A Tribute to Kurt Frederik
(written by William Osborne in 1998)
I would like to thank the Kurt Frederik Memorial Committee for inviting me
to prepare this statement. It is an honor I hardly deserve, and I am sorry that
the geographic remove of living in Europe prevents me from attending in
In 1995, I began publishing articles about the Vienna Philharmonic's employment policies that led to worldwide media coverage, including front page articles in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. There were also articles in Time and Newsweek, as well as lengthy reports on NPR. I even ended up in the unlikely position of being interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America. Due to the international media focus and subsequent protests by women's groups, the issue became the largest scandal in the Austrian music world since the Second World War. In 1997, the Vienna Philharmonic responded to the intense pressure by saying it would open its doors to women, but after the media attention subsided they quietly reneged on the agreement. [For recent details about the orchestra click here.]
This project, which still continues, has taken years of work, and never leaves Dr. Frederik far from my thoughts. He and his life experiences were
an important moral influence that helped give me the determination to oppose orchestras with ideologies of gender and racial discrimination -- and all
the more so in his hometown of Vienna. Due to the Vienna Philharmonic's close collaboration with National Socialism, it was one of the most
important propaganda organs of the Third Reich. This makes it especially appalling that the orchestra continues to discriminate on the basis of race
and gender, a condition hardly ameliorated by the fact that a rightwing extremist government currently rules Austria.
[The FPÖ government of the late 90s.] It also says something about our own society that the Vienna Philharmonic is presented yearly in Carnegie
Hall in spite of vociferous protests from US women's groups.