Easy on the Ears, Easy on the Eyes

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While we’re discussing classical music and objective beauty, it is perhaps time to address the phenomenon of the “babe violinist”. No, I’m not talking about some kind of Vanessa Mae type with an electric violin and a wet t-shirt. I’m talking about women with real God-given gifts, musical and otherwise.

My own personal favorite is Hilary Hahn, here playing Franz Schubert’s Der Erlkonig:

This is a perfect show-off piece, which allows you to hear just how good Ms. Hahn is. Her albums with Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending and her various Bach performances are all worth hearing.

Lara St. John took the babe violinist genre to new heights back in 1996 when she appeared on the cover of her album Bach Works for Solo Violin apparently wearing nothing other than than her violin. Though the classical genre was not necessarily staid anymore by ’96, this raised a few eyebrows to say the least. (And the album proceeded to sell briskly.) Ms. St. John complained that some people failed to take her seriously as a result. If so, it’s too bad. Whatever your thoughts on her fashion sense, Ms. St. John is a very good violinist. She has three Bach albums you can listen to for free in hi def on MagnaTune, and her she’s seen playing a piece by modern composer Ilan Rechtman from her new album Gypsy.

A collection of babe violinists would not be complete without Akiko Suwanai, here playing one of Bartok’s Rumanian Dances:

Also worthy of mention, Anne-Sophie Mutter, here playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major:

The above is Part 1. Also see Part2, Part3, Part4, Part5, Part6.

Vivaldi has always been one of my favorite composers, and babe violinist Julia Fischer has a set of four music-video-ish treatments of Vivaldi’s four seasons. Here’s Summer:

I don’t know if everyone would rate her as “babe” violinist, but Sarah Chang is one of the absolute best female violinists out there right now, and her performance of Vitali’s Chaconne is one of my personal favorite recordings:

The album it’s available on is called Sweet Sorrow, and is very much worth having.

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  1. A welcome change from violinists who look, well who look somewhat like me actually! The appearance of the violinist of course has no impact on listening to the music, but it certainly has an impact on viewing the performance.

  2. Jay,

    Sorry for the delay in your last post, our spam filter caught it. It’s a ‘smart’ filter, so it shouldn’t do it again whenever you yourself post any links from here on out.

  3. I suspect that in the years to come an increasing number of industries will come to be dominated by beautiful women.

  4. “I suspect that in the years to come an increasing number of industries will come to be dominated by beautiful women.”

    Only if they have the brains and determination to deliver a profitable end of the year statement. Looks can only go so far for a CEO if the bottom line resembles the Titanic post iceberg.

  5. I suspect that in the years to come an increasing number of industries will come to be dominated by beautiful women.

    They already have a lock on the lingerie modeling and nudie bar businesses, let’s hope they get a lock on the hardware, sports franchise and brew-pub businesses next.


  6. I suspect that in the years to come an increasing number of industries will come to be dominated by beautiful women.

    Any particular reason why? Certainly, beauty is always helpful in entertainment, regardless of gender (although the standards are usually tougher on women as they age). And being good looking almost never hurts. But why would that be increasing?

  7. In a service based economy, an increasingly large number of jobs depend (in whole or in part) on either the ability of a person to be persuasive (think sales, or lawyering) or on the perceptions of other people (be it clients, customers, or employers). There is a growing body of literature that suggests physical attractiveness, particularly in women, is very helpful in this regard (see, for example, this study, finding that people tended to give larger amounts in charity when solicited for donations by attractive women).

    Even where physical attractiveness doesn’t improve job performance directly, it’s likely to function as a tie breaker in cases involving comparably talented (or even slightly less talented people). The Laura St. John case is one example of this. The fact that she is beautiful neither improves or degrades the quality of her music. Nevertheless, it would seem that she sells a lot more CDs when she puts a provocative picture of herself on the cover than otherwise. Similarly, both Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are obviously very intelligent individuals. But it would be naive not to think that at least part of the reason they have been so successful is that they are so good looking. This doesn’t mean that Coulter would still be popular if she were a no brained bimbo. But given her talent in other areas, the fact that she is gorgeous is a big advantage.

    As for why this is happening now, I think part of it has to do with the move to a service based economy, but mainly I think it’s due to the increased prevalence of women in the workforce.

  8. MacBeth: a lovely girl playing a lovely piece! Thank you for posting that!

    I am not in good health these days and that cheered me up greatly!

  9. Thank you, Donald. And I have to say that a debate over whether or not Holst belongs in the top 10 is much more elevating than the still-memorable war I got into on the playground of St. Frederick’s grade school circa 1966 or so. The topic was “Who is better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” I got into serious trouble for throwing a rock at a classmate who said the Stones were dirty boys. (My classmate was a better critic than I was at 7.)

  10. Of course, I’m referring to the thread about Holst. You gentlemen seem to be in perfect agreement here about the “babetitude” and genuine talent of the lady violinists. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. On my playground in the Sixties Donna I was noted for my utter indifference to anything having to do with Rock. Of course I was a marked boy for various reasons, most especially my habit of reading a book, so one more oddity was hardly worth talking about.

    In regard to the female violinists, they are a welcome change from the elderly maestros who tended to dominate that field of endeavor up until fairly recently.

  12. My Dad relays a story of himself in grade school confidently telling his classmates that the Beatles were a fad when they first came out, and that no one would remember them in 10 years. He had read that in Time or Life or some similar organ of respectable middle-brow opinion. Conventional wisdom can be very, very wrong.

  13. Black Adder,

    Somehow our spam filter caught your comment (must have been the link).

    We didn’t catch it until early this morning. I pulled it out and posted it for you. There wasn’t anything wrong with your comment, our spam filter sometimes is a little bit to sensitive.

  14. Wow, what an impressive young lady. Her musical talents are quite impressive. She was home-schooled and could have graduated from College at the age of SIXTEEN! She deferred graduation taking several more years of elective courses in foreign languages, art, and history in addition to continuous training with masters.


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