Born for opposition

Sometimes I fear that certain themes are overplayed here. Yes, I mean the treatment of musicians of colour, the death-wish of the major labels, ageism, the neglect of female musicians and other minorities, the role of the musician in dissent and the idiocy of the BBC. Maybe I should devote more space to the latest wunderkind signed to Universal Music. But then I have one of those moments and I realise that, like Byron, I was born for opposition.

Just such a moment occured this morning. When writing posts I try to confirm facts from at least one independent source. Yesterday I found plenty of confirmation that Odaline de la Martinez was the first woman to conduct a BBC Prom. But I could find no confirmation of my memory that it was a 1994 concert performance of Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers. Something felt wrong with the date - could almost 99 years of Prom concerts really have passed before male supremacy was breached?

A comment posted by a reader to my article supported my suspicions, but confirmation of the date of Ms. de la Martinez's first Prom remained elusive. So I went to Norwich's excellent central library and consulted 'The Proms - A New History'. This is a lavish coffee-table volume published in 2007 under consultant editor Nicholas Kenyon who happened to be Proms director from 1986 to 2007, and who also famously presented a full season without any music by female composers.

Surely 'The Proms - A New History' would tell us when the first woman conducted one of the concerts? You don't need to be a fully paid-up feminist to want to know, the slow and painful progress towards gender and racial equality is a key sub-text of exactly the period that the Proms have spanned. But I'm afraid the answer doesn't seem to be in this history of the Proms. I haven't read every one of the 307 pages in the book, but the index contains not one single reference to Odaline de la Martinez, nor to 'women conductors' or 'feminism' .

Now, about that immensely talented conductor Universal Music are signing ...

Header image chimes nicely with my Byron quote. It is from the poster for Costa-Gravas' film Z opposing the Greek military junta and was first used in my Songs of freedom post.

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Unknown said…
I found this recollection of the 1994 Proms performance of The Wreckers using Google:

Michael Smethurst is working on an online database of Proms data but it is frustratingly incomplete at present.

This is Ethel Smyth's page.

Recent popular posts

All aboard the Martinu bandwagon

Will this attract young audiences? - discuss

Whatever happened to the long tail of composers?

Who are the real classical role models?

Mahler that dares to be different

Great music has no independent existence

The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour

A year of stories that had to be told

Master musician who experienced the pain of genius

Scott Ross and the paradox of genius