Philharmoniker is free to admit whomever it wants, but the issue has moved from what an FPÖ (far right) politician termed the ‘Philharmoniker complex of the Greens’ to a situation – unthinkable a few years ago – where members of the ÖVP are rebuking the Philharmonic. And rebuking is almost certainly how the orchestra would see it. Hence the tit-for-tat visuals of the 2012 New Year’s Day concert.

The bad news is the classic Austrian compromise which came out of this mess. The subsidy has been transferred to the Staatsopernorchester for ‘extra rehearsals’, and if you believe that... (Quite why an orchestra as loaded as the Philharmonic was being publicly subsidized in the first place, I don't even want to discuss). A Green-sponsored motion for the orchestra to bring gender equality up to international standards within ten years was also resoundingly rejected. And Walter Rosenkranz of the FPÖ proves that Austria is not without its Michele Bachmanns.

Below the jump is the stenographic report from that day's parliamentary business. I’ve cut it down a lot as debates cover several topics at once. All auf Deutsch I’m afraid, as it's 1500 words long and I don’t have the time to translate. But I tried it with Google translate and the important bits are understandable that way.


Stenographisches Protokoll
72. Sitzung des Nationalrates der Republik Österreich
XXIV. Gesetzgebungsperiode                    Mittwoch, 7. Juli 2010
25. Punkt
Bericht des Kulturausschusses über den Antrag 1122/A(E) der Abgeordneten Mag. Dr. Wolfgang Zinggl, Kolleginnen und Kollegen betreffend Auflösung des Republikvertrages mit den Wiener Philharmonikern (815 d.B.)
[...]






19.56.14
Abgeordnete Mag. Judith Schwentner (Grüne)|:
[...]
Noch kurz zu einem anderen Thema, auf das auch noch ein Entschließungsantrag folgt, nämlich zum Philharmoniker-Orchester: Die Auflösung des Republikvertrages wurde auch im Ausschuss diskutiert; wir begrüßen diese Auflösung sehr. Die Grünen haben seit den Neunzigerjahren die Auflösung immer wieder forciert, vor allem aus dem Grund, dass es 1997 den Beschluss gab, dass die Chancengleichheit von Männern und Frauen ge­währleistet werden soll. Leider hat es seit 1971 nur eine Harfenistin gegeben, und der­zeit sind drei Musiker des Orchesters von 124 Mitgliedern weiblich. Das muss man be­rücksichtigen.
Im Moment sind 30 Prozent der österreichischen Absolventen von Instrumentalstudien weiblich, das heißt, ein Mangel an Musikerinnen kann nicht der Grund sein. Es ist of­fenkundig so, dass das Orchester diesem Auftrag über Jahre nicht nachgekommen ist. Eigentlich müsste man sich überlegen, ob das Orchester Gelder, die es für die Gleich­stellung erhalten hat, nicht zurückzahlen müsste.
Es ist erfreulich, dass der Republikvertrag aufgelöst wurde. Bedenklich ist aber, dass über das Hintertürchen jetzt das Staatsopernorchester subventioniert wird – und das hat die Ministerin auch gesagt. Das heißt, über die Hintertür fließen die Gelder wieder zurück. Ich möchte erwähnen, dass im Staatsopernorchester derzeit acht von 150 Mit­gliedern weiblich sind, das heißt, da wird auch nicht viel für die Gleichstellung getan, obwohl es, wie gesagt, schon genügend entsprechende Musikerinnen geben würde.
Das heißt, man sollte auch da ganz genau hinschauen, und ich glaube nicht, dass die Ausschussfeststellung, dass die Gleichstellung im Staatsopernorchester sichergestellt werden soll, ausreicht. Wir wissen, wie freiwillige Selbstverpflichtungen, gerade, was die Gleichstellung von Männern und Frauen anbelangt, üblicherweise ausfallen.
Ich möchte daher in diesem Zusammenhang folgenden Entschließungsantrag ein­bringen:
Der Nationalrat wolle beschließen:
„Die Bundesregierung wird aufgefordert, Maßnahmen zu setzen, um den Frauenanteil im Orchester der Wiener Philharmoniker binnen zehn Jahren auf ein international übli­ches Maß zu erhöhen.“
*****
Danke. (Beifall bei den Grünen.)
20.00


Präsident Mag. Dr. Martin Graf|: Die soeben eingebrachten beiden [WPO and Sicherstellung der Fi­nanzierung des Österreichischen Freilichtmuseums Stübing] Entschließungs­anträge sind ausreichend unterstützt und stehen mit in Verhandlung.
Die Anträge haben folgenden Gesamtwortlaut:
Entschließungsantrag
[Stübing]

