Named Toshiya after his father heard a recital by Toscha Seidel, Eto was the very first child to experience Shin’ichi Suzuki’s ‘mother-tongue’ technique of teaching the very young. His father approached Suzuki asking if it were possible to teach a four-year-old the violin and the Suzuki Method was born at that moment. After his graduation in Tokyo Eto’s musical development continued in the USA at the Curtis Institute and with Zimbalist at his summer ‘camp’ in Maine—it was Zimbalist who sponsored Eto’s Carnegie Hall début in 1951.
Eto became well known as a pedagogue himself, teaching at the Curtis Institute before returning to Japan in c.1961 and becoming a professor at the Toho Gakuen School, Tokyo. There is a Japanese competition in his name for junior and young violinists.
On record Eto’s playing taps into the mainstream European tradition of the second half of the twentieth century. His sound on these discs indicates the same well-disciplined style that was characteristic of Suzuki’s own playing and training in the German school as a pupil of Joachim’s faithful protégé, Karl Klingler. In Eto’s début recording of Tartini and Vivaldi sonatas (c.1956–1959), for example, there is a clean and considered approach which, whilst it makes no obvious concessions to period performance in the modern sense, is clearly sensitive to the material in a more generalised way—vibrato, whilst continuous, is tight and far from intrusive, and there is a general avoidance of what have since become known as more Romantic performance traits, such as tempo rubato and portamento. Eto’s technical command is sufficient to convey these works precisely, with some wonderfully tight trills in the Tartini and a suitably sunny disposition garnished with a cantabile richness in the Vivaldi. Arguably, his tone is a little thin and there is a lack of ultimate resonance in the lower registers of the instrument (although this may be a matter of recording engineering as much as anything else). The Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos (1958) under much-missed conductor Edward Downes are tidy and, perhaps, a little generically romantic. These are distinguished performances at moderate tempi, free of individualistic intrusions; ultimately they are not perhaps as exciting as many, but one should not deny Eto his sterling qualities of cleanliness and purity of line and sound.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist