Playboy? It's not a game

Playboy? It's not a game


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2009

An excited reader has notified me that Playboy magazine is running a feature titled Too Hot to Handel: the sexiest babes in classical music.


Before you waste a moment’s click on the site, let me assure you that all of them are decorously clad. Along with the all-too predictable Anna Netrebko and Danielle de Niese, Playboy has selected violinists Leila Josefowicz, Julia Fischer, Janine Jansen, Hilary Hahn and Anne-Sophie Mutter, the last in a photograph that must have been taken at least ten years ago, or in very flattering light. Ms Mutter is described as Austrian – she’s German – and a MILF, which is a term that does not bear cultural elucidation.


Two relative unknowns are included. One is the oboist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the other, perhaps, someone’s girlfriend.


All good clean fun, right? Wrong.


Let me tell you a story. Ten years ago, a Finnish violinist called Linda Lampenius allowed herself to be talked into posing nude for Playboy under the stage name Linda Brava. Her centrefold appearance landed an EMI record contract and an avalanche of media attention. Her first record reached number 14 in the UK charts and there was no follow-up. She was taken up as a talent by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and quickly dropped. She appeared on Baywatch, just the once.


A victim of unrealistic expectations, Linda went through years of turmoil before making her way back home to Finland, where a producer friend of mine recorded her some months ago playing chamber music – rather well, he said. The story has a happy ending. Linda, 38, is expecting her first baby in the coming weeks. Let’s wish her well.


The Playboy experience is not to be recommended as a means of advancing a musical career. It’s exploitation, that’s the bare truth. Don’t bother to look. 




  • Matson Jones says:

    Forgive me I did look. One interesting twist: Sarah Coburn is the daughter of ultraconservative Senator Tom Coburn from
    Oklahoma. Among other things he is known as the the most vociferous critic of any form government arts funding in Washington.
    NL to Matson Jones: Poor man. He’s just seen another $50 million splashed out to the NEA.

  • I’m at work, so I can’t follow the link to check, but wasn’t this back in September? If so, it’s only online, not in the magazine, and Playboy didn’t get permission from the artists at all–they used existing publicity photos.
    That said, if they had bothered to work with the artists and done new photography it would for most of these artists be very different from the story you tell. Most of these musicians are already well established, so the quick flame-out based on unrealistic expectations probably doesn’t apply. Plus, ten years ago was a very different time in the record industry–a time when the creation of new classical superstars still seemed viable. Andrea Bocelli had recently gone multiplatinum. A couple of years later Charlotte Church hit big. I’m not seeing that kind of thing happening much these days.
    Plus, regardless of whether participation in a playboy feature would be wise for the individual artists, it’s arguably a good sign about the cultural relevance of classical music that Playboy did this at all.

  • Brian says:

    Another issue is this: Playboy has been on a downward slide for many years in terms of its social relevance and sheer subscription numbers. Most young men in the target demo have gravitated toward lad magazines like Maxim, Stuff, etc. And those wanting some out-and-out porn will just go online where it’s free and convenient. So the fact that Playboy is embracing classical music hardly seems like a sign of cultural relevance for the art form. As you say, it’s not going to help anyone’s career.
    NL to Brian: Hah, so the soft-porn industry is on a steeper slide than classical music? That’s got to be good news…

  • Finnish-born says:

    Linda Lampenius had been playing the violin for over two decades before Playboy published its cover story about her life and career in music + the pictures.
    Lampenius had been trained at the prestigious Sibelius Academy and studied with professor Mauricio Fuks in the USA. She had been working in top Finnish orchestras, including the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Finnish National Opera Orchestra, in which she hold the 1st violin. She had also been working as a soloist, performing with several Finnish city orchestras in addition to playing chamber music in Finland and abroad.
    Already in 1997, Lampenius graced the cover story of The Sunday Times and was featured in numerous articles around the world, especially in the UK, where she starred the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new contemporary work. Furthermore, before the Playboy cover story, Lampenius had already been signed up by the EMI Classics label.
    Around the new millenium, Lampenius had some severe personal issues (legal cases against her former American manager and his millionaire friend, eating disorders, depression etc.) and moved in with her parents in Finland. Since 2002, she has been living in Sweden, where she is very popular artist and, according to some local media reports, she is going to work more abroad in the near future. In 2007, she toured in the USA with choral group An├║na and played as a soloist on a PBS music special (look ‘Linda Lampenius Aisling’ on YouTube) and the “Celtic Origins” CD and DVD releases. The album became North America’s bestselling World Music CD for five consecutive weeks.
    Lampenius’ current manager is Rory Johnston, Decca’s former VP, so, I think her time has not gone just yet ­čśë
    NL to Markus: Very glad to hear it. Do keep me posted on her progress.

  • M. Villeger says:

    PlayBoy marketing trick worked since it is discussed here… beats producing these days, isn’t it?
    But seriously, the announced demise of Decca is indeed a very sad news. The Decca sound of the 1950s-60s beats any new release I have heard recently. It was with Mercury Living Presence the real deal, dynamics, clarity, balance and the best pressed examples are treasures to listen even after 50 years. James Lock, Kenneth Wilkinson showed how it should be done, shaming the Deustche Grammophone nasal midrange outputs.
    But the 1980-90s brought change: digital became an excuse for not so alive recordings where the ambiance was privileged over the instruments’ sound. This coincided with the use of poor dynamics -below or around 90dB/w/m-monitoring equipment in studios and at home effectively killing the presence in sound. That’s what this amateur who grew up with the Ace of Club series of his father felt.
    Tonight I’ll enjoy a taste of Mantovani’s Malaguena album of 1962 pure Decca sound: there are better guilty pleasures in life than PlayBoy!

  • Dennis says:

    Nina Kotova (cellist) and Lara St. John (violin) failed to make the list? For shame!
    NL to Dennis: For whose?

  • Rolf says:

    Since I met her in Brussels (Queen Elisabeth competition) I’ve been charmed by Jennifer Franchi. She doubted between a pop and classical career (played with ao Lisa Loeb). I think on X-factor she could have “made it” in the pop world… No wonder she is on nr. 1!