As a child, Vanessa-Mae’s astonishing talent was clearly apparent and early success as a virtuoso violinist within the rarefied world of classical musical was predicted by all who heard her play. Comparisons to some of the greatest prodigies of all time were made frequently but her status now, as a multi-million selling, iconic superstar, has surpassed the expectations of even the most ardent of her early admirers.
She is now a household name and has a 25-year career behind her that has achieved artistic and commercial success that few contemporary artists can come close to.
Sharing her birthday with the legendary violinist, Nicolo Paganini, Vanessa-Mae was born 196 years later on 27 October 1978 in Singapore, to a Singaporean mother and Thai father. After adopting a British father, she moved to London at the age of 4 where she picked up the violin, having already started the piano in Singapore. She proceeded to impress a series of demanding teachers and it was clear that specialist training was warranted so, at the age of 8, she embarked upon an intensive period of study with Professor Lin Yao Ji at the National Conservatoire of Music in Beijing. Vanessa-Mae returned to London, a fully-fledged virtuoso, entered London’s Royal College of Music and continued to hone her technique.
Vanessa-Mae made her world debut in 1988 to a sensational reception at the Schleswig Holstein Festival in Germany and made her UK debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra that same year. That success soon led to regular concerto appearances with orchestras the world over, her impossible precocity impressing audiences and critics alike. She became the first artist to play with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on their debut European tour, attracting strings of superlatives from critics with her performance of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. In 1991, at the age of 12, she was invited by the London Mozart Players to headline their Mozart Bicentenary tour of the Far East and was the youngest artist ever to play as soloist with the orchestra.
At the age of 13, she had already recorded three highly-praised classical albums. These contained a wide range of repertoire from masterpiece concertos by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven (the youngest artist ever to record these works), virtuoso showpieces by Paganini, Wieniawski and Sarasate to new arrangements of her favourite classical and pop melodies.
In studio working on her debut pop album, at the age of 15, she created a completely new genre of music. With the release of The Violin Player in 1995, at the age of 16, she discovered an ecstatic audience of millions worldwide. Her brave approach of presenting the violin in a new style caused controversy among some traditionalist critics but its enormous popularity around the world among music lovers of all kinds established her as a world star and subsequently inspired a wave of new artists following in her footsteps.
She has now sold over 10 million albums, holding over 40 international awards for both pop and classical recordings, and her concert specials have been broadcast in over 100 countries. She has also collaborated with a wide range of different artists, in many different capacities, from featuring on the title track of Janet Jackson’s album Velvet Rope, producing an instrumental hits album for Japanese superband Glay to participating in a jazz-funk album Xpectation with Prince.
Vanessa-Mae is a dynamic live performer with a gruelling touring programme that has taken her around the world several times over. She has visited over 50 countries and performed in spectacular venues such as the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Hyde Park in London and the Acropolis in Athens.
Not content with performing in some of the world’s most illustrious concert venues, Vanessa-Mae is constantly bringing music to new places and new people:
Fusing the worlds of music and sport, Vanessa-Mae was invited to play the national anthem at Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park and the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail Colorado. She has also performed at the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City Utah, the Ajax football arena in Amsterdam, the climax to the International Go-Karting Championships in Helsinki and the opening race of the F1 Grand Prix season in Melbourne.
She has appeared in rock festivals the world over, one of which saw her carried aloft by the wild crowd.
She appeared as special guest star of The London Bach Society’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of JS Bach’s death, hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales at St James’ Palace.
She made her US debut in Times Square where she hopped spontaneously onto a passing yellow taxi - an explosive performance seen all over the world.
She gave the first ever concert on the famous frozen lake of St. Moritz, making a spectacular entrance to the stage by delta-gliding down from a 2500m mountain.
She helped London celebrate Chinese New Year by performing live in the heart of London’s Chinatown to a packed crowd in Leicester Square.
She was the first international artist to be invited to visit the Township of Soweto in South Africa to meet and play with children from a local music school – her attitude to breaking musical barriers has won her a loyal audience of all ages and races.
She performed exclusively for the 26 Heads of Asia-European Government and HM The Queen at the official closing of the ASEM 2 Conference at Buckingham Palace.
She was the only foreign artist invited by the Chinese to perform at the pivotal historical moment of Hong Kong’s reunification to China at midnight at the Happy Valley racecourse.
As a trail-blazing artist, she opened the first ever Classical Brit Awards and MTV Asia Awards.
In addition to having introduced the violin to millions of people, Vanessa-Mae’s universal appeal has taken her beyond music. At the age of 16, she set a record as the youngest person in the world to address the Oxford Union, later going on to address the Cambridge Union, and she became the first musician ever to be featured by Sir David Frost in his Sunday political magazine show on BBC TV. She ran as an Olympic Torch Bearer as the Olympic Torch Relay passed through London on its way to the Olympic Games in Beijing and has also been the subject of numerous documentaries and news features all over the world.
Vanessa-Mae has supported charities worldwide including, to name a few, the NSPCC, the RSPCA, Povodog Shelter (helping stray dogs in Sochi), Battersea Dogs Home and Humane Society International. Having visited their field units in Kenya and Cambodia, participated in their TV campaign and given numerous fund-raising performances, she also worked with the Red Cross. In June 2015, Vanessa-Mae joined Cruelty Free International as their global ambassador, campaigning for a worldwide end to testing on animals.
Vanessa-Mae has contributed to a number of film projects. Having filmed her own silent movie based on music from her album The Original Four Seasons, she went on to collaborate with Walt Disney Pictures on the music of Mulan. She also accepted her first acting role with the filming of a lavish new production of the classic Arabian Nights for ABC and recorded Roxane’s Veil, written for her by Vangelis for her album Choreography, which was later used on the soundtrack album of Oliver Stone’s film Alexander.
Vanessa-Mae was the subject of a highly acclaimed BBC science documentary which analysed the relative roles of nature and nurture in creating her extraordinary talent. Vanessa-Mae also brought her expertise to and excelled as a judge on ITV's hit entertainment show Popstar to Opera Star.
Voted one of the “50 Most Beautiful People In The World” by People magazine, a “Top 100 Beauty” by Now and one of the “World’s 100 Sexiest Women” by FHM, Vanessa-Mae has appeared in some of the world’s most prestigious magazines and has worked with some of the world’s most renowned photographers. She is currently in The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s worldwide advertising campaign. She created a sensation at Paris fashion week with her catwalk debut for Jean-Paul Gaultier’s show where she gave a surprise impromptu performance with her violin whilst modelling the centrepiece of the show - the wedding dress.
Vanessa-Mae's second passion has always been skiing and, being of Thai descent, she was accepted by the National Olympic Committee of Thailand to represent them. Vanessa-Mae is now an Olympian, having qualified for and participated at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games! Her unique bridge from artist to athlete also led to her being the guest of honour at the first ever International Olympic Committee President’s Dinner and her appointment as a culture expert to the IOC on the development of Olympic policy.