Violinists are sexy too!

Pop music has Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jessica Simpson. Hollywood has Cameron Diaz and Jessica Alba. Classical music has Janine Jansen.

Wait, who?

What does Janine Jansen have to do with the other distinguished individuals listed above?

Pop culture isn’t the only area of public interest that is susceptible to the irresistible combination of beauty and talent. Spears is not only a sex symbol, but also an accomplished pop singer who sold over 55 million albums. Diaz, one of the sexy super-spies in Charlie’s Angels, has been nominated for a Golden Globe award four times.

The beautiful violinist Janine Jansen, only 21, already has a burgeoning career in Europe and is making her debut American tour with stops in San Francisco, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh (at Heinz Hall this May). She has garnered rave reviews from The Financial Times, The Independent, and The Guardian. Her early recordings have been enthusiastically received — she can certainly play the violin.

While not quite as overtly sexual as Britney Spears or Jessica Alba, Jansen is still very attractive. Beneath the clothes, so to speak, what is it that makes people like Britney Spears and Jessica Alba so attractive?

Youth is a big part of it. Pop culture is heavily sponsored by the young crowd, from middle school through college (just watch a half hour of MTV’s programming). Remember all the criticism of Britney Spears for influencing girls who weren’t old enough for Spears’ racy image? It makes sense that young people respond to attractive pop icons close to their own age.

A lot of Jansen’s youth and vitality comes through in her violin playing, which is gloriously beautiful. She and people like Spears and Alba exude youth and energy, molten passion before it solidifies into rock. It was a natural choice for Jansen to record Vivaldi’s high-octane “Four Seasons.”

Another attractive quality is simply talent. Many would debate the actual talent of Britney Spears, so let’s select another example — Jennifer Connelly, whose acting prowess garnered an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind in 2002. Part of Connelly’s appeal is her extraordinary acting abilities. Ordinary people find it very interesting to watch extraordinary people at work. Hence, concertgoers won’t be going to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in May just to look at Jansen; they want to hear her play, too. They want to be in the presence of something powerful, something beyond their ability to create themselves.

In the world of classical music, there is a category of “crossover” groups; perhaps most notable among them is the group Bond. Groups like these take classical pieces and update them (such arrogance!), often by playing on electric string instruments rather than genuine ones. In any event, this particular group is as overtly sexual as Britney Spears and the like. Just take a look at the bare midriffs, shoulders, and thighs on the glamorous cover of one of their albums.

Beauty and talent together are a powerful combination. Having one or the other can make one famous, but having both of these qualities makes a performer especially attractive. Janine Jansen, for one, undoubtedly has both.