Tour de force | Vanessa-Mae, aged 18, who published her birth certificate and full CV in a spat with a newspaper critic.
VIOLINIST Vanessa-Mae has, an eminent musician once said, a maturity beyond her years. Perhaps this ought to be reassessed in the light of the 18-year-old's extraordinary personal attack on a newspaper critic who gave her a bad review.
Vanessa-Mae, who learned to play the violin at five, gave her first concert performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra aged 10, and is one of the hottest properties in the popular classical market, acted more like Liam Gallagher than Yehudi Menuhin when she read the review of her concert at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. The article, in the London evening Standard, ended with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the much-quoted fact she shares a birthday with the Italian maestro Paganini. "Paganini's birthday, my foot. Show us the birth certificate," wrote critic Rick Jones.
Outraged, she spent £6,000 agreeing to Jones's request and publishing her birth certificate yesterday in the newspaper. She also printed a 30-line curriculum vitae, outlining her career from child prodigy to best-selling star and including superlative comments from various sources. Then she got personal. "Your turn, Mr Jones," she wrote. "What are your professional credentials? Are you a musician? Have you any experience of playing 'live'? Are you rated as a musician? If so, who by?"
Her agent, Mel Bush, yesterday defended the advert. "Critics are able to say what they want to, but when something is incorrect it needs correcting. The insinuation was clear [that she was lying about her birth certificate]. We are correcting that." She was justified in asking for Jones's credentials, as he had questioned hers.
He denied Vanessa-Mae could not take a joke and said that her reaction showed she had a sense of humour. He said she was not upset by the piece, even adding that one line, "She is prodigiously talented, of course" — might be used in promotional literature. The review, which appeared on Tuesday, was in fact more critical of Mr Bush than of his protegée. It said he should have cancelled the performance because some foreign backing musicians were refused work permits and the show "limped like a three-legged dog onto the stage."
Rick Jones, whose musical pedigree at the Evening Standard dates back to his time as a Norwich cathedral chorister, said he was bemused and flattered by the tantrum. He added: "Being a critic is not a whether I am rated as a musician. It is about whether people agree with me."