After centuries of gender discrimination and a terrible time until the end of the 20th century, female conductors are no longer the rarest form of musical earthling.

I followed the topic for decades during the bad old times, and noticed that San Francisco tends to value ability more than sex. Indeed, today the San Francisco Opera has Eun Sun Kim as its musical director and a third of the San Francisco Symphony’s guest conductors are women. It is still not equality, but certainly progress.

It’s been a long and arduous journey since 1930, when Antonia Brico became the first woman to conduct the SF Symphony Orchestra in a summer concert at the Civic Auditorium. To understand how difficult those years were, consider that it took four decades after that 1930 event before Sarah Caldwell became the first woman to conduct the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in a subscription concert in 1977.

So it’s all the more important to see what’s happening at Davies Hall this month:

– On May 5, 7-8, Xian Zhang conducts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. She is the musical director of the New Jersey Symphony and a veteran of decades of European appearances. she was associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Its programs include the San Francisco premieres of Nokuthula Ngwenyama’s “Primal Message” and Florence Price’s Piano Concerto.

May 13-15 will send Karina Canellakis back to the Davies Hall podium. The 41-year-old chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducts the orchestra and cellist Alisa Weilerstein in a program of ” Don Quixote” by Richard Strauss, Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra and the premiere of the SF Symphony. by Lili BoulangerOf a sad evening(A Sad Evening), written in 1917, a year before his death at age 24.

– On May 17, it’s “History’s Persistent Voice” by Julia Bullock – she is not a conductor, but does everything else. This young and distinguished collaborative partner of SF Symphony is a renowned singer, producer, director and organizer. For this program, she is accompanied by her husband, conductor Christian Reif, well known here as former resident conductor of the Symphony Orchestra and musical director of the SFS Youth Orchestra.

May 26-28 will see Nathalie Stutzmann conduct concerts of works by Brahms and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. Having barely become musical director of the Atlanta Symphony, Stutzman is only the second woman in history to conduct a major American orchestra (after Marin Alsop conducted the Baltimore Orchestra from 2007 to 2021). Stutzmann is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.


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