Entschließungsantrag
der Abgeordneten Zinggl, Kolleginnen und Kollegen betreffend Frauenanteil im Or­chester der Wiener Philharmoniker
eingebracht im Zuge der Debatte über den Bericht des Kulturausschusses über den An­trag 1122/A(E) der Abgeordneten Mag. Dr. Wolfgang Zinggl, Kolleginnen und Kollegen betreffend Auflösung des Republikvertrages mit den Wiener Philharmonikern (815 d.B)
Begründung
Die Auflösung des Republikvertrages mit den Wiener Philharmonikern war ein grund­sätzlich richtiger Schritt. Durch die Ankündigung von Ministerin Schmied, die frei wer­denden Millionen in die Anhebung des Kollektivvertrages des Staatsopernorchesters zu stecken, werden die ursprünglich sinnvollen Intentionen des Vertrages aber konter­kariert. Nun gibt es kein vertraglich festgelegtes Bekenntnis des Orchesters zur Gleich­berechtigung der Geschlechter mehr, und auch alle anderen Verpflichtungen, die sich aus dem Republikvertrag ableiten, erscheinen obsolet. Es wäre politisch unverant­wortlich, die Wiener Philharmoniker für ihr erschütternd langsames Tempo bei der Er­höhung des Frauenanteils im Orchester auch noch zu belohnen.
Die unterfertigten Abgeordneten stellen daher folgenden
Entschließungsantrag:
Der Nationalrat wolle beschließen:
Die Bundesregierung wird aufgefordert, Maßnahmen zu setzen, um den Frauenanteil im Orchester der Wiener Philharmoniker binnen zehn Jahren auf ein international übli­ches Maß zu erhöhen.
*****
[...]
20.34


Präsident Mag. Dr. Martin Graf|: Nächster Redner: Herr Abgeordneter Dr. Rosen­kranz. 3 Minuten Redezeit. – Bitte.


20.34.29
Abgeordneter Dr. Walter Rosenkranz (FPÖ)|: Herr Präsident! Frau Bundesministerin! Zum Kollegen Sacher und seinen Wagner’schen Anwandlungen gibt es, glaube ich, nichts zu sagen, aber jetzt einmal zum Kollegen Zinggl und Frau Kollegin Schwentner; behandeln wir heute einmal den Philharmoniker-Komplex der Grünen.
Eingangs sei bemerkt: Sowohl die Musik als auch die Qualität sind weiblich. Unter­scheiden Sie endlich konsequent zwischen dem Staatsopernorchester und dem Verein der Wiener Philharmoniker! Lassen Sie es zu, dass ein Verein sich seine Mitglieder aus­sucht, wenn sie dem Vereinszweck dienen sollen! (Beifall bei der FPÖ.)
Nehmen Sie zur Kenntnis, dass in beiden Klangkörpern Männer und Frauen gleicher­maßen Chancen haben! (Abg. Mag. Schwentner: Eben nicht!) In das Staatsopernor­chester kommt man nur durch ein anonymes Probespiel, bei dem der oder die Beste gewählt wird, egal ob Mann oder Frau. (Abg. Mag. Schwentner: Das glauben Sie!)
Werten Sie die Leistungen der erfolgreichen Frauen nicht durch eine sture Quote ab! Qualität und Quote haben zwingend nur die ersten beiden Buchstaben gemeinsam.
Lassen Sie es zu, dass zwei Wiener Orchester, die aufgrund eines autonomen Ver­einsstatuts kontinuierlich im Laufe der Zeit personenidentisch sind, die zu den besten Orchestern der Welt zählen, Aushängeschilder und Botschafter Österreichs sind, ihren Standard autonom erhalten können! Jedenfalls sind diese beiden Orchester als Klang­körper einzigartig und unverwechselbar. (Zwischenruf des Abg. Dr. Zinggl.) Zitate der bedeutendsten Dirigenten, aber auch Komponisten des 19., 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts be­legen dies.
Erst vor Kurzem hörte man auf Ö1 eine Aussage des großen Bruno Walter über die un­vergleichliche Kontinuität des Orchesterklangs, auch Wiener Klangstil genannt.
Lassen Sie es zu, dass diese Klangkörper auch in Zukunft ihren höchsten eigenen Qua­litätsanspruch gegenüber Ihrem Quotenwahn mit der absoluten Gefahr der Nivellierung nach unten weiter behaupten können! (Beifall bei der FPÖ. – Abg. Mag. Schwentner: Die Quoten ...!)
Schüren Sie nicht den Neid, nur weil Mitglieder dieser Orchester auch Lehrende an den Musikuniversitäten sind! Lassen Sie zu, dass diese begnadet begabten und fleißigen Menschen, die Beruf und Berufung leben, ihre Erfahrungen, ihr Können und ihre Musi­kalität weitergeben! Nicht umsonst erfreuen wir uns des Zustroms von Studierenden aus aller Welt. Ihre wirtschaftliche Umverteilungs-, Klassenkampf- und Genderideologie hat in der Kunst absolut nichts verloren! (Beifall bei der FPÖ.)
Eine Peinlichkeit darf ich aber den Abgeordneten von SPÖ und ÖVP nicht durchgehen lassen: Ihre Ausschussfeststellung: „Der Kulturausschuss geht davon aus, dass sich die Wiener Philharmoniker ... dazu verpflichten, ...“ – und so weiter –, ist mehr als peinlich. Seit wann mischt sich die Gesetzgebung in einen privaten Verein ein, dessen Statuten gesetzmäßig sind?! – Sonst wäre der Verein gar nicht zugelassen. Gibt es bald Ausschussfeststellungen über die Aufstellung von Fußballmannschaften? Oder über die Skiausflüge eines Skiklubs? Oder über die Kulturreise einer Seniorenvereinigung?
Zum Abschluss noch zum Kollegen Zinggl und zur Kollegin Schwentner: Gerade heute, am 150. Geburtstag Gustav Mahlers, der auch diese beiden Orchester geleitet hat, darf ich mit Freude feststellen, dass im Staatsopernorchester und bei den Wiener Philhar­monikern der Klang heute noch genauso ist wie unter dem Dirigat Gustav Mahlers, weil im Orchester ebendiese Tradition lebendig gehalten wird. So etwas ist einmalig und Weltkulturerbe-verdächtig.
Herr Kollege Zinggl, Frau Kollegin Schwentner, genießen Sie Ihr Hinterhof-Musikbiotop mit autodidaktischem Didgeridoo-Geblöke und Buschtrommeln! Das sei Ihnen unbe­nommen, erfreuen Sie sich daran! Aber lassen Sie Könner und Könnerinnen den Ruf Österreichs als Kulturnation unverfälscht in die Welt tragen! (Beifall bei der FPÖ.)
20.38


