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Hank Schutz

Why are there more female virtuosi?

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There were relatively very few female violin virtuosi in the 20th century. By this I mean women who had lengthy and significant careers on the concert stage and recording studio.

Over the past 20 years or so, it appears to me that there has been a noticable shift. It is no longer at all uncommon for women to be included in the first tier of up and coming soloists. In fact, at times it seems that the majority of rising stars are female.

Is my perception erroneous? If not, what might account for this remarkable change?

Enquiring minds... etc.

HS

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I was thinkig about the same thing, Hank. I remember talking to one of the violin teachers who teaches children. He said a lot of boys quit when they become teenagers partly due to peer pressure. (Especially in the U.S., where sports are far more popular than classical music.)

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Personally, I think the trend toward homogenisation of style has left us with a bunch of highly-trained soloists with rather smaller differences than seen (heard?) in past. Couple this with a general downward trend in appreciation of classical music, and you end up with the "eye candy" method of selection. I've seen some male soloists who were ugly as the proverbial mud fence, but seems to me the ladies (God bless 'em) are very easy on the eyes. So the talent pool is now sorted by pheromonic appeal, to some degree at least.

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Sorry for my absence, this caught my interest.

I would tend to agree with mommag on this one. There is a great deal of pressure on a guy to quit the violin when he gets to a certain age. It is not a "cool" instrument, and classical music is not favourably looked upon!

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My 16 year old niece indicated to me that she regarded a viola

playing male classmate was a "sissy", largely due to his musical

pastime. She was quite shocked when I pointed out to her, that a

few centuries ago the violin was viewed as the instrument of choice

by ruffians, scoundrels and toughs. Polite society only played the

gambas and one noble banished "fyddle playing" from his domain. Yes

the violin held the same image as the electric guitar did centuries

later.

Perhaps if our male concertmasters would sport a mohawk, tattoos

and a nose ring, young men in the US would hold the violin in

greater esteem

Cheers,

Fritz 

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quote:


Originally posted by:
sonnichs

Perhaps if our male concertmasters would sport a mohawk, tattoos

and a nose ring, young men in the US would hold the violin in

greater esteem.

Fritz 

nigel-kennedy.jpg

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If I remember, I was, in the 70's, told that most of the professional orchestras in the U.S. AND in Europe did not employ women as players. I very specifically remember being told by a male Orchestra director, that when a young man would really apply himself to playing a stringed instrument, he would be a much better player than any woman, because of his greater physical strength and stamina. With chauvanistic attitudes like that dominating the Classical music world at the time, are you surprised? Yes, there were a few highly regarded women who appeared as soloists with major orchestras, but with so few orchestras employing women in the strings sections until the 70's, girls were not often encouraged to play past the High school years. And THEN there was that whole "women should be raising the family at home" thing, that most of us (myself included) bought into until well after WWII.

It's all part of the history of our culture.

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Yiikkes-Omobono-

 I hope that isn't your high school class picture!

Interestingly my former violin teacher, a female, subscribed to the

theory "physical strength" theory that maestramusica 

describes. She had had large hands, a very impressive vibrato and

immense tone and power-Sadly I expect that this dogma had been

impressed upon her during her training. 

 Historically it seems as though

females in the US have carried the burden of promoting the cultural

aspects  of society especially in the schools and homes.

Growing up in the 50's and 60's I recall that most off the

private instrument instructors, art teachers, museum docents

and so on were women. As they take seats in the professional

orchestras, perhaps their efforts are finally being rewarded on a

larger scale

With it's mass media

 "Generica" has become a nation of uniformity over the years

and expecting young men to break the present accepted standard mold

of male behavior will be a tough journey.

Fritz

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quote:


Originally posted by:
sonnichs

Yiikkes-Omobono-

 I hope that isn't your high school class picture!

Fritz

Not mine, and certainly not, (Nigel) Kennedy's high school image either.

Something that came later..........

I hope it's not a Guarneri del Gesu he's chomping into in the pic above!

mr-NigelKennedy.jpg

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Interesting. I had always heard that blind auditions made a big difference. Two sort of related questions concerning the female violinists occur to me. One is: why are so many oriental? Does that simply reflect the shift in the center of gravity of classical music to Asia? Or something else? The related question is: why so relatively few are Jewish? The top tier of violinists has always been disproportionately Jewish, and this still seems true of the males. But, it is not true of the females. Anyone have thoughts on this?

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Katarina Guarneri (Del Gesù's wife) is among the greatest violin makers of all times too.

Asians are smart... they are quinte concerned about education and art plays a great roll in their life. They know that learning a musical instrument is important and so they put their children to study one, when possible.

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quote:


why are so many oriental? Does that simply reflect the shift in the center of gravity of classical music to Asia? Or something else? The related question is: why so relatively few are Jewish?

