One of the world’s most respected conductors has apologised after suggesting he did not like to see women leading an orchestra.
Mariss Jansons declared in an interview with the Telegraph last week that women conductors were “not my cup of tea”.
The Latvian-born conductor, who was presented with a gold medal by the Royal Philharmonic Society on Thursday, was criticised after saying he could not get used to the sight of a woman conducting an orchestra.
He told this newspaper he was not against the idea, but that “it’s a question of what one is used to”, adding:“I grew up in a different world, and for me seeing a woman on the podium… well, let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea.”
But following a backlash from both classical music aficionados and practitioners who accused him of antediluvian attitudes, Mr Jansons, 74, has now backtracked.
In a statement issued last Friday he said: “I come from a generation in which the conducting profession was almost exclusively reserved to men. Even today, many more men than women pursue conducting professionally.
“But it was undiplomatic, unnecessary and counterproductive for me to point out that I’m not yet accustomed to seeing women on the conducting platform.
“Every one of my female colleagues and every young woman wishing to become a conductor can be assured of my support, for we all work in pursuit of a common goal: to excite people for the art form we love so dearly – music.”
Following Mr Janson’s interview classical music fans mocked his views.
Alice Farnham, the artistic director of women conductors with the Royal Philharmonic Society, said: “How disappointing! Are we too unladylike like for his taste? I thought we had moved on from such blanket statements. Would be good to be judged on whether we can communicate our musical intentions - that’s all.”
Michel van der Aa, the Dutch composer and conductor, wrote on Twitter: “Well, sexist conductors that are only interested in geriatric repertoire aren't my cup of tea. Make room for the future.”
John McCumiskey stated: “Women on the podium are not my cup of tea !' I should think not, He should save that sort of thing for when he gets home.”
Some criticised the Royal Philharmonic Society’s decision to honour him with its Gold Medal, one of the highest honors in the world of classical music.
James Fleury, who runs a classical music marketing agency in London and LA, said: “Really disgusted to see theRoyal Philharmonic endorse this kind of mentality by honouring Mariss Jansons with the Gold Medal. It reflects as badly on them as it does on him.”
Mr Jansons, who last year conducted the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert before a TV audience of 50 million, has garnered numerous awards in his lifetime.
He nearly died in April 1996 when he suffered a heart attack while conducting the final pages of La bohème in Oslo,
Later, surgeons in Pittsburgh fitted a defibrillator in his chest to give his heart an electric jolt should it fail again.