Midori’s mother, herself a violinist, first noticed her daughter’s musical aptitude when she heard the two-year-old humming a piece of Bach she had practised several days earlier. Midori was given a 1/16-size violin and by the age of six had performed one of Paganini’s caprices in Osaka. A friend sent a recording of Midori to Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard Pre-College, which led to an invitation to the 1981 Aspen Music Festival and subsequently lessons in DeLay’s violin class. Her début caused a sensation when Zubin Mehta presented Midori as guest soloist in the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert: she played Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1, according to Boris Schwartz, ‘with the aplomb of a veteran’. Further public recognition came in 1986 with her first appearance at the Tanglewood Festival, performing Bernstein’s Serenade under the composer’s baton. When she broke the E-strings of her own violin and the leader’s, but continued without missing a beat, Bernstein allegedly knelt in awe!
Midori’s discography comprises mostly standard repertoire, played in the established modern manner of mainstream virtuosity. Her tone is warm and flexible, largely without portamento but adorned with frequent (but carefully-modulated) application of vibrato. She demonstrates sensitivity to musical idiom and admirable fluidity of tone, free, for the most part, from intrusive mannerisms. Her 1999 Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos (perpetuating this famous pairing of works) are delivered cleanly and conventionally, without excessive tonal adornment and tapping into modern notions of normal musical taste. Her 1989 Bartók Concerto No. 1 admirably balances the ascetic with the nostalgic and is consequently a particularly fine interpretation, whilst her Debussy Sonata (2001) is bright and clear-cut. Of smaller works (recorded in 1992), Elgar’s Salut d’Amour includes stylistically apt slides between positions, whilst Sarasate’s Introduction et Tarantelle is suitably vivacious. Her Paganini Caprices (2003)—standard repertory for most virtuosi nowadays—show intelligent characterisation and considerable technical prowess, proving Midori’s worth as an exceptionally fine modern violinist.
Reflecting her strong belief in community, Midori has engaged in a number of music outreach projects including Midori and Friends (established 1992) and a Youth Orchestra Residencies Programme (from 2004).
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)