I mark the leading edge of this trend towards female fiddlers with Sophie-Mutter (born 1965) and Midori (1971). I think the surge in oriental musicians has been due, at least in part, to the economic boom in that region which has tended to westernize their cultures much more and faster than was previously the case. The family values in many asian countries seem to stress hard work and high achievement in a way that is conducive to producing highly capable young players. Presently one also sees many new stars rising from Russia and Eastern Europe.

It's true that for many decades there has been a Jewish hegemony among classical musicians. Perhaps Perlman, Zuckerman and Shaham are among the trailing edge here. My guess is that, at least in the US, the "otherness" experienced by Jews in the last major waves of emigration here following WWII impelled them to encourage their children to continue their strong cultural tradition of excelling in music. But succeeding generations are much more fully integrated into US culture, diluting their tradition somewhat. (Too bad.) Tending to support this hypothesis is that centers of Jewish culture, such as Israel, still produce a large number of great musicians.

No question in my mind that a beautiful woman or dashingly handsome man has some advantage as a performer. However many of these are excellent players, and there are a goodly number of young musicians who, while attractive, are not in the eye-candy category. Rachel Podger comes to mind.

HS

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Hank - your points are good and interesting. However, I would hardly describe Perlman, Zuckerman, and Shaham as a "trailing edge" of the Jewish group. That "edge" also includes Bell, Vengerov, Spivakov, and Znaider, among others. So, among the Jewish males, there is still a significant Jewish group in the top tier and relatively few Orientals. But, as far as I can tell, there are no Jewish females in that tier (although possibly the NSO concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef could be cited), nor have there been historically except for Erica Morini and Ida Haendel. This contrasts with the pianists where historically and currently, the Jewish representation has been quite significant (e.g., Landowska, Hess, Haskil, Kraus, Grimaud). Thus, at a time when female violinists are coming to the fore, this phenomenon remains a bit puzzling to me.

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There's Miriam Fried and Pamela Frank. Anne Akiko Meyers has a Jewish father. If you're counting cellists, Alisa Weilserstein, Ofra Harnoy, & Natalie Clein. You'll also find that both Jewish men and women are very well represented in orchestras.

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Going back to Asian female soloists, I am thinking (this is only my speculation) that in Asian culture, women should get married and raise children mentality lasted for a long time while male were to be encourage to study hard and get a good job. So parents will not dare push music as a career for boys. On the other hand, the pressure of making career is not very strong with female. They can pursue what they liked (Of course, good academic was pushed for the girls, too.) until they get married. In that comes some extraordinary talents. Then parents get seriously involved with those girls. Especially in the culture, where we are taught you are dare to disobey your elders, the discipline comes in handy with regorous violin study My two cents. When you watch Issac Stern's "Mao to Mozart" video, you could tell they practice without complaining, yet emotionally holding back which Mr. Stern pointed out. One of the students said in the video, "You can learn all the technique here, but you have to go out of the country to live the music we are playing." I think that's one of the reasons you see a lot of Asian students come to Julliard, Curtis, etc., to study. My son's violin teacher had a student who auditioned for Julliard and told him that 80% of the people in the waiting room was Korean (by the way, he was Korean, too.)

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When I met Toby Appel in November in NY to show him my violas, he told me that I should make smaller violas because his students were mostly Asian girls.

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I just flicked through a asian string magazine and looked at the

advertisements for forthcoming local recitals etc.

It would seem to me male and female artists come out at about 50/50%.

In the past here, the perception was that if a youngster didn't exhibit the "grey matter"

for higher studies, you could always send them to art or music schools (if you had money!)

Especailly girls.

I thought some years back entire string sections would become populated by women

but something seems to have changed recently.

I have advised a couple of (male) students to think about other career options

because there just isn't financial security in persuing music as a vocation.

(even if you include studio work and private lessons)

But I find they are usualy undeterred

and it's not just parental pressure, as far as I can see.

Interesting topic anyway.

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From my small microcosm it a simple matter of numbers and opportunity working together. Females are now accepted and given opportunities to advance as instrumentalists, in the US and some of Europe and Asia at least. More girls, by far take up the instrument and stick with it.

An interesting observation is that generally, by high school, the boys who are still playing tend to be better than average, a combination of more agressiveness and athleticism, and the dedication it takes to keep playing as an American teen male. But by the time they are sorted out into college, this tends to go away. The ladies in college and professional orchestras play just as well as the men.

I think that the violin/viola/and cello are not 'girly' instruments, (not that I can really think of any that are) in the old fashioned sense of feminism as being demure, meek and understated. So that girls still raised in that vein tend to have a harder time coming out of their shell as musicians to be able dig in and play boldly and agressively. But I see nothing else that seperates them, women have more than ample strength and stamina, with proper technique, to get 100% from any good instrument.

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