By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Child-prodigy violinist Midori (she uses only that name) began to travel the world playing classical music after her first public performance, at age 6, in her home town of Osaka, Japan. After 40 years of globetrotting, she’s no stranger to this area.
“My impression of Seattle is that it’s a very, very beautiful place,” elaborated Midori, who presents a program of solo violin April 12 at Benaroya Hall. “It’s very green. I’ve been to Seattle for various reasons, mostly concerts, but meetings, conferences, and delivering lectures. I’ve always enjoyed it, so I’m very much looking forward to coming.
“There’s also this beautiful hall,” she added with a laugh, referring to Benaroya, “which I’m looking forward to playing in. So that’s just around the corner.”
Midori’s a second-generation professional. Her mother, Setsu Goto, worked as a classical violinist in Osaka, frequently taking her toddler daughter to orchestra rehearsals, where a tiny Midori would fall asleep sitting in the auditorium’s front row.
At age 2, Midori could hum a Bach concerto Setsu’s orchestra had been rehearsing. Then she tried grabbing her mother’s violin, which Setsu had to discourage because of the violin’s value. But mother bought daughter a miniature violin to call her own, and started teaching Midori on the latter’s third birthday, in 1974.
In 1982, at age 11, Midori moved to New York City with her mother, so she could attend the prestigious Juilliard music school, which offers courses to elementary, junior high, and high school-age young people. She studied with the prominent teacher Dorothy DeLay, who turned out top-notch violinists from all over the world for more than 50 years.
1982 was also the year the youngster got an invitation from conductor Zubin Mehta, to perform with the New York Philharmonic on New Year’s Eve. This led to engagements all around the globe.
“I’ve always enjoyed performing,” Midori emphasized. “I love the feeling of being onstage and, whatever the repertoire is, to be able to be with my violin, to express, and to share. This is my 40th anniversary season, so I’ve been performing for quite a long time, and this feeling of excitement, as I step out on the stage, has never changed. It’s always such a thrill.”
In addition to 40 years of performing, she’s also marking 30 years of her New York City charity, Midori and Friends.
“And I’m very, very excited, to see that this whole ambition has lasted this long, and continues to provide high-quality music education to New York City youth.
“It has been such a learning curve for me, and the pleasures that come with it, really have been incredible. To be able to share music, bring music, to give music education, to get my colleagues involved, to get so many people to actually collaborate, together, for the cause of bringing music and music education to youth in New York City. A wonderful experience.”
The Seattle program features three of her favorite pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Violin Sonata No. 2,” “Violin Sonata No. 3,” and “Partita No. 2.”
She’ll also showcase two pieces inspired by Bach, but written by contemporary, living composers. “Nun Komm,” from 2001, comes from Thierry Escaich, a French composer and organist, who writes for a variety of instruments. John Zorn’s “Passagen,” completed in 2011, marks a rare solo violin work from the flamboyant New York City musician.
“Of course, the solos, sonatas, and partitas of Bach are considered to be at the pinnacle of this repertoire,” Midori concluded. “There’s so much in these works. One never stops learning, and one never also stops being amazed by how beautiful, how incredibly intricate, these pieces are.”
Midori performs solo violin pieces on April 12, at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street in downtown Seattle.
For prices, showtimes, and other information, visit https://www.seattlesymphony.org/en/concerttickets/calendar/2022-2023/22recital3.