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Vienna State Opera Orchestra Names Albena Danailova New Concertmaster

Orchestra has been scrutinized for gender policies

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In early May, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, whose players form the core of the Vienna Philharmonic, announced the appointment of a new concertmaster: Bulgarian-born Albena Danailova, 33, currently a first violinist in the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra. Only a decade has passed since the Vienna Philharmonic, founded in 1842, officially admitted a woman into its ranks. Since then, the orchestra's gender-biased employment practices have come under increasing scrutiny.

Danailova leaves gender aside when speaking of the unique sound that VPO musicians often attribute in part to the orchestra's all-male membership. "The Vienna sound is a long-standing tradition [connected with] Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler," she says. "It's not just a sound, but an approach to style, articulation, and the shaping of the musical phrase in time. Anyone who's listened to the Vienna Philharmonic has heard the difference from other worldclass orchestras."

Anyone who's heard Danailova, with her natural musical intelligence, unerring technique, and arrestingly beautiful tone, knows that she is just the woman for the job. But how will she be treated in her new post amid ongoing VPO resistance to female members? Danailova makes no predictions, stating simply, "Anything is possible."

*This article appeared in Strings October 2008
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