The Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Orchestra has appointed Susanna Mälkki as its new principal guest conductor for three years, beginning in July 2013. She joins new principal conductor and artistic advisor Paul McCreesh, who takes over from Lawrence Foster in July 2013 on a four-year contract.
Mälkki’s appointment comes as she concludes her seven-year tenure as music director of Ensemble intercontemporain at the end of the current season, having previously been artistic director of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. The Finnish conductor’s recent engagements have included concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, hr-Sinfonieorchester and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich.
Next season she returns to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala and Opéra national de Paris. Looking further ahead, she will make debuts at Staatsoper Hamburg and at The Metropolitan Opera, New York.
It looks as though women are finally being accepted into the male dominated world of orchestral conducting. Mälkki has been gaining a reputation as a fine musician throughout Europe and North America and this appointment is well deserved. But as I have said previously I will believe change has really come when the Berlin Philharmonic and the even more misogynistic Vienna Philharmonic invite a woman to conduct them.
What is really interesting as an aside from this is the fact that a small country like Finland manages to produce a raft of international orchestral conductors of outstanding talent e.g. Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Okko Kamu, John Storgårds, Hannu Lintu, Sakari Oramo, Pietari Inkinen and the grand old man himself, Leif Segerstamon and that is without mentioning the most distinguished of all Esa Pekka Salonen.
Marin Alsop will conduct the Last Night of the Proms in London this year so let us hope this trend of recognising the women in music and providing a suitable platform for their talents will continue.