Präsident Mag. Dr. Martin Graf|: Zu einer Stellungnahme hat sich Frau Bundesminis­terin Dr. Schmied zu Wort gemeldet. – Bitte.


20.38.19
Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur Dr. Claudia Schmied|:
[...]
Kurz ein paar Sätze zum Staatsopernorchester – über die Bedeutung wurde ja schon gesprochen –: Ich betone einmal mehr, ich bin sehr froh darüber, dass es gelungen ist, hier zu einer einvernehmlichen Lösung des Republikvertrages zu kommen auf der einen Seite – das betrifft den Verein der Wiener Philharmoniker –, und ich freue mich auf der anderen Seite, dass es geglückt ist, mit dem Wiener Staatsopernorchester, das für die Entwicklung und für die kulturelle Qualität der Wiener Staatsoper einfach unver­zichtbar ist, im Zusammenwirken dieser drei Bereiche zu einer sehr guten Lösung, auch im Kontext des neuen Kollektivertrags, zu kommen: Erhöhung der Probenanzahl, Mitwirkung des Dienstgebers bei der Zusammensetzung des Orchesters; Stichwort: Substitute, ein Problem, das wir in der Vergangenheit immer wieder diskutiert haben. Ich halte nur einmal mehr fest, dass die Mitglieder des Staatsopernorchesters Bundes­bedienstete sind und demnach auch das Bundes-Gleichbehandlungsgesetz anzuwen­den ist.
[...]
20.43


Präsident Mag. Dr. Martin Graf|: Nächste Rednerin: Frau Abgeordnete Mag. Aubauer. Eingestellte Redezeit: 2 Minuten. – Bitte.


20.43.00
Abgeordnete Mag. Gertrude Aubauer (ÖVP)|: Herr Präsident! Frau Bundesminister! Hohes Haus! Frau Minister Schmied hat gerade ausgeführt, wie die Verträge zum Staatsopernorchester ausschauen, daher nur ein Wort zu den Wiener Philharmonikern.
Was wünschen wir uns? – Natürlich wünschen wir uns bei den Wiener Philharmonikern gleiche Chancen für Frauen wie für Männer in diesem weltberühmten Orchester. Das spielt es derzeit aber leider nicht. Warum? – Herr Kollege Rosenkranz hat es ange­sprochen: weil die Wiener Philharmoniker ein privater Verein sind. Einem privaten Ver­ein kann niemand vorschreiben, wen er beschäftigt, einem privaten Verein kann nie­mand vorschreiben, welche Mitglieder er aufnimmt und welche nicht.
Zur Frage Quote, für die sich die Fraktion der Grünen sehr einsetzt: Eine Frauenquote würde bei einem privaten Verein gar keinen Sinn machen. Hier hat die Quote über­haupt keine Chance und ist daher zahnlos.
Dennoch ein Kompliment dem Antragsteller, dem Abgeordneten Zinggl: Kompliment an Sie, solche Männer brauchen wir, Männer, die sich für die Chancengleichheit der Frau­en so einsetzen – nachahmenswert! – Danke. (Beifall bei der ÖVP.)
20.44
[...]
20.51


Präsident Mag. Dr. Martin Graf|: Zu Wort ist dazu niemand mehr gemeldet. Die De­batte ist geschlossen.
Wünscht eine der Berichterstatterinnen beziehungsweise einer der Berichterstatter das Schlusswort? – Das ist nicht der Fall.
Wir gelangen nun zur Abstimmung, die ich über jeden Ausschussantrag getrennt vor­nehme.
[...]
Wir gelangen nun zur Abstimmung über den Antrag des Kulturausschusses, seinen Bericht 815 [cancellation of the October 2000 Republiksvertrag with the WPO] der Beilagen zur Kenntnis zu nehmen.
Ich bitte jene Damen und Herren, die hiezu ihre Zustimmung geben, um ein entspre­chendes Zeichen. – Das ist mit Mehrheit angenommen.
Wir gelangen nunmehr zur Abstimmung über den Entschließungsantrag der Abge­ordneten Dr. Zinggl, Kolleginnen und Kollegen betreffend Frauenanteil im Orchester der Wiener Philharmoniker.
Ich bitte jene Damen und Herren, die für diesen Entschließungsantrag sind, um ein Zei­chen. – Das ist die Minderheit und somit abgelehnt.

