Biography of Vanessa May
Vanessa Mae is a world-famous British violinist who has entered the Guinness Book of Records more than once. Her original adaptations of classical works are often criticized, but more often they delight and surprise fans. Recently, she has presented her own compositions to the public and performs as a singer. Seriously skiing. Astronomers immortalized her name by naming asteroid 10313 “Vanessa-Mae”.
Pictured: Vanessa May
Childhood and youth: Singapore – London
When in the fall of 1978 in Singapore, a daughter was born in the family of a Chinese woman, Pamela Tan, and a Thai, Varaprong Vanakorn, she was named Vanessa. As soon as the baby began to speak, it turned out that she had an absolute ear for music. The child’s favorite “toy” was the piano, which the girl learned to play from the age of three.
Vanessa Mae as a child
Pamela, a capable pianist, decided to make her daughter a world-class star, and Vanessa’s entire childhood was subordinated to her mother’s desire. At least four hours a day, she studied music under the guidance of her mother.
Vanessa May with her mother
When Vanessa was four years old, the boiling claims of the spouses to each other reached their climax. After the divorce, Pamela moved to England, taking her daughter, and soon met the lawyer Graham Nicholson and married him.
My stepfather was always kind to Vanessa. When she was five years old, he gave a violin and asked his talented stepdaughter to arrange a home concert. The girl quickly mastered the instrument and since then she has practically never parted with the violin, although the piano remained her favorite musical instrument for a long time.
Violin Vanessa Mae gave stepfather
The first public performance of the young talent took place in Germany – nine-year-old Mei became a participant in the international music festival Schleswig-Holstein.
The girl debuted on the big stage at the age of 9
Just a year later, she became the youngest student at the Royal College of Music and played on the same stage with the famous London Philharmonic Orchestra. After studying for six months, Vanessa left college, as she had already outgrown the teaching of playing technique. Mom appointed herself her manager and promoted her daughter’s performances with all her might.
At the age of 12, May recorded her first solo disc, Violine, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the NSPCC (an organization that fights against cruelty to children). Her performances were aired on British television. The Guinness Book of Records named Vanessa the youngest performer (at that time she was 13 years old) to record violin concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
The girl left school because she could not combine her studies with constant tours. This suited Pamela just fine. The mother assigned a bodyguard to her daughter, carefully controlled her bank accounts and relentlessly watched Vanessa’s wardrobe and appearance.
Musical prodigy Vanessa May
No children’s entertainment, everything was subject to a strict schedule. The young violinist had only one outlet – skis. She got up on them at the age of four, and since then skiing has become an integral part of the life of a violinist. In 2014, Vanessa even became a participant in the Sochi Olympics (in giant slalom) under her father’s name Vanakorn, finishing 67th.
Vanessa Mae at the Sochi Olympics
Music and hard control
When the girl was fourteen years old, she began playing the Zeta electric violin, and two years later she recorded her first studio album, The Violin Player, with musician Michael Butt. The record was a huge success and in 1995 took the leading positions in the charts in more than twenty countries around the world.
Vanessa Mae in her youth
At the same time, being a child prodigy and being under the strict control of her mother-manager, Vanessa acutely felt her loneliness, which she later spoke about in an interview:
From the age of fifteen, when I definitely decided that music was the most important thing in my life, until my twenties, when I stopped working with my mother, I did not meet friends of the same age. I always had bodyguards with me, I could not leave the house without adult accompaniment. Then it seemed to me a trifle. Now I feel it was terrible. I had no real girlfriends with whom I could chat about my own, about girlish things.
Meanwhile, thousands of fans admired the hits Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Classical Gas, Red Hot. Over eight million copies of the album have been sold worldwide. In 1996, Mei was nominated as the best performer of classical music at the BRIT Awards and the award went to the violinist by the majority of votes.
She performed a violin solo on the title track of Janet Jackson’s album The Velvet Rope. When Vanessa was 15, her Chinese grandfather died. Reflections on her own roots prompted her to record another studio album, China Girl: The Classical Album 2.
Vanessa Mae is half Chinese
The demonstration of connection with the East, which is imbued with the record, contributed to the invitation of Vanessa May to Hong Kong, where she played at the official ceremony dedicated to the “reunification of the two Chinas” (PRC and Taiwan). She became the only foreign performer at such an important event for the Chinese people.
