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A phenomena assisted by the development of YouTube has been the growing number of pianists whose attire is quite skimpy. Most of these pianists are women.
(Crucial aside: Though I have seen a few, I am too shy to watch these videos in anything like large numbers because of my age and gender. It's just not appropriate. I leave it to others).
Now, the idea that women dress in clothing that does not fully cover their anatomy — or brings emphasis to certain portions — is hardly new.
Women in ancient Rome apparently coveted silks that were so sheer that a contemporary author questioned whether they were wearing any clothes at all.
A dictionary of the American language has the word 'décolletage' defined and with it a fitting picture of Marilyn Monroe in a plunging gown.
Therefore, there is nothing new in this phenomena. Quite simply: some women have dressed in such ways. Not all have worn burkas.
In a sense then it is hardly relevant to comment upon women's attire and the profusion of pianists photographed and filmed in quite flimsy dresses, plunging necklines, or short skirted outfits.
Many of these women are quite fine pianists. I do not believe that their artistry should be denigrated because of their attire. But, I do not believe their artistry should be elevated because of it.
However, much more important than evaluating female pianists by their looks or attire is that I feel that the playing field is not level.
Currently — and in the spirit of fairness — I am seeking films of handsome men, preferably body builders who perform classical music in clothes that bring emphasis to their physique. This is not a new or strange phenomena. The superb American pianist Leon Bates has also been a body builder and while numerous of his excellent performances are available at YouTube, none so far as I can see show off his physique. He wears formal suits.
I believe I recall a pianist many years ago who was also a body builder and he did perform without a shirt while giving interpretations of the Liszt Transcendental Etudes. This seems quite appropriate.
It seems to me that with all the pianists that have played concerts there must have been one who performed in the nude. A pianist in the 1980 film The Competition practised in the nude. The role was played by Ty Henderson and his nudity was portrayed discreetly in the film. Be clear: he did not perform in public in the nude!
But, again, I feel the playing field is sloped too far to the side of women and too far to the side of youth.
Perhaps we should be able to see an elderly male pianist (Russian, perhaps) perform a concert dressed only in a Speedo bathing suit.
As has been said, what's good for the gander is good for the goose — and what's good for the goose, must therefore be good for the gander. (Oh, I'm sorry I think I've reversed avian roles here.)
Perhaps my suggestion - which I am too shy to take up - will seem unusual. Perhaps it will be seen as ridiculous. Perhaps it will be seen as offensive. But, please remember there are body building competitions with age categories for those in their fifties and sixties and even above, so, the appearance of elderly bodies is not by definition offensive.
It seems necessary for artists to draw attention to themselves and I highly recommend pianists of many years to consider attire that is revealing or negligible. Certainly the music will not be harmed if someone's body bits fall out of some insufficient cloth covering. Because, it is quite certain that we all pay closer attention to the depth of the music's wisdom than the mere surface features of any pianist, young, old, beautiful or not. It is the Music that counts.
Copyright © 30 December 2021
Fort Beauséjour, Canada