24 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this blog entry. I wish I knew who you were. I knew about the Republiksvertrag debate, but I hadn’t seen a transcription, which is simultaneously depressing and hilarious. Especially rich is the Freedom Party speaker telling the two Green Party members that they should just go into their “backyard bio-habitats and enjoy their self-taught digereedo bleating and bush-drumming.” His reference, by contrast, to the Kulturnation Austria has implications English-speakers might not fully grasp. A simple translation like “cultural nation” doesn’t really capture all the word implies. The FPÖ speaks in a kind of coded, Blut und Boden language.

    The problem with your “conspiracy theory” is that even before the transfer of the Republiksvertrag funds to the Staatsoper, the Philharmonic still only used a couple women for the New Years Concert. It would seem they would want to showcase all the women they had for the concerts, but to my knowledge they never have. So have just 2 of the 6 on stage is nothing new.

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  2. I am inclined to believe this theory. Contra Mr. Osborne, I have seen the Philharmoniker up the woman count for the sake of touring outside Austria. Last November's Musikverein concert with Thielemann previewing the symphony cycle that the orchestra took to Paris included either four or five women; Intermezzo spotted four but I think there may have been another on the right side of the stage, I'm not sure. http://intermezzo.typepad.com/intermezzo/2010/12/wiener-uber-paris.html

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  3. Amendment: I looked back at what I wrote about that Thielemann-Beethoven concert and I did count five women at the time and noted that all except one was sitting at the last stand of her respective section. And this was November 2010, not 2011, sorry if that was confusing.

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  4. Actually, I’ve been reporting on the use of women ringers used for tours for years. I call it their Rent-A-Frau system. The Berlin Phil used the same practice back in the 80s.

    And that’s exactly what’s interesting about the New Years Concerts. Instead of trying to maximize the number of women, they reduce it. I think they view the New Years Concert as especially traditional, and it is performed inside Austria, so they don’t bother to maximize the women players. I think they also assume that few among the 50 million viewers really take notice of the m/f count, which is probably true.

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  5. Thanks to both for your comments.

    I imagine that William pays closer attention to the New Year’s concerts than I do, but I was under the impression that Albena Danailova played in the 2011 concert, and since you can’t hide a concertmaster behind flowers it could be said to count for showcasing. And with that I poke a hole in my own conspiracy theory, as the Republiksvertrag was of course cancelled in 2010. Just in case it isn’t clear, I should add that like most of the Philharmoniker conspiracy theories which go around in this town, mine wasn’t intended too seriously.* Had I known that Alex Ross and Norman Lebrecht would link to this post, I would have written it from less of a Vienna bubble perspective.

    I think the more interesting question to consider is why does the orchestra attract this kind of speculation, and why do we tend to assume the worst of their motives? As William has shown, the Phil’s long-standing default position was to close ranks when criticized, posing rhetorical questions like ‘do you expect string quartets to have gender equality?’ The more recent attempts of Clemens Hellsberg (the Phil’s Vorstand, or chairman) to explain the orchestra’s position have been disastrous, at least to seasoned Phil observers, who recognize that he’s a rather slippery fish who can’t be trusted to tell the whole truth. I recently attended a symposium at which Hellsberg gave a paper on the post-war Philharmoniker reaching out to those Jewish members who had been exiled from Austria after 1938. There was a touching story about members of the cello section visiting Friedrich Buxbaum in London, for instance. The first question to follow this began ‘we have heard three nice stories.’ (As far I as recall, twelve Philharmoniker musicians were dismissed on political or racial grounds in 1938). Watching Hellsberg equivocate his way out of that was one of the most pathetic things I have witnessed at an academic conference. I do think however that even if he gave less information than he could have done about the orchestra’s Nazi past in his book, the orchestra’s most embarrassing skeletons have already come to light. The problem is his continuing evasion on what has yet to be revealed and what many see as an apologetic spin put on that which has. It has reached the perverse stage where the lack of closure is now more damaging than the potential revelations themselves. Need I even mention it’s easier for women to be admitted to the orchestra than scholars to its archives?

    I find it interesting that William mentioned the Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ, because this is another Austrian organization which has engaged in much public equivocation, only for its critics to suspect the worst as a result. And spot on with ‘Kulturnation’ – one of the ironies of Austria distancing itself from Germany after World War II was the manufacturing of this identity, which in its crasser statements counts for little more than cultural chauvinism.

    Linked to this, and something which struck me when I observed the parliamentary debate, was that the Philharmoniker’s most vocal support within Austria now comes from the far right. The orchestra feigns political indifference, but could always rely on the ÖVP not to challenge their ethnocentric, misogynistic hiring practices. And as conservative parties including Austria’s seek to become more inclusive, that tacit support from the political mainstream is beginning to slip. But then the very idea of what is politically mainstream in this country is changing rapidly at the moment (i.e. what were protest votes under Haider has hardened into a FPÖ base of support for what is perceived now as a respectable populist force). So I hesitate to hazard a guess as to what consequences that may have for the orchestra. Perhaps some, perhaps none.

    *Though with transparency about the Staatsopernorchester’s new millions unlikely to be volunteered by the Staatsoper or the Austrian government, more speculative questions are probably in order. The Greens may take this up yet.

