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Gil French
American Record Guide, May 2011

the gorgeous engineering is embracingly warm and superbly balanced, a model for all engineers and ideal for testing the smoothness of any sound system.

[Midori’s] technique is absolutely perfect, and her virtuosity impeccable, and she plays the long first movement with such long-lined lyricism, deliberate glissandos, and assurance in her changes of tempo between themes that I listened to Paganini’s music with respect rather than as a shallow showpiece.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.



Mike D. Brownell
Allmusic.com, March 2011

Japanese-born violinist Midori emerged as a sensational child prodigy, making her New York Philharmonic debut at the staggering age of ten. She was quickly taken under the wing of conductor Zubin Mehta and began her recording career began. Unlike so many child prodigies whose rapid ascension to fame often results in just as rapid of a burnout, Midori has retained her standing as a respected and sought-after artist and humanitarian. Her early recordings clearly demonstrate her almost unbelievable technical prowess while her later albums have shown that she has built upon the solid technical foundations to include sincere, satisfying musical understanding as well. This Newton Classics album stems from early in Midori’s career—1987—with recordings of the Paganini First Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique, Op. 26, and Valse-scherzo, Op. 34. While her playing at this young age is far from cold, it is definitely more rigid and less fluid than her adult contributions. The pyrotechnics in the Paganini concerto are certainly the highlight of the album as Midori effortlessly tosses them off as though she’s playing nothing more than a scale. The two Tchaikovsky works offer fewer opportunities to show off technical abilities and as such are slightly less dazzling than the Paganini. Fans of this exceptional artist will, however, find merit in this album as a testament to the increase in musical introspection that has come to Midori with age.



Andrew Morris
MusicWeb International, January 2011

If you’ve noticed a slew of red-topped Newton Classics discs appearing in online catalogues and stores, the good news is that their mining of the recorded past is set to continue and will ultimately lead to new recordings of their own. One such reissue is this early recording by Japanese-American violinist Midori, who set these pieces down on disc at the age of just 13. Her subsequent success has seen her avoid the pitfalls of such early precocity and forge a continuously rewarding solo career. That first flush of talent is captured here and makes for startling listening.

From her first entry in Paganini’s First Violin Concerto, Midori’s playing demands no special allowances for her age. She’s extrovert and characterful and has a greater perfection of intonation than some of her prominent seniors. If you were without prior warning, you’d never know that this super confident playing belonged to one so young. Her subtle slides are stylish and in the taxing cadenza she remains unfazed and commanding. In this Concerto, she is certainly superior in technique to Ilya Kaler on Naxos (8.550694) and though Hilary Hahn is more crisply characterful and rhythmically incisive (Deutsche Grammophon 4776232), that hardly reduces Midori’s achievement. If age is at all telling, it is in the more purely melodic moments which lack the expressive shading and nuance of a more mature musician.

It’s this lack of maturity that makes Midori’s performances of the two Tchaikovsky items less appealing. Although she still plays with a full, attractive tone, her way with the growing melody of the Sérénade Mélancolique is a little one-dimensional. Once set, the dynamics and weight on the bow alter little and she suggests little in the way of spontaneity. The bounce of the Valse-Scherzo is absent, and Leonard Slatkin’s leaden direction in the orchestral introduction doesn’t help. It may seem churlish to pick on aspects of musicianship that a 13 year old cannot yet possibly have developed, but if you’re going to buy this disc for the repertoire alone, you’d be best looking for alternatives in the Tchaikovsky.

Ultimately, this reissue works best as a document of a remarkable case of early talent, with Midori offering a very enjoyable performance of Paganini’s D major concerto and a technical security far beyond her years. The violin is consistently well recorded, though sits rather more prominently in the mix than the orchestral accompaniment.



Infodad.com, December 2010

PAGANINI, N.: Violin Concerto No. 1 / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Serenade melancolique / Valse-Scherzo (Midori, London Symphony, Slatkin) NC8802028
DEBUSSY, C.: Preludes, Book 1 and 2 (excerpts) (Bolet) NC8802026

There are so many wonderful ways to give gifts to music lovers this season that it is almost possible to pick the name of a CD out of a hat and simply get the lucky recipient whatever comes up. Several hats, rather—musical tastes do differ, after all, and it makes sense to pick from the right kind of hat so as to have a better chance of coming up with something that the person will really enjoy. One hat could be labeled “traditional classical music,” for example. A fine choice from that would be either of two new Newton Classics CDs of music recorded in the late 1980s. Someone interested in the Romantic violin and in youthful performances by the violinist Midori will surely be charmed by her strong handling of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto, which she plays with real flair in this 1987 recording, and by the warmth and expressivity she brings to two well-known and dark-tinged Tchaikovsky works. A person who prefers the solo piano could scarcely go wrong with Jorge Bolet’s 1989 performance of 16 Chopin Préludes, in which the impressionistic tone painting comes through as clearly as does the virtuosity.



Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press, December 2010

Newton Classics, a Dutch reissue label, has released one of star violinist Midori’s first recordings, a dazzling sprint through Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major recorded in 1987 for the Philips label when she was 15 (***). Detroiters will be intrigued to find Leonard Slatkin is on the podium to conduct the London Symphony.

Midori’s technical command and projection are astounding, and it feels like quibbling to point out that other violinists offer more joy—a devil-may-care attitude has never really been Midori’s strength. Slatkin applies more care and nuance to the orchestral accompaniment than you often hear. Two smaller Tchaikovsky showpieces are given sweet and satisfying performances.



John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, November 2010

You remember Midori, the young teenage violinist whose exceptional skills made such a name for her. Yeah, well, that was over two decades ago. Amazing how time flies by. Now, Newton Classics has re-released one of the recordings that made her famous, from 1987 the Paganini Violin Concerto, and we can marvel once again at her command of the instrument. Of course, in the past twenty years about 800 other child prodigies have come and gone, and, indeed, one may wonder what's become of Midori Goto. Fortunately, her Web site (http://www.gotomidori.com) indicates she is alive and well and continues to perform up a storm all over the world.

Anyway, what we've got here is a work that matches her talents. Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) wrote his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 6, between 1815 and 1818 (the exact date remains unclear), largely as a showpiece for his own virtuosic prowess, so it's filled with a wealth of showy details that have dazzled audiences over the years. There has been some question about the principal tonality of the piece as well as the instrumentation, the composer having apparently written the solo and orchestral parts in different keys, with varying orchestral support, resulting in what appeared to listeners of his day as musical legerdemain. Midori plays the more-commonly accepted arrangement of the work.

Leonard Slatkin and the London Symphony adopt a quick-paced gait for the introduction, all the better, perhaps, to highlight Midori's often blazing technique. Yet for all her sparkling fluency, she is a sensitive interpreter, and it is the lighter, more-lilting sections of the score that she illuminates best. OK, so the cadenza seems to go on forever; it's a minor quibble. There is a subtle and appropriate melancholy that underlines Midori's playing of the Adagio, and the concluding Rondo has almost all the bouncy good cheer it demands.

Of the accompanying works, the booklet notes remind us that although Tchaikovsky only concerned himself with solo violin music for a short time during the 1870's, he left us with several fine examples of the genre. He wrote the Serenade melancolique in 1875 for the violinist Leopold Auer. It's a brief, slow piece that Midori plays with a passionate longing. The final work on the disc is the Valse-Scherzo, as much a showpiece as the Paganini, again demonstrating what Midori can do with a violin.

Recorded by Philips in May of 1987, the sound is nicely open and full, with a splendid ambient bloom on all the instruments. The recording tends slightly to emphasize the left and right sections of the orchestra, it's true, yet it's not enough to distract one's attention. When the violin enters, it appears properly centered, and we tend to understand why the audio engineers decided to divide the orchestra somewhat behind her. The violin itself is well balanced with the sound of the other instruments and displays a brilliant, natural shimmer. While the engineers could have captured a little more dynamic range and a deeper bass, the sound is realistic enough to please most listeners.

I have to admit I still enjoy the Paganini recordings of Michael Rabin (EMI), Itzhak Perlman (EMI), and Hilary Hahn (DG) best for their greater dash and sparkle, but there is certainly a place for this reissue of Midori's account in any fan's collection.



Norman Lebrecht
Dilettante, November 2010

Aged 15, Midori recorded Paganini’s first concerto and two Tchaikovsky pieces with Leonard Slatkin and the LSO. Reissued on an independent Dutch label, it’s a breath-taking performance, too closely miked but demonstrating beyond shadow of dissent the difference between true young talent and the common run of showboat debutantes.






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4:40:30 AM, 21 August 2014
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