Sie ist blond. Sie kommt aus Neuseeland. Sie spielt Cello. Und sie ist eine der wenigen Frauen, die Orchester rund um die Welt dirigiert: Rachel Young. In Deutschland arbeitete sie bereits mit Paavo Järvi und dem hr-Sinfonieorchester sowie der großartigen und mehrfach preisgekrönten Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Die weltoffene, selbstbewusste und kluge Musikerin kann Vorbild sein für viele junge Nachwuchsdirigentinnen.
Im Gespräch mit dem Feuilletonscout spricht sie über das immer noch männlich dominierte Dirigentenfach, ihre Lieblingskomponisten und ihr Debüt in der Berliner Philharmonie.
Feuilletonscout: Mrs. Young, why are there so few female conductors?
Rachel Young: I wish I had a definitive answer. Certainly when I was a cello student, it was highly unusual to see or even know of female conductors, with the exception being for some reason choral conductors. In the generation ahead of me, Marin Alsop and Simone Young were at the beginning of their careers and had yet to break through to the relative mainstream. Historically speaking, I certainly had made an effort to learn all I could about Nadia Boulanger and in the Soviet Union Veronika Dudarova but pre youtube I’d never seen a female operatic or symphonic conductor until this century, which is actually rather astonishing.
Unquestionably, women’s role in society and their contemporary culture severely limited the possibility of them gaining the training needed to develop their craft, and if by some miracle they had access to this, to then get the necessary hours of experience needed to hone this craft and their art must have been virtually impossible. So we can say, the ground or soil a woman may have wished to sow her talent in was at best rather arid and infertile.
A famous example of this kind of prejudice in other artistic fields was the sculptress Camille Claudel. I understand, Rodin, who was her lover, considered her a greater talent than himself, but the uncompromising matter of her gender created a major obstacle to her fulfilling her talent.
It believe it’s been the same in architecture, but the good news is that there are clear signs of transformation around these gender issues and I think now, the opportunity to study conducting or not, is going to be more affected by an individuals economic and social status, their cultural background and also by political issues like which countries are supporting the equitable development of their young musicians, than by gender.
Feuilletonscout: Did it feel like an exotic decision when you moved from the orchestra to the conducotor´s stand? How did the men in your professional surrounding react? How did the women react?
Rachel Young: Exotic, no, for me it was quite natural, but I came from a background where being a woman was not deemed to be a limitation of any kind. But, as with anything in life, there are people who are more open minded and creative than others and in my experience, this has little to do with gender and more to do with an individuals desire to look with some clarity and objectivity at what is in front of them rather than coming to it with prejudice and a closed mind. In the end an open mind and heart is all anyone can ask of another, then of course everyone has the right to their own (hopefully well in formed and knowledgeable) observations.
Feuilletonscout: People often say, as a woman you have to be twice as good as a man to receive the same amount of acknowledgement. Based on your experience, would you support this thesis?
Rachel Young: Maybe in getting the opportunity to begin with yes, but in the initial stages not really, as with rare exception, there is a good deal of unavoidable and very public ineptitude on display by both sexes no matter what the level of talent. With progress and higher expectations of the apprentice conductor, perhaps, things become less equitable in relation to this question as conducting, while embodying many other things, and like for instance acting, is obviously quite a visual performing art, and in our society generally, women already tend to be judged more on their appearance. So in this respect, it can be more challenging for a woman to be judged purely on her art. It is true also, that due to their relative scarcity, every woman who has made it into the professional conducting arena, is judged by and expected to meet, the highest standards and so be brilliant in order to progress. Really, I have no problem with this as long as the same standard is applied to the legions of male conductors also.
Feuilletonscout: On May 18th you will conduct in Berlin for the first time, are you excited?
Rachel Young: Very much, personally speaking it’s means coming to a vibrant hub of creativity, and obviously, historically so much great music making has happened here, thanks to a culture of wonderful musicians, orchestras and for me, truly great conductors who have worked as music directors here.
Feuilletonscout: What in particular are you looking forward to when you come to Berlin?
Rachel Young: In particular, working with the DKO for the first time.
Feuilletonscout: On that evening you will conduct meaningful pieces of Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke. In what way are you fascinated by these composers?
Rachel Young: Both have qualities in abundance of all composers I mention below while expressing them in a unique contemporary language. The whole program has interconnecting threads throughout. For example, the opening of Tchaikovsky’s serenade with it’s rather Russian ‘chorale’ for strings is emulated in Schnittke’s piano concerto with strings but here alluding to the chorale from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture. Both are deeply felt outpourings of the heart in a contemporary language, but each highly personal. There are also very obvious relationships between the Schnittke and the Pärt in the metaphysical and frozen clarity of their two distinct but nevertheless related sound worlds. I hear humanity in their music, a humanity for our times, and this is a quality the world could certainly have as much of as possible these days.
Feuilletonscout: Do you have a favorite composer? If so, why him (or her)?
Rachel Young: It is customary to answer this question with ‘ the one I’m conducting tonight’, and there is some truth to this. But, the expressivity of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Elgar, Mahler and Richard Strauss are all composers I feel a deep empathy with and love. For me these composers found unique, insightful and endlessly compelling and involving languages to express the human condition in all of it’s profundity, glory and crushing despair. Yet even in the darkest moments, there is this light of creativity, which in itself requires and is predicated on hope. Bach, in all his perfection, is especially hard to speak about and even more challenging to perform and so finally I have to quote Hans Christian Anderson in relation to this, “Where words fail, music speaks.
Feuilletonscout: Do you have a professional dream?
Rachel Young: For me performing great music is substantially more than an entertainment or distraction. This gift is potentially a complete kaleidoscopic mirror, inspiration and often a great comfort providing solace in this life, so each concert, ideally, would be a unique and artistically creative event rather than a routine or professional accomplishment. The Oscar winning actor Mark Rylance put it like this… you don’t go to a restaurant and expect to be offered some reheated meal cooked from the night before… and it the same with any performing art. So my professional dream looks like something built around inspiration, working with musicians who have a collective desire to perform and to bring, through their creativity, joy, dedication and love. this music to people.
Feuilletonscout: Which advice would you like to give to young female conductors?
Rachel Young: Strangely enough, to ignore any real or perceived issues around gender and set about being the best conductor you can be by finding mentors you respect, who really believe in you, learning your craft and finding the best opportunities for yourself that offer real technical and artistic growth. Of course, there are many ways to be successful, I guess it’s up to each individual to know who they are and what’s going to work for them but whatever else they may or may not possess tenacity is essential.
Thanks for the interview, Rachel Young!
Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin
Rachael Young Dirigentin
Viktoria Postnikova Klavier
Mittwoch, 18. Mai 2016, 20 Uhr
Kammermusiksaal der Berliner Philharmonie
Fratres für Violine, Streichorchester und Schlagzeu
Konzert für Klavier und Streichorchester
Variationen über ein Thema von Tschaikowsky e-Moll op. 35a
Serenade für Streicher C-Dur op. 48
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