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  6. Thank you for your interesting observations. To clarify a few details in your comment, forty-seven percent of the Vienna Philharmonic's members were National Socialists, and many belonged to the party well before 1938 when it was still illegal in Austria. Six Jewish members of the orchestra died in the concentration camps, and another eleven were able to save their lives by timely migration. Nine additional members were found to be of "mixed race" or "contaminated by kinship" ("Versippte") and reduced to secondary status within the orchestra. With 47% of the members belonging to the National Socialist Party and 26 "non-Aryans" either murdered, exiled or reduced in status by the Nazi regime, the orchestra clearly exhibited its strong fascist tendencies. This data is taken from Hellsberg’s book, “Democracy of Kings.”

    It’s true that Hellsberg’s book carefully and peremptorily aired the orchestra’s skeletons (sic) that might have embarrassed the orchestra much more if they had been revealed by others. But it should also be noted that his book (which remains untranslated) was almost entirely unknown outside the German-speaking world until the VPO protests evolved. Hellsberg was criticized in Austria for discussing the orchestra’s history during the Third Reich, and little effort was made to disseminate the information. Now the facts will be discussed, and of course, innoculated with the appropriately aloof and ironic tones the genteel and socially elite world of classical music requires.

    The greatest weakness in Hellsberg’s book is its lack of discussion about the difficulties the orchestra has had shedding its racial ideologies since the war. He doesn’t mention, for example, the comments made by a former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, Otto Strasser, in his 1970 autobiography, which describe the problems blind auditions caused for keeping Asians out of the orchestra. Instead, Mr. Hellsberg denies this ideology exists. When asked about the countless Asian students who have obtained degrees from Vienna’s University of Music since the war (earlier named the Musikhochschule,) he incredulously claims that none of them have ever been good enough to enter the Staatsoper/Philharmonic. More genteel discretion.

    So yes, it is a serious problem that the archives are closed. And an even more serious problem that a strict Schweigepflicht (an obligation to remain silent) is forced on the musicians and that they are strictly forbidden to give interviews. The musicians could describe attitudes that would be very informative and give us a much better understanding of the orchestra and Austrian culture. It might be true, as you say, that the Schweigepflicht causes people to assume the worst, but we should also remember that it exists because the orchestra’s leaders know there are unpleasant truths to be told.

    I suspect this will change at some point. I sense a sea-change is taking place in Germany and Austria because the last of the old Nazis are dying out. Without these old friends and family members around, people are becoming much freer to talk about the past. The Internet is also making a difference, because young scholars in Germany and Austria are now disseminating information that the gate keepers of an earlier generation would have blocked or suppressed – a trend that will continue to grow.

    BTW, I can’t find the link Alex Ross has made to your blog. Can you tell us where it is?

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  7. Yet another thought about why so few women are used for the New Years Concert. The most common estimate for the concert’s worldwide public is 50 million people in about 72 countries. That number is used to determine the royalties, so the concert is a windfall for the musicians. I’m not certain how the Philharmonic divides the money. In many orchestras, even the members who don’t play in a broadcast get a portion, but those who do get more. Could that be why the ladies are in short supply for the New Years Concert? Not sure I believe that, but it’s not entirely implausible.

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  8. William, I will reply to your longer post when I get the chance later this evening, but briefly on what you just wrote: I'm acquainted with a couple of people who would know how the spoils are divided, but I imagine what you say about the royalties being shared unequally across the roster, depending on who played, is probably the case. Another interesting conspiracy theory...

    Incidentally, when the Phil's Mahler Todestag concert last year got converted into a Japan benefit, I'm convinced there was a correlation between them not getting paid and it being the worst Mahler 9 I've ever heard. Granted, half the Phil didn't even turn up, but even those who did played as sloppily as the Staatsopernorchester contingent (I'm thinking of people like Ian Bousfield, who is usually one of their more precise players). 'Were they stingy with rehearsals?' Zerbinetta asks in this review of the event (http://likelyimpossibilities.blogspot.com/2011/05/wiener-philharmoniker-buries-mahler.html). Undoubtedly.

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  9. Just read Zerbinetta's review and the comments. What fun! Almost inspires me to stop being a Black Forest hermit.

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  10. To respond to William’s longer comment from earlier: many thanks for quoting this information from Hellsberg’s book. I do own a copy, and should have checked it to get that figure right (I knew it was around eleven). An interesting thing is that much of this data did not come to light for the first time in this book. The 47% figure, for instance, was established immediately after the war and provoked much internal debate within the provisional Austrian government of 1945, even if Ernst Fischer, the Communist minister for education and culture at the time, ultimately decided that the orchestra’s unique ‘Klangkörper’ was more important than applying the penalties which denazification would have involved. This was published in his 1973 memoir, Das Ende einer Illusion. Fischer, who was a deeply intelligent man and formidable thinker, was not duped into this by the orchestra and indeed had to go against the zero-tolerance denazification policies of his own party. Why? Because – despite being a staunch anti-Fascist on record as rejecting ‘attempts to save this or that Nazi’ – he saw the Philharmoniker as a cultural symbol important to the reestablishment of Austrian national identity, a mission of some importance to the Communists, who believed the two mainstream parties to be compromised by their interwar betrayal of the state.

    Looking at documents in the Austrian state archives and elsewhere, I have come to the conclusion that Fischer’s rescuing of the orchestra was done illegally under the laws which applied at the time. I mention all this to point out that it was an untainted figure prepared to absolve the tainted orchestra, using methods which tainted figures within the Austrian government raised their eyebrows at. We think of the Second Republic’s Lebenslüge – that Austria was Hitler’s first victim – as this premeditated thing, manufactured out of expediency by those who were culpable. But the facts are often more complicated.

