"[We] only take white men to play white music by white composers for a white audience."
Attributed to Werner Resel, VPO Chairman and cellist

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

NEWS: On Feb 27, hoping to defuse controversy for their US tour, the VPO admitted Anna Lelkes to membership. The protests will nonetheless continue as scheduled, because of the VPO's longstanding history of rhetoric against women, and the fact that there are no structures in place to admit women to other roles in the orchestra, especially the places traditionally given to men.

Here is the International Alliance for Women in Music's statement on the admission of Anna.


The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to the Orange County Performing Arts Center for two performances: Tuesday, March 4th, and Wednesday, March 5th.

They are one of the best-known and most successful orchestras in the world, but have drawn a lot of criticism for their explicitly stated and publically defended policy of not allowing women or ethnic minorities membership. Even Anna Lelkes, a harpist who has played with the Orchestra for 26 years, has not been permitted membership (and voting status), due to the no-women policy. Her name appeared on the VPO's program for the first time in 1996.

The VPO is not a titular uniform-gender organization, like the Vienna Boy's Choir, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, or the Los Angeles Women's Symphony Orchestra. Instead, it justifies the exclusion of women on their need for aesthetic purity as a bastion of Viennese culture. "Ethnic and gender uniformity produce aesthetic superiority."

Find out for yourself about the Orchestra's official position on women:

What you can do:

The VPO is playing two evenings at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in the Town Center area of Costa Mesa, March 4th and 5th.

This page last updated Feb 28, 1997

Back to Philharmonic Infierno. Email Dan Young Email IAWM