A classical pianist shows a little skin? Horrors!


From David Hurwitz’s review at ClassicsToday of pianist Yuja Wang’s new album of Ravel’s Piano Concertos:

Will we ever get to the point where young female artists can get beyond sexploitation album covers and simply be artists? Yuja Wang (I refuse to accept the album’s evident invitation simply to call her “Yuja”) has technique to burn, and it’s entirely appropriate that she plays all of this music with a youthful energy well-suited to her years, and in firm opposition to the dainty Asian sex-kitten persona her promoters at Universal appear determined to project.

Mr. Hurwitz seems not to have noticed that Ms. Wang — excuse me, Yuja hasn’t needed any record label promoters to encourage her to cultivate the persona Mr. Hurwitz doesn’t like, and that, in fact, she has dressed exactly as she pleases in concert and on her album covers through most of her career. Not that Mr. Hurwitz is the first censorious prude to criticize Yuja for her independent and proud self-portrayal as an attractive and talented young woman. Here’s the Washington Post‘s Anne Midgette laying the wood on some previous tut-tutters, as quoted a few years ago in one of my old NEPR blogs:

 The fact that showing skin still occasions comment in the classical music world — and some commenters on “Life’s a Pitch” [an arts blog] have piled onto Wang with a sanctimoniousness I find downright offensive — is a mark to me of how far classical music remains isolated from what’s going on in the rest of society. We say we want younger audiences, and we wring our hands over classical music’s possible demise; and yet when a young classical music star does something that would be completely normal in any other entertainment field, we pounce on it as being extreme, attention-getting, questionable.

To which I would add that I greatly prefer a classical musical culture in which performers are free to present themselves as they wish to one in which finger-wagging scolds get to tell them not to. And those who don’t like Yuja Wang’s outfits don’t have to attend her concerts or buy her recordings. Besides — exactly what is Mr. Hurwitz afraid of? An honest answer to that question would be quite interesting, wouldn’t it?

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