    That, in a roundabout way, lays out the way I approach these issues. The relevance it has to your comments is that I believe the sea change you describe happened some decades ago, and was far from unproblematic. I agree with Pamela Potter when she writes of Fred K. Prieburg’s seminal Musik im NS-Staat (published 1982) that ‘[his] frustrations with acquiring materials, gaining access to archives, and even securing a publishing contract led him to lapse into polemics throughout much of his study.’ (in Richard Strauss: new perspectives on the composer and his work, ed. Bryan Gilliam, p. 100). I find parts of historian Oliver Rathkolb’s 1982 dissertation similarly intemperate (widely disseminated due to its revelations about Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; Rathkolb also discusses the Philharmoniker and its 47% at length). The trend we need now is for greater detachment and a readiness to ask questions beyond ‘was so-and-so a member of the Nazi party?’ Like with the 47%, does the fact of joining necessarily prove that there were all überzeugt, or committed to the cause? You pose many interesting questions about the orchestra’s present, but my instinct is to be more cautious about framing these in terms of their past.

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  11. Due to Cold War politics, there has been no shortage of scholars who detached post war events in Germany and Austria from the history that directly preceded them. And our standard histories of music are also weak in their examination of the role Romantic cultural nationalism played in the development of the symphony orchestra, and how it created the ethnic and even racial sensibilities that often surrounded them. The Vienna Philharmonic thus represents a cultural phenomenon people cannot understand and contextualize. And musicologists continue to be confounded by the Vienna Philharmonic’s behavior, because the history that explains it and allows it to continue has not been adequately examined.

    All too often, a historical blip was created in Germany and Austria where time simply jumped from 1933 to 1945, as if there were no intervening years. As a result, we have not adequately understood the historical continuities and cultural values that led to the Third Reich. This also allows us to conveniently ignore how some of those same cultural values continued after the war.

    One motivation for suppressing that understanding during the Cold War was obvious. The Soviet Union ceaselessly politicized about imagined relationships between Western culture, capitalism and fascism. In response, the West cast a blind eye to the areas where relationships might actually exist -- a practice that continues to this day. Those who examined possible correlations, like Preiberg in “Macht und Musik,” were denounced as unobjective polemicists and marginalized in a academic world all to willing to accede to Cold War political pressures. Even if there were occasional weaknesses in these scholar’s work, they were pounced upon with an excessive zeal that was, and is, politically motivated.

    So yes, there were scholars who examined that history earlier, but today the younger generation can do so with fewer repercussions, which is creating the sea-change I described. They are less ready to follow the traditional “caution” that you describe, especially since a new academic community is evolving through digital media that allows them to circumvent the field’s traditional gate keepers.

    Another interesting aspect of this problem, as Pamela Potter notes, is that many of the refugees from Germany and Austria were imbued with the long-standing cultural nationalism of their Germanic homelands and ironically transported attitudes of Germanic cultural supremacy to the United States. The very victims of those attitudes thus continued to promote them.

    The distorted views created by the Cold War were clearly isomorphic with the larger political and cultural atmosphere. The US government had few qualms about working with extremely questionable Nazis and Nazi collaborators – whether they be scientists, intelligence officers, or cultural institutions, and so the blind eye cast toward historical continuities became even stronger. (Due to the word limit, I continue in the next post.)

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  12. To continue. The US government even took a hand in shaping the arts world to its own interests. Through a front organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA developed a large-scale, secret funding programs for art it considered an acceptable riposte to Social Realism – most notably, abstract expressionism. They even infiltrated the boards of major institutions like MOMA, and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations to further manipulate aesthetic perspectives. We have not even begun to examine how strongly these efforts shaped the history of post war art in the West. At the very least, we begin to see that, in some respects, our historical understanding of the war and post-war era is a politically motivated historical construct.

    These same practices led to efforts to detach the Vienna Philharmonic’s racial ideologies from their pre-war history. The orchestra continued to hold a belief that it should be all white, but because of the convenient historical lapses and distortions we created, we couldn’t imagine why they would have such an idea. It didn’t matter that 47% of the members were Nazis, and that the orchestra was one of the Reich’s most devoted musical collaborators, their post-war, racist musical ideology was merely a coincidence – as if it appeared out of the blue.

    Especially in the music world, we also overlook the role Romantic cultural nationalism played in the development of the Third Reich, and the correlations those same historical trends had with the development of the symphony orchestra. In some respects, the Third Reich was the ultimate manifestation of Romantic cultural nationalism. Without examining these historical relationships, it becomes much more difficult to contextualize the racism, ethnocentricity, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and transcendentalism that are manifested by the symphony orchestra – whether it is practiced in a de facto manner or overtly. This is especially odd, since we have potentially excellent case studies, such as the Vienna Philharmonic, that exist to this day.

    As I show in my last article, this same academic community is willing to look past the obvious racism and sexism that exists in the Vienna Philharmonic, and even celebrate the orchestra with a genteel, moral myopia. What does that say about the objectivity and impartiality of that elite, white community? When music scholars have difficulty even comprehending and contextualizing the overt manifestations of racism and sexism in the Vienna Philharmonic, what does it say about their ability to accurately describe the orchestra’s post war history?

