The violinist who fiddled for a warlord's birthday

The violinist who fiddled for a warlord's birthday


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2011

Among the tawdry stars lining up in Grozny to entertain the bloodstained president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, on his 35th birthday ten days ago was the fallen angel of classical crossover, Vanessa-Mae.

Kadyrov has told the Moscow Times that the lavish celebrations were funded by personal friends and supporters. Previously, he called it a gift from Allah.

Whatever. The Hollywood actress  Hilary Swank has apologised to her fans for attending and donated her fee to charity. The British rock musician Seal says he knows nothing about politics and has no regrets.

And Vanessa-Mae? No sense in asking her to give the blood money she took to a good cause. She is punished enough by the world getting to know that she now has to scrape away for a living before the Chechen slaughterer.


  • Guilherme Fontão says:

    Could this argument be properly applied to Karajan?…

  • Jeffrey Tarlo says:

    I thought she quit music to become a Olympic Skier. When her career started the record label pushed her as like the Loita of classical music. Which she wasn’t nor a very good violinist either.

  • Vanessa-Mae started out as a real classical violinist but was one of the first to become a classical ‘crossover’. But I’ve been noticing more and more–as Norman Lebrecht has observed here and there–that many of the younger, female artists coming along nowadays are adopting what I call a “pop music sensibility”. That is, appearance is a big part of the promotion. And the question inevitably arises, what are the plain-looking musical talents going to do? I’ve posted about this here:

  • Anthony Fagin says:

    I definitely see the connection between the pop influence and Vanessa Mae’s recent performance. Whatever you focus on becomes magnified. If you put your energy into maintaining a physical persona, aesthetics become a central focus. An artist so influenced can walk onto a painted stage, see a massive audience, take up an instrument and perform never looking beyond these aesthetics. Put simply, there’s an anesthetizing effect to aesthetics. And I think Ms. Mae, like so many talented artists; have been desensitized to deeper things; conditioned to focus on the physical beauty, while dismissing the deeper horrors or reality.

    • Are you speaking of the performer’s physical beauty? It seems that this trend in classical music is not only prevalent for female performers, but also for young men who wish to make careers. There is an awful lot of “sex sells” mentality out there, and the emphasis seems less and less ear driven and in service to making aural art.