The Washington Post

Classical musicians gone wild?

Coming up in this week’s Sunday Arts section, an article from Katherine Boyle about new tactics that young classical musicians are embracing to attract listeners: social media and sex appeal. Musicians such as Gaultier Capucon, Charlie Siem and Yuja Wang have turned heads and raised eyebrows by embracing their good looks and the non-traditional fan base that goes hand-in-hand with a YouTube following.

Anne Midgette wrote about the criticism Wang endured when she wore a short skirt — which was modest, if you compare her with pop musicians of the same age — at a summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

The fact that showing skin still occasions comment in the classical music world — and some commenters on “Life’s a Pitch” 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.

But Wang isn’t the only one trying to shake things up. YouTube offers plenty of opportunities to see classical musicians being themselves — whether it’s Capucon chiding a reporter, Stejpan Hauser and Luka Sulic of “Two Cellos” covering Michael Jackson, or violinist David Garrett on TV, breaking a Guinness world record for the fastest “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Garrett and Siem have both modeled, the latter for Italian Men’s Vogue. And the original provacateur, Lara St. John, posed nude on the cover of her 1996 album “Bach Works for Violin Solo.”

Check back for Boyle’s story on Sunday. Until then, enjoy some videos of classical musicians who are far from stuffy.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.


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