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DSO Berlin to Program Women in Every Single Concert

By Michael Vincent on May 1, 2023

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin & Anna Prohaska

“There shall be no symphony concert without one piece by a female composer.” 

This is the official motto the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO) announced last week. The move marks one of the most significant stands for gender equality in classical music by an orchestra ever.

What it means: The upcoming 2023/24 season will feature at least one work by a woman composer for every concert. Composers will include works by Unsuk Chin, Jessie Montgomery, Camille Pépin, Helen Grime, Fanny Hensel, Elizabeth Ogonek, Anna Clyne, Olga Neuwirth, Thea Musgrave, Hildegard von Bingen, Ethel Smyth, Lili Boulanger, and more.

DSO’s Music Director Robin Ticciati and Managing Director Thomas Schmidt-Orr call it a “Feminist Music Policy’ that aims to challenge the patriarchal systems that influence power structures, personnel, and repertoire selection in the orchestral world.

By the numbers: Gender disparity in classical music has long been an issue, with female composers historically underrepresented in programming and performances. Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

  • Female composers’ works currently make up only 2% of performances by professional German orchestras.
  • Globally, the situation is slightly better, with 7.7% of orchestral programming in the 2021/22 season consisting of works by women, according to a report by Donne: Women in Music that surveyed 31 countries.

Why it matters: This disparity has roots in societal norms and expectations that have long favoured male composers. In recent years, however, there has been a growing awareness of this gender imbalance and a push to increase the representation of female composers in the classical music world. Orchestras have been recognizing these disparities with programming that seeks a more equitable future for all composers, regardless of gender.

Michael Vincent
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