Thursday, 15 January 2009


Mikhail Pletnev's near-illegible scrawl
Windows to the soul?

So what do artists’ autographs look like? They range from grandiloquent sweeps (Evelyn Glennie, Carlo Curley), beautiful cursives (Barry Tuckwell, Angela Hewitt, Anne Sophie Mutter), illegible claw-like scratches (Ivo Pogorelich, Mikhail Pletnev), to the very basic writing of one’s name (Seow Yit Kin, Marc-André Hamelin, Ronald Stevenson).

Krystian Zimerman (above) signs only with green ink, while Yo-Yo Ma uses two different styles, including one in Chinese characters. The French-American pianist Joel-François Thiollier always includes an aphorism or wisecrack, crafted on the spur of the moment.

A collage of autographs (from L):
Pinchas Zukerman, Marc Neikrug's hieroglyphics,
David Finckel's reverse check and Oscar Shumsky's yin-yang

One of the most unusual specimens comes from the late American violinist Oscar Shumsky, which looks like the yin yang symbol – an S inscribed within the confines of an O (OS for his name, get it?). Other intriguing ones belong to pianist Marc Neikrug - which looks like some ancient script - and cellist David Finckel (of the Emerson Quartet), which comprises merely the Nike check and a dot. “Just done it!” it seems to proclaim.
Do these autographs reflect their owners’ personalities or characters? I am not a graphologist but I would like to think that something in an artist’s psyche comes through in their handwriting besides their music. SSO Music Director Lan Shui’s autograph is slick and stylised, just like his conducting. Russian maestros Mstislav Rostropovich (above), Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Vladimir Ashkenazy (below) all sign their multi-syllabic surnames in full – displaying a certain pride in their heritage.

Local composer Tan Chan Boon’s resembles an alpine peak, mirroring the loftiness of his Bruckner-like symphonies. Arch virtuosos like Arcadi Volodos and Peter Donohoe, who simply refuse to do autographs (a gesture of contempt for the very people who support their careers), probably suffer from some hidden inferiority complexes.

No comments: