Sara, who heard about this from a “women who write about Rock” listserv, forwards a link to a page from playboy.com about the ten hottest classical babes, you should excuse me. I suspect the women themselves didn’t have anything to do with this; Hilary Hahn’s austere portrait and professional demeanor (check her web presence, signature repertoire etc.) make her a rather odd choice for this kind of idiotic whipped-cream piece. One wonders whether any of the women here were consulted. The characterization of Anne-Sophie Mutter as a “MILF” makes me want to flutter my crinoline petticoats in titillation, of course… Seriously, how abjectly moronic is it possible to get? What kind of a dim bulb would imagine that this is where the crossover will happen, that interest in these women’s music (Hilary Hahn’s Schoenberg, e.g.) will increase if we think about them, y’know, like that? Of course, art music—like all music—has a substantial component of love and lust in it; it’s the product of human beings. That doesn’t mean that a performer’s plunging neckline increases interest or appreciation for it, though. It’s more like the ultimate I remember reading that one or two of these—or other? can’t recall—young female artists did some semi-nude photo shoots. OK, if you want it that way; we can make all the arguments we want about assertive women being comfortable with their own bodies, with their own sexuality, with their own marketing strategies based on any angle they can use in a highly competitive entertainment (word used intentionally) market, and so on. Conversely, we can trumpet our resentment at prudish patriarchy, the male “gaze,” prurience, and the gender roles that lead to women’s finding themselves in these kinds of situations. We can also point to Barbara Stozzi, superb Italian Baroque performer and composer (and, some might say, luscious babe), who clearly—as the “entertainment” for groups of well-educated and discerning gentlemen, or so I recall reading—played this side of the line herself. We could. We can talk ourselves into damned near anything. Tell you what, though: people thus marketed (I suppose male performers doing the beefcake thing might fall into the same category)—and again, I don’t know that these women had anything to do with their inclusion on this page—have no right to complain about being regarded as an object, not being taken seriously as a professional, or being pigeonholed by attitudes toward your gender. Youthful indiscretion or not, if one becomes a household word by being the classical musician who strips, it’s hard to imagine reconceiving the person as a serious artist. Is this the current Playboy equivalent of their old automobile/hi-fi/bachelor pad/gorgeous women view of the Finer Things in the space age? The old assumption was—as far as I understood it, as a kid—was that the Finer Things (all of them) were there to be appreciated and enjoyed. So, sure, you got the pictures of nude women (not lost on me, at that age), but you also had serious interviews (Nabakov, John Lennon etc.), Ken Purdy’s car articles, high-end stereo equipment, Jean Shepherd’s sidesplittingly funny memoirs of this youth, and so on. It all was of a piece (er…so to speak). This current webpage aspires to the classical peepshow. Does cheap really work for this artform and market?