    I had to scribble these complicated thoughts in a rush. I hope they are readable. These are incredibly complex ideas to try to relate in a chat forum. And they will continue to be marginalized until the sea-change I describe has had more time to evolve – if they’re ever accepted at all.

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  13. William, many thanks for another thought-provoking comment. I would just question a couple of things you say, which isn’t to imply that I got nothing useful out of your post – I did, but will leave those elements to speak for themselves as I want to keep this brief.

    Your remarks about cultural nationalism and the historical blip I will therefore set to one side except to note that – with reference to the Third Reich, its debates, and its legacy – such views rely on a rather idiosyncratic view of the historiographical discourse which surrounds the subject. The Sonderweg thesis, which is hardly recent, was dominated throughout the 1950s by debates about the role of Romantic cultural nationalism (I am thinking particularly of work published by figures such as Helmut Plessner and Hans Kohn). The musicological community didn’t engage with the Sonderweg debate until decades later, but I’m not convinced this was necessarily a bad thing, for reasons of more effective piggybacking if nothing else.

    On Cold War politics, I should leave it to musicologists who were actually around at the time to come to their own judgement on being described as ‘all too willing to accede to Cold War political pressures.’ But I can see where you are coming from; to take one example, Anne Shreffler writes in her 2003 article ‘Berlin Walls’ that Georg Knepler’s treatise Geschichte als Weg zum Musikverständnis (published 1977 in East Germany; Shreffler writes about it in connection with Dahlhaus’s Grundlagen der Musikgeschichte, also published 1977) was ignored in the West. But this aspect of music and politics has been taken up energetically by the discipline since the fall of the wall, so contra your ‘we have not even begun to examine...’ comment, there are now quite a number of publications about the cultural Cold War. Just on the question of CIA manipulation you mention, I know Who Paid the Piper? and The Liberal Conspiracy (n.b. not written by musicologists) and am aware of many more (which are). Richard Taruskin’s writings on the American and European postwar avant-gardes are also highly pertinent.

    I do find Prieberg’s Macht und Musik an interesting book, but am afraid I remain more of Potter’s opinion, and as useful as I find his publications as reference works, ‘occasional weaknesses’ barely begins to describe it... I consider his findings on Webern, to take one example, little more than a character assassination.

    I am not sure if you intended to imply this, but I object to the equating of the detachment I describe with the Nolte position of the Historikerstreit. When Michael Kater walked back some of his claims about Carl Orff, for instance, I don’t think he would see it like that.

    To end on a note of (genteel) agreement, much more research is needed not only on the Wiener Philharmoniker, but on the histories and ideologies of musical institutions in general.

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  14. It still astounds me that if one googles Ernst Nolte in the English-language version of Wiki, the second listing is an article-sized email I wrote to the now defunct gen-mus list in July 2000. For me, it stands as an example of how little discussion has taken place in the English-speaking world about the Historikerstreit, and some of the problems with research during the Cold War I mentioned. I thought my entry would vanish from google, but has been there for years and has risen from the seventh to the second position, behind only the wiki article. Bizzare. You can find it here:

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/nolt_comment.htm

    Thank you for your wonderful thoughts. I have very much enjoyed this discussion. There aren’t too many English-speakers with whom I can discuss topics ranging from the Republiksvertrag to the Historikerstreit to Preiburg’s reception. I hope we can meet sometime, though I am seldom in Vienna.

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  15. One last thought, I promise. On the subject of Webern, we know of his letters praising Hitler, Mein Kampf, and the Invasion of the Soviet Union. And we know that close family members (including his son) and close friends were party members. One of his son-in-laws was a party member and was black marketing after the war. That led to the mistaken identity that caused Webern to be accidentally shot by an American soldier. But I’m not so concerned with what decisions people might make about his allegiances, and if he isolated himself against even his children. Among other things, he was clearly not an anti-Semite.

    I’m most interested in the social forces that stood behind him after the war. His famous statement, “Die Kunst hat ihre eigenen Gesetze und hat nichts mit Politik zu tun” is especially interesting. It summarizes exactly the aesthetic the CIA was promoting: an apolitical art as a riposte to social realism.

    The CIA’s front organization, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, had sufficient funding to maintain offices in 35 countries around the world. It was a level of government funding for the arts that the United States had never seen before or since. And it was all done in secret, something like a massive project in aesthetic engineering. What role did this play in the ascendancy of aesthetic concepts like abstract expressionism and serial music? What role did it play in our willingness to forgive Webern’s lapses? Did it play a role in the lax de-Nazification of the German and Austrian arts world? I’m not sure we can write a conclusive history of the post-war era until these questions are answered.

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  16. I am flattered by your comments William, but hasten to point out that I am far from the only English-speaking observer versed in the issues you mention. Scholarly discussion of the Historikerstreit is extensive, throwing up over 100,000 results on a Google book search. A book search for ‘Ernst Nolte Historikerstreit’ also yields thousands of results. That your internet-published article still comes up as no. 2 on a catch-all search doesn’t mean that nobody is interested, but rather than historians are discussing a historical debate and prefer to do so in print (which is understandable). Perhaps the Historikerstreit deserves an English-speaking general audience; the fact remains that relevant sources exist and there is no doubt that people are capable of finding these for themselves. I would also add that just because something isn’t documented on the internet doesn’t mean that it went unnoticed; we should remember that the Historikerstreit originally played out in widely circulated national newspapers, and hundreds of thousands of German-speaking readers would have read about it at the (pre-Internet) time.

