Classical Views: In a word: Midori
The famous violinist Midori is coming to Allentown to solo with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and the first question of the day is: Does anyone know her real last name?
Midori has been a remarkable violinist from a very young age. She took the route that is more often used in the rock and pop market of performing under just one name, Midori. For many years, few people knew that her full name is Midori Goto.
Midori, born in Osaka, Japan, began studying violin with her mother. At age 11, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic with conductor Zubin Mehta. That standing-ovation performance launched her soloist career.
Sometimes a young soloist doesn't make what I call the "curve," that tricky transition from child prodigy to mature adult soloist. Midori had no problem here and her career never wavered as she went from her teens into her 20s, soloing with the major orchestras of the world.
Second question of the day is: What is Midori doing now?
Midori is still soloing with orchestras all over the world, but she is also the Chair of the String Department at the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, where I went to school. She is a dedicated teacher who commits thousands of hours each year to teaching and developing one of the best string programs in the nation.
Midori is also dedicated to giving back, and in 1992 she created a foundation that helps to bring music to underserved neighborhoods in the United States and Japan. This foundation supports music instruction and concerts for New York City school children, chamber music recitals by Midori throughout the United States, an orchestra residency program with American youth orchestras, and a music-sharing program that provides traditional Japanese music and Western classical music performances to children in Japan.
But somehow, within her busy teaching schedule and touring, Midori, finds the time to come to places like the Lehigh Valley to perform. We are so lucky to have her as the featured soloist with the Allentown Symphony for the "Experience Midori!" concerts, 8 p.m. Nov. 16 and 3 p.m. Nov. 17, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.
Midori will perform the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2. Béla Bartok (1881-1945) is considered Hungary's greatest composer. This piece, written in 1938, utilizes melodies derived from Eastern European folk songs which are set in groupings of contrasting variations. The concerto expresses great musical lyricism. It is a virtuosic work demanding for soloist and orchestra.
In addition to the Bartok Violin Concerto, we will perform Brahms' Symphony No. 2, one of my favorite pieces. This symphony seems to capture the essence of a beautiful day and the peacefulness of being out in the countryside.
The concert also features Smetana's "The Moldau," a piece that takes us on a fascinating journey down the Moldau River in the Czech Republic. This tone-poem traces the small brook as it flows through the countryside, passing Bohemia's valleys, a wedding feast, forest woods, past the hunters, the wood nymphs, and the St. John Rapids, toward Prague and Vysehrad, the famous castle on the hill.
The Nov. 17 concert is preceded at 2 p.m. by the Young Musicians String Festival, which showcases about 50 young string players ages of 7 - 13, performing melodies from the pieces featured in the concert.
It is exciting to have Midori in the Lehigh Valley. She will be a wonderful role model for the young students.
Diane Wittry is Music Director-Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director (USA), International Cultural Exchange Program for Classical Musicians, Sarajevo Philharmonic, Bosnia; and author, "Beyond the Baton" (Oxford University Press).
Concert tickets: Miller Symphony Hall Box Office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown, AllentownSymphony.org, 610-432-6715