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Perhaps however, Wittry did not want to go into these contentious areas. Perhaps that explains what I felt to be the most glaring omission of all -- what it's like for women who aspire to be conductors. Neither Wittry nor Falletta has much of importance to say about this (apart from an admonition to wear low-heeled shoes and a few pieces of advice about dress). God knows it's hard enough for men, but for women? Could either of them tell us about glass ceilings and how to break them?

But perhaps that's another book entirely (but not, please, by Norman Lebrecht)! Meanwhile we have this one -- which tells us that we will have to deal with board members who aren't interested in music beyond Brahms but have fat chequebooks, and divas who throw wobblies because they're insecure. What the book does not do is cross the line and tell us how a young conductor on their first big job might actually deal with a cantankerous but 'name' fifty-something soprano who is past her use-by date and can't face it. Wittry confines herself to basic communication principles. Well, there will always be some things that have to be learned on the job.

Wittry has done a wonderful job in producing what is surely a first: a guide to what lies beyond the music in the modern orchestral scene. And please note: a woman wrote this book. It's long overdue, and I suspect the guys are all too macho and self-absorbed to deal with this stuff. Wittry constantly reminds us that 'It's not your orchestra, it belongs to the community', but when did you last hear a male conductor with a residency refer to anything other than 'my orchestra'? Small wonder that arts admin is more and more a women's profession.

Copyright © 27 May 2007 Paul Sarcich, London UK


Beyond the Baton - What Every Conductor Needs To Know

Diane Wittry

Oxford University Press, 2007

ISBN13 9 780195 300932
ISBN10 0-19-530093-9
ix+337 pages, hardback

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