The conductor is one of a small handful of female conductors on the podiums of the world’s orchestral stages
In essence, the conductor’s job is a simple one: to keep people together. Not surprisingly, conductors are also by far the most decisive figures in the music world.
By any standards, the Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki cuts an unusual figure. She is a woman, of course, and thus at 45, one of a small handful of female conductors on the podiums of the world’s orchestral stages. But there is something more unusual about her. Unexpectedly for someone at the top of an absurdly competitive profession, no one has a bad word to say about her. Fellow conductors, orchestral performers, critics: when it comes to Mälkki, both as person and artist, all of them agree.
The only negative remark, in fact, I’ve ever heard directed at Mälkki came from her own mouth. Rushing through the driving snow to our rendezvous at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel, I encountered a huddled figure puzzling over the boards covering the hotel’s main entrance. “Are you Susanna Mälkki?”, I asked, catching sight of a familiar silhouette deep inside a fur-lined hood. “No … Yes … I mean, I look terrible.” After finding another entrance, we gave each other 10 minutes.