For harpist Anna Lelkes, the Vienna Philharmonic's latest tour stop at Carnegie Hall brought a bouquet few outsiders can appreciate. Finally -- after 25 years with the orchestra -- her name appeared on the program.
The orchestra's principal harpist has never been on the program because she isn't a formal member. The problem? She's a woman.
In its 153 years, the orchestra never has admitted women as member musicians. But with good male harpists a rarity, Lelkes won a place after being invited to try out in 1970.
Most orchestra members acknowledge that quality musicianship has nothing to do with gender. But they invoke tradition, and some offer reasons that anger supporters of equality for women.
''I either respect the way they are, or, if I don't, it's up to me to quit,'' Lelkes says. ''But where would I go? There is no other orchestra like this one!''