The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music poll: Was Yuja Wang’s concert skirt too short? What is inappropriate concert attire for a performer, male or female?

August 17, 2011
21 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This isn’t the first time the Internet has been abuzz about the young, 24-year-old Beijing-born piano virtuoso and former prodigy Yuja Wang (below), who trained at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

The deeply talented and award-winning Wang, whose repertoire runs from Scarlatti to Ligeti (check her out on YouTube)  is especially renowned for her astounding technique, which helped her garner a Grammy nomination with her first Deutsche Grammophon  CD, “Sonatas and Etudes” and which also played a big role on her second CD, “Transformations” (which featured Stravinsky’s “Petroushka” and Brahms’ finger-twisting “Paganini” Variations) and her third CD with two Rachmaninoff concertos.

Wang also has performing nerves of steel and  has developed a solid reputation as the go-to person for last-minute fill-in appearances when another pianist has to cancel because of illness. Invariably she draws rave reviews. And when you listen to her playing, you can understand why. It is clear and self-assured, both accurate and musical.

But now the glamorous and attractive, photogenic and charismatic performer is in the headlines for another reason.

She recent wore a very short reddish-orange micro-skirt when performing Rachmaninoff’s killer Third Piano Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. (below).

Did it add to her allure or appeal?

Did it distract from the music and her performance? And if it did, whose fault is that?

You can make up your own mind.

Here are some columns about it — and be sure to read the comments they drew from readers:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/08/music-review-yuja-wang-lionel-bringuier-at-the-hollywood-bowl.html

http://blogs.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2011/08/hot_pianist_has_folks_hot_and.php

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/which-offends-her-short-dress-or-critics-narrow-view/2011/08/10/gIQAMvtOBJ_story.html

And here is an interesting and well reason, balanced response by publicist and artists’ agent Amanda Ameer about the controversy:

http://www.artsjournal.com/lifesapitch/2011/08/does-your-mother-know-that-youre-out/

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=21&art_id=114235&sid=33413652&con_type=1&d_str=20110817&fc=2

One thing is for sure: The resulting publicity can’t hurt Yuja Wang’s career in the highly competitive world of classical music or her number of bookings, except perhaps in the Mideast and Utah.

Of course The Ear also wonder if a man could get away with something similar – say, like Liberace wearing hot pants. How tasteful that was!

And is there a sexist double-standard at work in concert fashion as well as in writing about fashion in the political and social spheres?

I remember that pianist Olga Kern drew comments about her red backless dress when she performed in Madison. But I can’t remember the last time someone commented on a male performer’s dress?

What do you think about Yuja Wang and her controversial dress?

Send in your vote.

Does a sexist double standard exist when it comes to men’s attire during a performance?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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