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Everybody loves Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, even if everybody doesn’t realize it. This is the music used in the movie The Right Stuff. You remember.  It’s the dramatic film score when the astronauts became fighting mad and then put on their space suits for no apparent reason and walked in slow motion down that long hallway—I love that scene. The music you hear in the movie is only the orchestration from the Concerto. There’s a whole lot of solo violin in the piece, and to the unaccustomed ear, all that solo violin can sound a bit tedious. I like the piece, and I have found the violin solo a bit tedious. The performances I’ve heard in the past have been technically accurate, even beautiful.  But something seemed missing. Then I watched a video of Midori’s performance with the Berlin Philharmonic.  

I think I simply didn’t understand the piece before I heard her play. To me, in the past, the violin solo seemed more an exercise in running scales than meaningful music. But hers was a performance of passion, mind, body, and soul. Her sensitivity with the notes released a deftness of sound, which bound my emotion and emptied all guile. 

At the end of my first hearing, I thought if Tchaikovsky were alive and had been sitting in that audience, he would have wept, realizing Midori had made his music her own. 

Most people remember her as the fourteen year-old girl who broke two E strings during her performance of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto (a difficult piece) in Tanglewood with conductor Leonard Bernstein. Unfazed, she had turned to the first violinist and switched her 7/8 sized violin for his full sized and resumed playing. The first violinist later said he first though she wanted him to fix the sting but then realized what she was doing. Soon, she broke his E string and turned to the second violinist and borrowed his.  Bernstein had to pause the orchestra about two beats the first time, but the second time she switched violins and resumed playing in a fluid motion.  After the performance, Bernstein enthusiastically fawned over her; and the audience went wild. 

It’s this kind of confidence that allows Midori to play to the edge, to produce the raw emotion from music not always known for unbridled sentiment. I’m so very glad I discovered this artist. She’s the benchmark. Everyone else is just plucking strings. 

According to Wikipedia, Midori’s violin is the 1731 Guarnerius del Gesù “ex-Huberman” on lifetime loan from the Hayashibara Foundation. 


MIdori performs Tchaikovsky
Midori performs Sarasate Zapateado

See Midori's web site for concert schedule: http://www.gotomidori.com/english/ 

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