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PROMS SURVEY 2009
"Is this year's Proms awash with oestrogen?"
For some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the
numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season. The Proms
is the largest music festival in the world, with up to 76 evening
concerts, nearly all for full orchestra, as well as lunchtime chamber
music concerts and other related events. Audiences in the Royal
Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast,
many on television.
The BBC generally has a good record with regard to women - for instance
in their orchestras - so if the inclusion of women in the Proms
seems low, one can take it that the story is probably worse in other
festivals and concert seasons. Indeed, WiM investigated some other
festivals over several years and found that, with a few honourable
exceptions, the Proms season was fairly typical. So it was decided
to continue with Proms surveys.
This year is the first year that all programs have been in the
charge of the new Proms director, Roger Wright. One music journalist
has humorously described this years Proms as being "awash
with oestrogen" in reference to and contrast with the
2006 Proms which featured no women composers or conductors. So do
the figures add up to a positive flood of women?
Composers: 6/128. (4.6%). All women composers are included in evening
concerts, although 2 of the pieces are very short (5 and 8).
Same number as last year, but the percentage is less.
Conductors: 1/64 (Susanna Mãlkki). Remains very low.
Instrumental soloists: 19/86 (22%). This is one of the highest percentages,
although not as high as 2005.
Of the 6 women composers featured, 3 are BBC commissions or co-commissions
for substantial pieces. (Unsuk Chin, Anna Meredith, Augusta Read
Thomas). This is a good trend, although one has to point out that
there are 12 BBC commission altogether ie 9 go to men.
Perhaps a better way of number-crunching is to look at the proportion
of living composers featured. There are 39 living composers of which
6 are women (15%).
So, is this years Proms awash with oestrogen? Only in contrast
to the abysmal record of the past!
Finnish conductor Susanna Mãlkki