After returning from a trip, May recorded the album Storm, in which, in addition to playing the violin, she introduced Vanessa the vocalist to the public. She performed hits by Focus and Donna Hammer, as well as several author’s works that the violinist created together with Andy Hill, a famous British producer. Her techno-acoustic fusion was inimitable.
Vanessa marked the end of the twentieth century with the release of her third classic album, The Original Four Seasons and the Devil’s Trill Sonata. Antonio Vivaldi and his Four Seasons sound fantastic when performed by a violinist. Vanessa marked the beginning of the new millennium no less originally – she released a three-part album “The Classical Collection”.
The most famous violinist in the world
The first part was devoted to Russia, it included compositions by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Dmitry Kabalevsky. The second part, Viennese, included works by Ludwig Beethoven, Fritz Kreisler, Henri Casadesus. The third part was called “The Virtuoso Album” and included a medley of works by The Beatles, the soundtracks for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Pink Panther, as well as classical Chinese melodies.
The other side of fame
In parallel with the sympathy of a million-strong army of fans, May received a fair amount of criticism, both from less successful musicians and from eminent masters of the classics. For example, the English composer Julian Lloyd Weber, speaking of attending classical music concerts, dropped that the hall would be incomplete if “half-naked dummies with violins” did not appear on the stage. Mei’s name was not mentioned, but the hint was more than transparent.
Vanessa Mae is often criticized because of her appearance
Maestro Yuri Bashmet spoke in the same spirit, saying that he was grateful to Vanessa May’s short skirt, thanks to which many first heard Antonio Vivaldi and his Four Seasons cycle. Less scrupulous critics did not stand on ceremony at all in their statements. The girl tried not to react to such attacks, but once spoke in an interview:
They say I’m spoofing the classics. And it is true. But I fake only the sound, because I do not change a single note. I believe that with the new album I will not shock the orthodox adherents of the classics – it is simply not there. Classical music should not have the same success as modern pop hits. It is quite natural that the levels of perception of classical and modern music differ significantly. With my art, I just want to help people understand that the violin should not be left in the past. She must enter with us into the new age. I try to do for the electric violin what Jimi Hendrix did for the electric guitar.
One of May’s latest albums was the CD “Choreogrraphy”, to the creation of which the violinist attracted Bill Vellar, All Rakhman Rahman, Tolga Kashif, Walter Taib. All compositions are accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2006, Vanessa announced that a new album would appear in a year or two, but limited herself to releasing a Platinum collection of her most popular records. Since then, the violinist, who was called a child prodigy in childhood and predicted a bright future, has not yet released a single new album.
Vanessa May’s personal life
Coming of age at 21, Vanessa fired her overbearing and overprotective mother from her managerial position. She decided to get rid of her interference – both in her career and in her personal life. Pamela experienced such a decision of her daughter very painfully, communication between them ceased altogether. The violinist did not have a relationship with her biological father either. He showed up in his daughter’s life when she was fourteen and she was at the peak of her fame. He showed up only to ask the famous daughter for money.
Vanessa’s relationship with her parents caused her psychological trauma
Before meeting the man of her life, Vanessa considered her grandmother and stepfather to be her closest people, with whom, despite the divorce from her mother, she maintained the warmest relations.
When she was 20, she fell in love for the first time. French wine expert Lionel Catalan had no idea that the graceful skier he met in a small town (of which his father was mayor) was a world-famous star.
Vanessa May and Lionel Catalan
Despite the difference of ten years (or maybe thanks to her), the couple lived happily in a civil marriage for a long time. Later, the ring finger of May’s left hand began to decorate a chic platinum ring with the purest emerald and a scattering of diamonds.
Vanessa May with her husband
However, Vanessa never officially married her lover. The memories of two divorces were too painful – first of my own parents, then my mother and foster father. Mei has repeatedly said in interviews that the stamp of marriage is not the main thing in life, if a man loves, he will be faithful even without official confirmation of the relationship.
Vanessa Mae now
In the fall of 2019, the violinist turned 41 years old. She is still touring, especially a frequent guest in Russia. In honor of her birthday, Vanessa went to concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Together with her, two true friends went on a trip – Shar Pei Gaspar and Chihuahua Maximus. Mei posts photos with her pets on Instagram from time to time.
Vanessa May’s dogs
People magazine recognized the violinist as one of the most beautiful people in the world (top 50), and FHM considers Vanessa Mae one of the most beautiful women in the world (top 100). The composer, singer, songwriter mostly lives in Switzerland, where there are so many ski resorts dear to her heart.