Vanessa-Mae, Vanessa-Mae not

The jury's still out. Annette Morreau delivers her verdict on the violinist's Barbican recital
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The Independent Culture
`The promoter regrets that the work permit department, on the recommendation of the assistant secretary of the Musicians' Union, chose to turn down the orchestra's application to perform 14 concerts in this country, of which this is one." Well, the wicked MU did its damnedest to halt "The Classical Tour", Vanessa-Mae and EMI's latest publicity abomination (all in the name of "cross-over"), by denying the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra access to Britain. Sadly, their best endeavours proved futile, for the ice-goddess of the violin was having none of it. Mum and a few friends (mainly moonlighters from the Royal Opera House) were roped in to make up for the 72 benighted Slovenes and, at the Barbican on Monday night, I suffered one of the most dispiriting events I can ever remember.

"Hi, everybody! Welcome to my concert. Concerts, for me, are my lifeline to reach out to everyone. I love making records but I love playing concerts even more," she gushes in the glossy brochure. "Whether the concert will feature more pop, more classical or an equal fusion of both - I don't know... Does it matter?" Well, when people are paying good money, it probably does. No orchestra doesn't mean a blank cheque. As one member of the audience succinctly remarked, "She thinks we're stupid." And so the evening was a coolly calculated "justification" of Vanessa-Mae by Vanessa-Mae, smugly cooked up to look legitimate because, as she remarked breathlessly in the programme notes, if it was good enough for Heifetz (the piano accompaniment, that is), it's good enough for me. "I am here now - take me and my music for whot [sic] we are. I hope you enjoy." And, after every number, the fist was punching the air like Steffi Graff at Wimbledon.

Vanessa-Mae is not without technical ability but, in all my concert-going days, I have never come across a performer with such ability who was so unmusical. It's as if she's heard and absorbed nothing from the giants she aspires to keep company with, nor once been touched by the music she plays. Somehow she's playing the wrong music in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bruch (his Scottish Fantasy with two-piano accompaniment) and Beethoven (the charming Romance in F, to one piano) just won't "groove". And what does a girl do when she's got nothing to do in the rests? Pout, stretch, move her head in a peculiar sideways motion and look desperately embarrassed, it seems.

Her medley continued with a woodenly accurate prelude from a Bach Partita, a desperately unsexy arrangement (her own) of the Bizet / Sarasate "Carmen" Fantasy, a re-arrangement of Bach's D minor Toccata and Fugue which would have had Stokowski squirming in his grave, the "Trout" variations (where she splendidly demonstrated her inability to play dotted rhythms accurately) and a dollop of "Nineties techno-fusion chamber music", complete with white electric violin, apparently powered by a couple of hand grenades slung round her waist. Mae must believe that bad publicity's worth more than no publicity. I wondern

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