November 7, 2013

Midori Dazzles at Bailey Hall

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Midori Goto, professionally known simply as Midori, has been professionally soloing with orchestras since the tender age of 11. Since her beginnings as a young prodigy, she has gained acclaim as a goddess of the violin. Midori today is known for her special proficiency at performing top of the list violin concerti and showpieces; each year, she performs up to 100 concerts worldwide. When concertgoers came to her recital at Cornell Tuesday, they may have expected crowd pleasers — but this was not what they received. She did not play Sarasate; she did not execute a single Paganini caprice. She did not even tackle the cornerstone of violin sonatas, Beethoven’s Kreutzer, as her younger brother Ryu did when he visited campus just last month. Known for sticking between the boundaries of Bach and Bartók in performance repertoire choices, Midori seemed to be broadening her horizons. She chose a much more all-encompassing, albeit lengthy, program for those who came to Bailey Hall Tuesday evening.

Known for her eyebrow-raising taste in dresses, Midori floated onstage in a beautiful, free-flowing peach gown that fit snugly around her tiny midsection. She and her pianist, Turkish-American Özgür Aydin, bowed to the audience in welcome and began Mozart’s Sonata in F Major without saying a word. While this was certainly a Mozart sonata in all of its predictable levity, this particular sonata is not the obvious pick for a soloist. In fact, top-notch violinists rarely record it. True to classical sonata form, the piece lasted three movements, all of which fit comfortably into the concertgoers’ ear. By opening with a highly accessible piece, she allowed herself be vulnerable to the trained ear. And undeniably so, Midori is a perfectionist. In the opening movement, her brush strokes were pristinely clear and controlled despite the flighty character of the music. The call and answer phrases passed between Midori and Aydin immediately revealed a close bond between the two; they played with a familiar ease through the second movement of theme and variations. After a moderately slow and felt third movement, the duo came out for a commending two rounds of applause.

The work of the night was Bloch’s “Poème Mystique,” Sonata No. 2, a work she has recently recorded with the very pianist onstage with her. This one movement work challenges the standard sonata form, but in a refreshingly engrossing way; it was certainly a change of pace after Mozart. The piece opens with unaccompanied violin, playing a mesmerizing, soaring melody; the piano echoed these smooth lines. The music takes unexpected turns, launching into haunting harmonics and abrupt interval leaps in the violin part. Suddenly, a pause in both solo and accompaniment leads the listener to think the piece has ended; this is not so. Midori then launched into taxing, sul-G passages which she played with extreme control — she did not even break a bow hair. Wrapping up the piece with the drawn from its beginning, Midori gracefully leaned into the soft, muted phrases on tip-toe, as if she were a ballerina. In the final musical moment, Bloch sneaks in a Christian ingredient, a Gregorian chant that the piano and violin share; this moment is in complete juxtaposition to the Jewish elements the piece puts forth in style. The experience of hearing this distinctively crafted piece was certainly unrivaled all night.

Next on the program was Hindemith’s Sonata in E Major. Only two movements, the work was a short bridge to let the audience settle in again after intermission. The first movement, slow and languorous, was made entrancing by Midori’s long sustained notes above ominous piano accompaniment. The second movement picked up in intensity as violin battled piano for supremacy. Despite Midori’s miniature frame, she is quite the charismatic performer. Rocking back and forth as the melodies became more and more emotional, she drew listeners into the work before it ended, only a brief ten minutes after beginning.

Midori went straight into Gabriel Fauré’s Sonata No. 1 in A Major, arguably the most well known piece played that evening. The first movement held perhaps the most beautiful melody of the entire concert. The piano opens with the romantic phrase, which is passed off between violin and accompaniment until the two join together to play the theme near the end. Midori sweetly slid into each note of the matched theme without being too overdramatic; this moment was intensely breath taking. The piece continues into a slow second movement, in which Midori demonstrated her unmatchable sound without holding back her fluid lines. Through the fun, quick spicatto of the French scherzo movement and the shining character of the final, Midori maintained a dulcet balance with her equally adept pianist.

To close, the “Rondo Brilliant” by Schubert was delivered as a sort of built in encore. As Schubert is known for his undeniably catchy tunes, this piece was an enjoyable one to close on; it was the closest the audience would get to a well-known showpiece, that is for sure. Midori spent her bow the perfect amount through the quick, scaled runs of the piece that are interspersed between brilliant lines of downtempo melodies.

In the end, the breadth of the music Midori played was illuminating for the audience. By experiencing music that is not typically played by a professional touring soloist, those present received a unique gift. We were able to hear lesser-performed music by a virtuoso; for many, we were hearing these works at the highest quality we may ever hear them. While some may have left disappointed, this great range of works provided a much more erudite experience for the listener, rather than leaving us hearing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto for the umpteenth time.