Marin Alsop Launches Tenure as First Female Chief Conductor of Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop makes history once again this Thursday, October 24. Already the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America and Britain, now she adds Austria to the list, when she inaugurates her tenure as the first female Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. To open the ensemble’s landmark 50th anniversary season, she leads a program pairing works by Hindemith with Rapture by her late friend and colleague, Christopher Rouse, and the world premiere of a new commission from award-winning Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach. Held at the Vienna Konzerthaus, where it will be recorded for a subsequent radio broadcast, the Opening Night kicks off the two weeks of concerts, masterclasses, talks and workshops that launch Alsop’s first Vienna RSO season. Showcasing the work of female composers and conductors with related educational initiatives, the orchestra’s 2019-20 programming reflects its new Chief Conductor’s pioneering role in the campaign for gender equality in music.
Looking ahead to her new tenure, Alsop says:
“Vienna is a musical city like no other and was central to the careers of two of my idols – Mahler and Bernstein, both of whose compositions I have conducted with this orchestra and look forward to performing again this season. I am excited to get started with the Vienna RSO during its anniversary season and to work with these great musicians on a wide range of concert repertoire, including world premieres, as well as on recordings, tours and educational initiatives. It’s particularly meaningful to me to have the chance to work with emergent female conductors and conduct music by three terrific female composers.”
In their second week together, Alsop and the orchestra open the Vienna Modern Festival with an all-contemporary program comprising the world premiere of a new commission from Peter Ablinger, the Austrian premieres of Agata Zubel’s Fireworks and Clara Iannotta’s Moult, Jón Leifs’s Hekla, and Berio’s Sinfonia, for which they will be joined by the Swingle Singers (Oct 31). The following week, the conductor leads Schumann’s Second Symphony, as re-orchestrated by Mahler, and Drei Sätze für Orchester by Friedrich Cerha, widely considered Austria’s most important living composer, at the orchestra’s 50th Anniversary Birthday Concert (Nov 6). Both performances will be broadcast live on ORF’s Ö1 station.
Other highlights of Alsop’s opening weeks include three days of masterclasses and workshops for women conductors, which she holds in collaboration with Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts (Nov 1-3). Composers Angélica Castelló, Clara Iannotta, Mirela Ivičević and Agata Zubel will give career advice to students at the university (Oct 28 & 29), and Alsop will take part in a panel discussion on “Gender Equality in Music, Ten Years from Now,” for which she will be joined by Christoph Becher, Vienna RSO Orchestra Director; Patricio Canete-Schreger, Head of Music, City Council for Cultural Affairs and Science; Ulrike Sych, Dean of Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts; composer Agata Zubel; and host Renata Schmidtkunz, a presenter on ORF’s Ö1 station. The panel will consider how best to facilitate the careers of female conductors and composers and how to help the industry pursue its goal of true gender parity (Oct 30).
Notably, in Alsop’s first season, five out of six concerts in the orchestra’s Vienna Konzerthaus subscription series will be conducted by women. She herself looks forward to leading programs featuring symphonies by German Romantics Mendelssohn and Schumann and music by her compatriots John Adams and Bernstein, a former mentor to whom she has often been compared, as well as by Austrian composers Mahler, Zemlinsky, Zeisl and HK Gruber. She and the Vienna RSO conclude their inaugural season together with a spring tour of Austria’s Bundesländer, to celebrate the orchestra’s milestone golden jubilee.