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Mirga takes the helm at CBSO

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Categories: contemporary classical music, inspiring music, live performance, music profession, women in music
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Maestro or conductor – diva or person – commander or sharer

I tuned in part way through a Radio 4 broadcast this morning, featuring the new conductor of the CBSO Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. A member of the orchestra who was speaking was saying how refreshing it was to speak with a conductor who was not always talking about themselves or their career and interests. Mirga is actually interested in the wellbeing of each person in the orchestra, he said and is far more likely to be discussing what you are doing or how you are feeling than anything else.

How things have changed! Of course this shows my age but if a young female conductor, 30 years ago, was to appear on the very competitive, professional orchestral stage not following the “maestro aloof” approach, it would certainly not have been universally applauded regardless of the talent of the person conducting.

Ivan Hewitt in the Telegraph after a CBSO proms concert last year commented that:” “She’s the polar opposite of how we imagine a commanding maestro of the podium to look… a strikingly pale, tiny, pretty woman, standing barely over five feet tall… It must surely have put her at a disadvantage when she started out, but when I ask if she was nervous she seems puzzled. Not at all. Conducting is not a battle to impose myself, it’s about sharing music with those who love it as much as I do…….When I’m in front of an orchestra, the question of being a woman disappears – we’re just human beings”.

This certainly is a breath of fresh air. Are we at last learning as a profession to be brave enough to allow the quality of the music to speak for itself without the historical classical music shackles?

Mirga is certainly showing the way of how you can be musically exceptional in a highly competitive male dominated world as a conductor, whilst still remaining true to her personal values.

Geraldine Allen



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