Tag Archives: violinists

Notes, links on recent concerts


Concert notes, from out and about:

1) Boca Symphonia. I’m intrigued by the programming choices this year from conductor Alexander Platt, not least because he’s scheduled the Violin Concerto of Jonathan Leshnoff, who as a Peabody student won a small composition prize I created in 1993 and have funded since then (it’s since grown, which is nice to see).

Sunday’s concert had a great performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto by violinist Vadim Gluzman (pictured above), who also played the first movement of the Ysaye Thibaud Sonata. Wonderful playing by a man who knows how to take command of a stage and of a piece, and bring something new to a piece that’s been a concert staple for 130 years. I also liked the Boca take on the Mozart Prague Symphony , and they did a credible job with the Stravinsky Dumbarton Oaks concerto, which really should be scheduled more often. Here’s the review I did.

2) Di Wu. Saw this fine young pianist at the Kravis on Tuesday night, and thought she’d gotten better in the year since I saw her last. Much of this has to do with the all-Ravel program, which offered more opportunities for range and depth than the paraphrases she did on the earlier program.

Here’s my review.

3) Chiara Massini. Took in a brief concert by this Italian harpsichordist who was making her US debut. I also checked out one of her albums afterward, and she’s a strong, interesting player. I didn’t agree with her choices on the Couperin pieces she scheduled, as you’ll see in this review, but I like to see artists taking chances like that even if I don’t think the results were all that persuasive.

More concerts this weekend as the season stays busy just before the holidays, and it will get even busier in January and February.

Yes, they can play — but are they hot?

On the radio last night I caught a little bit of Kreisler played by a 15-year-old violinist named Shannon Lee.

It was a very nice performance, technically adept and full of fire.
I looked up a review of the album she’s just released of mostly encore-type material, and one of the comments the reviewer made notes something that’s been going on for some time in classical music, and it looks likely to continue for some time to come.

And that is the emphasis now paid to a performer’s physical appearance. There’s an entire Website called Beauty in Music that is nothing but a hotness list of various (female) performers, and there must be a great deal of pressure on younger players to make sure they have a series of glam shots to help them get gigs after all that practicing.

Audophile Audition reviewer Steve Ritter puts it succinctly:

Do we ever see any covers of new talent featuring ordinary-looking people? Goodness, sorry to say it, but half of the great stars of yesteryear would have been bypassed today for this one reason!

I wonder how much of the current interest in classical music is bolstered by the undeniable fact that many of the popular performers of today are good-looking people: Joshua Bell, Anna Netrebko, Janine Jansen, to name a few. And it’s true that the most eminent performers of yesteryear were often celebrated for their eccentric appearance — Paderewski with his towering name of hair, Paganini clothed in black.

Then again, there were past titans of music whose good looks were part of their appeal; I’m thinking here of opera stars such Maria Malibran or Mary Garden.

Today, though, physical beauty probably pays a much more important part in the marketing of the music than it used to. We can literally have pictures of some the more persistently hounded Hollywood stars in their every waking minute, and have them disseminated all over the world, and multiplied ad infinitum.

The same could go for the classical stars, too, though that’s not all that likely. I don’t see any end to the pressure on performers to look their best, or for better-looking players and singers to get more attention, but I do hope it can be kept in perspective by audiences.

There’s nothing worse as listener than trying to figure out whether it’s the pianist’s revealing dress, or just her command of technique, that’s really got your attention.