Last year’s BBC Proms season was famously without any women composers or conductors at all (apart from a small piece by Thea Musgrave, which was given no publicity, and was not listed in the Proms booklet or on the Proms website). So there is some expectation that the 2007 season should make amends. The Director, Nicholas Kenyon stated last year that the Proms “achieves balance over several seasons, not every season.” So that should mean that in some years, women’s achievements are represented on a greater scale than might be suggested by the numbers of women working in classical music.

Here are the figures for the 2007 PROMS:
Number of composers: 118
Number of living composers 30
Women composers: 5 (4.2%)

Several of the works by women are BBC Commissions, although only one work (by Thea Musgrave) is a substantial work that is part of the main evening concerts. A second commission is a 2 minute brass fanfare by Judith Bingham, and the 3rd commission is a dramatised piece for children for an afternoon performance, by Rachel Portman. The other works by women composers (Elizabeth Maconchy and Judith Weir) are part of lunchtime or matinee concerts in the Cadogan Hall. In contrast, there are 26 substantial pieces included in the main evening concerts by living male composers, 3 in late night concerts and 6 in lunchtime or afternoon concerts. That is, of substantial works performed in the main evening concerts, 1 work by a living woman composer and 26 by living men composers. Is this the “balance achieved over several seasons” to make up for last year’s none? There are several women conductors this year, but surprisingly few women instrumental soloists.

Conductors/directors: 67
Women conductors: 2 (2.9%)
These were Marin Alsop and Susanna Malkki.
Instrumental soloists: 5 women out of 53 (9.4%)
This is considerably lower than most years.

Hmm – could do better???

Jenny Fowler