By Christian Hertzog
At the L.A. Phil's performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony last week at the Hollywood Bowl, a lot of people had a hard time keeping their minds on the, um, crescendos.
The problem — if you can call it that — was 24-year-old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, who kicked things off performing Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. It was hard to notice her finger work, as she was clad in a bare-shouldered, high-hemmed orange dress.
Times critic Mark Swed was particularly captivated, dedicating almost a third of his review to her and her tiny outfit. “Her dress Tuesday was so short and tight,” he wrote, “that had there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult.”
Um, Swed was clearly not at HARD Summer Fest this weekend.
In any case, since the review was published last Wednesday, bloggers and commenters have begun taking sides on the case of the titillating pianst. Amanda Ameer, a publicist for classical musicians, said on artsjournal.com that Wang had the right to dress to kill, even if her taste was questionable and might possibly hurt her career.
“Do I think the dresses are an odd choice? Yes,” she wrote. “Do I think wearing them is unfair to her artistic partners on stage? Possibly. Do I think that, as long as they don't prevent her from playing the piano, she should wear them if she wants to? I do, so long as she accepts that it will be all people want to talk about, for better or worse.”
Washington Post critic Anne Midgette, meanwhile, found Swed's overemphasis on
Wang's outfit symptomatic of the stodginess of the insular classical music scene: “Let's have a reality check for a minute. Yes, the dress is short, tight, and revealing. But in the real world — the world outside classical music's still-prurient bubble — this is not unusual attire for a young rising starlet in the public eye…these dresses and shoes are not inherently shocking, let alone a cause for restricting admission to those under 18.”
Our opinion? Swed should relax. We encourage more classical performers to heed the words of The Producers' Max Bialystock, who memorably shouted out his office window, “That's it, baby, when you've got it, flaunt it! Flaunt it!”