Spare us the predictable sexism of Norman Lebrecht


“I would not be wasting space on Yuja Wang if she was not an outstanding pianist.” …”She habitually changes costume in a concert interval to show more leg and she feeds with internet with a stream of selfies in halter tops and skimpy shorts.” …”She is 34 and there’s a sell-by date to consider.”

This tells me way more about Lebrecht than it does about Yuja Wang. By Lebrecht’s own report, they’re clothes that she feels comfortable in. That’s enough for me. About Lebrecht, this tells me that he is sexist and ageist to the extent that he can’t do his job

Mr. Lebrecht, you are not fertilizing her eggs. You needn’t concern yourself with what her clothes communicate to you in regards to her “expiration date.” As a fellow music critic, you’re failing to explore and appreciate that what you perceive as “distracting” clothes and “irreverent” interviews follow from Ms. Wang’s unique perceptions – the same unique perceptions which inform her musical interpretations which you find so outstanding. As you say, 

“She plays Prokofiev with a verve envied by Russians and Ligeti with a wit that eludes Hungarians.”

Is it not possible that Yuja Wang’s musical brilliance and “irreverent” clothes and interviews are not at odds, but in harmony with each other? I think they are. Yuja Wang is being informative, not “irreverent” or performative in the pejorative sense, when she shares that she thinks of Prokofiev as a “naughty boy” and Mozart as a “party animal.” It’s well understood (at least, it was when I was studying at University) that they absolutely were, and she’s channeling the sh*t out of that. That you’re so blinded by her age and gender that you cannot make these connections, to my mind, disqualifies you from being able to critique it. 

Your conjecture about her clothing choices having something to do with “the speed of her ascent” and possible “depression” is wildly inappropriate and, much like the rest of your critique, influenced by oppressive ideology. In your inability to comprehend, you have suggested that perhaps she can’t cope or is mentally ill, and is therefore acting out. This is wrong on multiple levels, but for the sake of keeping this short, my point for now is that Yuja Wang’s musical and performative interpretations are not invalid simply because you cannot connect the dots, and suggesting that to be the case is just the kind of behavior that oppresses people. I respectfully request of The Critic that, in future, Mr. Lebrecht not be allowed to critique people whom he is capable of othering. 

Many thanks to the Female Composer Safety League for bringing this to my attention. 

#staysexyyuja #expiredlebrecht

Afterthought: I assume you’ve never performed in heels, Mr. Lebrecht, much less stilettos. It’s difficult. It will have taken a significant amount of effort to develop the technique to accommodate them. That effort alone clues me in to the connections I made above. Perhaps you are simply unqualified to appreciate Yuja Wang. 


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