Classical Musicians Gone Wild

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today’s young classical stars are taking a cue from some of today’s pop stars. Speed, social media, and sex appeal are helping classical musicians like David Garrett, Stejpan Hauser, and Yuja Wang reach larger audiences and bridge the gap between the general public and classical music. Of course, some people are offended by this approach. But any bad press that comes can usually be turned around to the artist’s benefit. For example, Eyebrows were raised at Yuja Wang’s sexy short red dress paired with dangerously high heels for her performance of Rachmaninoff’s wickedly difficult 3rd piano concerto at the Hollywood Bowl. Her attire raised quite a bit of controversy, but it had no impact on the quality of her performance, which was outstanding. One particularly entertaining review on her performance states, “…the only explanation for Wang is that she must be some sort of cocky classical music cyborg. Nothing, for her, looked even vaguely difficult. She was at her best in the most punishing passages. Rhythm is one of her strong suits, so the last movement, in particular, rocked.” So that’s what a professional music critic has to say. What about a more informal critic, an audience member? Nick Norton, of King’s College in London, was there and commented, “For what it’s worth, if I’m going to a concert to see a performance (rather than staying home and listening to one), there had better be something to see. A bunch of people in matching tuxedos and long dresses is boring. Hats off for realizing that, while yes this is “high art,” we do in fact like to be entertained.”

I think the key phrase there is, “we do in fact like to be entertained.” While musicians may think classical music is entertaining in and of itself, most people in the general public do not. Or perhaps they just need a little more show or pizazz to engage and maintain their interest. Such controversial decisions as Wang’s or other musicians alike may make some people feel uncomfortable, but there’s no denying that it draws a crowd and gets people talking. Why not break from tradition and try new approaches? Classical music is exciting, provocative, sensual, and yes, entertaining. These artists are delivering that message to audiences using relevant themes from today’s pop-culture… and it looks like it’s working.

-Anna

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