    On Webern I stand by what I wrote about Prieberg’s character assassination, but recognize, of course, that there are many unresolved issues here. Whether ‘resolving’ these will really help us to understand Webern better is a moot point. (I have made some discoveries recently which I would mention, but am saving for print). As for the social forces which stood behind him after the war, as you put it, I wonder how much there is to be gained by subordinating discussion of Webern and his legacy to such a narrow political view. There is no getting away from the fact that integral serialism made the biggest splash at Darmstadt, but things were a great deal more shambolic than that, as was asserted at the time (researchers also seem more interested in this now compared to twenty years ago). I don’t mean to imply that I look at things less politically – far from it – just that there is a difference between politics and ‘politics’.

    I should stop there as I am writing this in rather a careless rush, but thanks again for your contributions and please do contact me if you ever find yourself in Vienna. My email address is linked on the blog’s frontpage.

    PS Sorry, to answer your question from much earlier, Alex Ross linked to this discussion by tweeting it here: https://twitter.com/#!/alexrossmusic/status/153631319946039297

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  17. The Historikerstreit illustrates the problems still faced when writing histories of the WWII and Cold War eras. When governments attempt to secretly shape the arts, it is not a narrow political concern, is it? Or do I misread you? Without understanding the extent of the CCF’s influence, don’t our postwar histories remain conditional?

    I would say that biographical searches on the web usually bring up informative results, so your explanation of the listing of my email as second out of 1.2 million results still leaves me with questions. BTW, I notice the wiki article about Notle has been greatly expaned and improved.

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  18. I wouldn't dismiss the legitimacy of research into the CCF, and don't believe it has been ignored to anything like the extent you suggest.

    I am suggesting that for it to be productive, our political discussion of the postwar European and American avant-gardes has to go wider and deeper than, for want of a better phrase, 'Stockhausen serves Imperialism'...

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  19. The situation we've discussed cannot be fairly described as “Stockhausen serves imperialism.” We still do not have sufficient research to determine how extensive the CCF’s influence was, which makes our histories of the post-war era somewhat conditional. How many musicological articles, for example, have been written about the CCF, much less the extent of its influence?

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  20. William, I will leave my readers to do their own JSTOR and Google searches... I did already mention Frances Stonor Saunder's book, which I recall documenting the CCF in depth, and the cultural Cold War expertise of musicologists like Peter Schmelz and Mark Carroll, just to name two off the top of my head, should not be dismissed lightly.

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  21. I haven’t seen any musicological articles about the extent (or lack) of the CCF’s influence – certainly nothing substantial – so without documentation, I’ll remain unconvinced by claims that community has adequately addressed the issue.

    Stonor’s book has very little information about music. Her focus is the visual arts, though she also does a good job covering writers as well. I bought her book at Shakespeare and Company in Paris 2001 shortly after it was first published. I had never heard of the CCF before then, and just picked it up by chance.

    Back to the original topic, I asked an Austrian musicologist who follows the country’s politics closely, and who works with me on VP issues, if she thought the women of the ÖVP might turn the party against the orchestra. She said she viewed the idea with mixed feelings, and listed this as an example why:

    http://derstandard.at/1308680825125/Rauch-Kallat-Vorschlag-Toechter-in-der-Bundeshymne-sorgen-fuer-Aufregung-um-OeVP

    The correlations with your original comments are very interesting.

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  22. Thanks for that William, I did follow the Bundeshymne debate and certainly read that article or a variation on it at the time.

    I was careful in my post to write that only 'members' of the ÖVP were rebuking the orchestra, because the (show of hands) votes demonstrated that male ÖVP parliamentarians are clearly not on board with their female colleagues. That will not change overnight, though if you've heard of our finance minister then you'll know that ÖVP women are not to be underestimated. It is still progress however: there was a time - until fairly recently - when ÖVP women would not have supported such Frauenpolitik.

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  23. William Osborne stated that members of the Phil came to London after the war to see Friedrich Buxbaum. Were they trying to persuade him to return to Vienna? He was a relative of my wife and I'm trying to find out as much about him as I can.

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  24. If such an overture were made, and I doubt it was, then it wasn't to my knowledge documented. In 1945 Buxbaum was over 75 anyway. And a return to Vienna wouldn't in any case have been contingent just on the offer of the orchestra; all those who fled Nazi Germany had already been uprooted once and though some did return to Austria after the war, it was to a society that remained riddled with anti-Semitism and to a city, in the case of Vienna, which lay in rubble and under occupation. My grandmother settled in England during this time and the grass certainly seemed greener on the British side compared to the reports of hardship she heard from Vienna. The effort to repatriate Schoenberg, to take a more prominent cultural example, became intensely politicized but was doomed to failure as soon as the Viennese authorities began equivocating about the prospect of even guaranteeing him a home to live in upon his return.

    As for Buxbaum, members of the orchestra visited him in London and chamber music was played at his home. If I remember the Hellsberg paper correctly - and I believe this was the case - he also guest-performed in the orchestra's London concerts. For more information than that I would have to check with Hellsberg. If you are interested in chasing this up it is probably best to email me (address under the About header) as this thread has been long dead.

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