NO CLEAVAGE FOR THE FOURTH: Partial to five-inch heels and micro minidresses, classical pianist Lola Astanova is not amused when people suggest her style might be distracting to her performance.
“It’s almost as though they have not seen any current issues of any fashion magazines, or current awards show. Classical music has always been associated with this almost sad, nonexistent style. I have no idea where this notion came from especially because some of the great composers — whose music I am playing by the way — were fashion icons and dandies back in their day,” she said. “Chopin, for example, my hero, whose music I love and play, could spend untold amounts of money on gloves. Rachmaninoff or Puccini were known for their impeccable fashion styles. They were always dressed impeccably in the latest suits, the latest fabrics. I have no idea how classical music became equivalent to sad and dark clothes. I believe stereotypes are only there so that we can break them and have fun.”
During the Fourth of July celebration for military families on the South Lawn of the White House, Astanova will be among the performers. Wednesday night’s televised event will also feature Sara Evans, “American Idol” alumni Jax and the show’s recent finalist Jonny Brenns, “The President’s Own” U.S. Marines Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters and the U.S. Air Force Band’s Max Impact. Astanova said, “This is one day where we’re all Americans. As a first-generation American, this is a symbolic thing for me and it’s going to be a very meaningful performance.”
“I’m a musician and I’m an artist, so obviously at this point, I don’t go into politics. I do have my opinions, but I would rather not go into the politics about what’s right and wrong. This day goes beyond one president. This is a tradition that goes back 200 years, and it celebrates our military and our freedom. It’s a way to pay tribute to our troops. That’s really what this concert is about. Presidents come and go, but the Fourth of July and the celebration of our country is really what this event is about,” she said. “It’s an honor to perform the national anthem at the White House on Independence Day. As a first-generation American, it’s quite meaningful.”
President Trump chaired her Carnegie Hall debut at an American Cancer Society benefit in January 2012. “I met him at the concert and then I met him and the First Lady on numerous occasions socially. They have always been quite complimentary and very kind. When I played at Mar-a-Lago, they were very gracious and I have nothing negative to say about that,” she said.
Performing for 20-plus years, the Russian-born Astanova broke onto the American scene through the Neiman Marcus Classical Superstars Fantasy Concert in 2007. That led to a “Today” show appearance and considerable more visibility. “In the U.S., classical music has always been on the outskirts and not quite as popular as some other genres. I wanted to add a little bit of magic and fantasy to the world of classical piano,” Astanova said. ”A lot of people associated with an old lady wearing a shapeless piece of fabric. I love a beautiful, almost whimsical silhouette at the piano. I am a bit of a dreamer, so I like to create a bit of fantasy for myself and my audience.”
The performer favors strong silhouettes. She said, “I’m a big fan of Tom Ford. His style is classic, timeless. Obviously Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel, that goes without any comment needed. For me, it could be a Tom Ford dress or a $20 dress. Clearly, it’s isn’t as much about trends or branding but rather interpreting yourself and feeling a certain way when you put on a pair go high heels or a miniskirt. Your attitude and the way you carry yourself changes. That’s what fashion does.”
Astanova approves of Rachel Zoe’s belief that “style is the way to say who you are without having to speak,” she said. “I couldn’t agree more. It’s just clothes. it’s great to be able to experiment and not take it too seriously. I believe one must always keep a nonchalant attitude about fashion and then it becomes enjoyable.”
Not 100 percent sure of what will be in order for the Fourth of July, she is leaning toward a white tuxedo dress though that could very well change depending how she feels that day. Hallmark has offered some unsolicited fashion advice. Astanova said with a laugh, “They said, ‘Nothing too risque, too revealing, short and no cleavage.’ So I’m going to have to behave myself.”