I became aware of a recent LA Times article about the LA Philharmonic’s principal violist Carrie Dennis through Marjorie Talvi’s blog. Here’s the headline: Carrie Dennis is easy to notice in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The sub-headline is: Yes, she’s the principal violist and deeply respected by her peers. But what makes her stand out are her animated movements during concerts.
I’m bothered by this, for a couple of reasons. First of all, that this story exists at all. Why would someone at the LA Times choose to run this story? Is an animated presence on the stage of a major orchestra such a big deal? Was the story planted by someone within the orchestra? It just seems like such a strange angle on the story about this particular player (who is known in the biz to be quite an animated player). She’s had such an illustrious career for someone who is in her 30’s. Why not focus on her start in the Philadelphia Orchestra, her stint in the Berlin Philharmonic, and her arrival to the Los Angeles Philharmonic? I guess it’s just doesn’t smack of what little controversy they were able to dig up about her amount of bodily motion when she plays. Another thing that bothers me, no one in her section would go on the record with attribution, except for Jerry Epstein, who retired at the end of last season. That makes me wonder where the buzz that prompted this article came from.
Another thing that sort of hangs in the air in this article is the dwelling on the fact that she’s a female principal – it almost seems a little like the fetishizing of Cynthia Phelps during the first part of her tenure as principal violist of the New York Philharmonic. She was a darling of the New York press, and was often written about more for the gowns she wore on gala nights than how she played. It just goes to show that when you’re a woman in a position of power, you’ll always be taken by appearance first, and by talent second. And that makes me sad. Shouldn’t we be past that sort of thing?