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Known for his signature sense of style as well as his musical artistry, French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet insists that he never would perform in “a boring old penguin suit.”

“The Frenchman in Red Socks,” as the pianist often is affectionately called, reports that he’s loved fashion since he “was a little boy.”

“I met a lot of designers when I was a teenager, went to a lot of shows — and fashion became a part of my life,” he once told the publication Houston Culture Map. “I think that fashion is also important because of how classical music is viewed as rigid and old-fashioned. Why is it that men are relegated to wearing tails [a tradition that is more than 300 years old], and ladies can wear dramatic gowns and have costume changes at every break? And why would I have to look like a stupid penguin because that’s how things are? That’s just ridiculous.”

So when Thibaudet joins violinist Midori for an SCP Chamber Music recital on April 14, don’t expect him to take the stage in something just off the rack.

“Rigid clothes just give the wrong impression of classical music, dusty, old and boring,” he said. “People can relate to you more in clothes that they can identify with.”

TOP: Sporting an iridescent tuxedo jacket, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last season. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018