- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Whats this? Breasts with the Beethoven?
Heavens to Paganini, the sartorial requirements of the lady classical musician may now include cleavage. In the past two years, a small but growing group of female musicians are emphasizing their womanhood right along with their musical prowess — to mixed reviews.
"The classical music industry is desperate to lure audiences," noted one Washington violinist who has played with several nationally ranked orchestras. "People wont buy classical stuff unless its marketed like rock n roll or pop music, complete with a sexy edge."
The violinists seem to be leading the charge.
Perhaps it got started with Anne-Sophie Mutter and her strapless Dior gowns, or Vanessa Mae, whose music videos have included Vivaldi along with short shorts and wet T-shirts. She "dresses to kill," according to her Web site.
It certainly has something to do with Lara St. John, who wore only a strategically placed fiddle on the cover of her Bach CD, or Linda Brava, who billed herself the "Brahms Bombshell" and posed nude in Playboy.
The magazine in turn followed up with a "classical music-themed pictorial" of naked models posing with orchestral instruments.
"When someone is a performer, its a package," Australian violinist Haylie Ecker told Playboy in an interview promoting Bond, her classical quartet. The group also posed nude in promotional photos, which ended up in a tabloid.
"Its fun to dress up and look cool and sexy," Miss Ecker continued, noting that her daring costumery changed with the composer. "Music lends itself to that."
Violinist Miss Mutter — billed by the media as "the first of the sexy fiddle players," also has her own rationale.
"Why not wear strapless gowns? I like the violin to be next to my skin," she told one interviewer.
The Eroica Trio, meanwhile, is "working to rock the stodgy stasis of classical music," according to Elle magazine. The comely women players insist they do not dwell on image.
"Were serious musicians," said pianist Erika Nickrenz.
Still, male reviewers have waxed rhapsodic over the trio and their svelte garments. "Were it not for the violin and cello, I might have mistaken their photo for a sexy fashion advertisement," wrote one.
Wall Street Journal writer Gwendolyn Freed called the sexy trend short-sighted.
"To be sure, and to be blunt, these women will get crows feet, their breasts will sag and their butts will droop long before they run out of musical ideas. If the public stops looking, will it also stop listening?" she wrote.
It was a different problem altogether last summer. The orchestral world was filled with fortissimo when National Symphony Conductor Leonard Slatkin remarked that female musicians must mind what they wear onstage lest they distract the audience.
"I tend to favor covered arms. You dont want to see much flapping about." Mr. Slatkin told a British music magazine. "Then theres the problem of women in trousers. If youre slightly heavy in the rear-end department, it does not look good."
His comments translated into such headlines as "Cover up, conductor tells fat fiddlers" and "Female musicians should be heard and not seen."
Mr. Slatkin was accused of sexism, among other things. He in turn claimed his remarks had been taken out of context .
In the confusing aftermath, many female musicians are caught in the middle and have taken their concerns onto the Internet.
At one Web site, the ladies ranted over the fact that female conductors and concert mistresses often had to wear "a female version of the tuxedo" for appearances sake.
"I personally think these women dress the way they do, because it sends a message of authority to the orchestra. The alternate is 'look at my sexy dress. Then the orchestra would be talking about what a bimbo they were. They really are between a rock and a hard place," one message read.
"Some of my female colleagues have been reviewed for their concert clothes. Can you imagine anyone saying that Mozart wasnt worth listening to because he was short and ugly?" another woman musician wrote.
Some choose the harmonious middle ground.
English organist Jennifer Bate dresses conservatively for cathedral performances, then switches gears for public concerts, opting for "something really revealing, a dcollte back and front." Its meant to challenge the organs "dusty, musty loft image," she said.
But the ladies are not alone.
Some have said that virtuoso violinist Joshua Bells "boyish good looks … pluck some heartstrings." Meanwhile, handsome Boston Pops Orchestra Conductor Keith Lockhart wows women, despite the fact he is married.
Mr. Lockhart, noted the Boston Globe, has been "marketed as hot sex symbol. He made an immediate electric connection that hasnt gone away."

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