Vasily Petrenko on women conductors: “I was misquoted”

Posted on: May 9, 2014

In Thursday’s (5/8) Telegraph (London), Adam Sweeting interviews Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko, whose comments last September in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten “threatened to throw all his fine work overboard…. ‘Orchestras ‘react better when they have a man in front of them,’ he said…. Pandemonium ensued…. ‘This is an example of misquotation and actually quite a grotesque distortion from what I was saying,’ he protests. ‘It was also because of translation between several languages, because the article never appeared in English.’ [He doesn’t speak Norwegian and did the interview in English, which was subsequently translated into Norwegian and then back again.] … ‘I was never against women conductors at all—I think it needs to be decided by the talent question, not the gender question.’ He points out that he regularly mentors female conductors.… His most notorious quote was that ‘a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things.’ Did he really say that? ‘No, not at all,’ he says.… Petrenko says he was referring to Russia, where female conductors are still virtually unknown … [and] the musicians may find it difficult to accept her authority, or be disconcerted by her sexuality.” The article points out that Petrenko’s wife, Evgenia Chernysheva-Petrenko, is a choral conductor.

Posted May 9, 2014