Last night we played our first of four concerts with the violinist Midori, who is performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with us this weekend. Her visit here has been a puzzling one for me and perhaps for others in the orchestra as well.
Midori has been on the forefront of the concert violinist ‘scene’ since the age of 14 when she made the worldwide news playing three violins in rapid succession (due to broken E-strings) in her performance of Bernstein’s Serenade with the Boston Symphony and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood in 1987:
She last played with the Oregon Symphony in a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto (under conductor James Paul), and she was an engaging presence then, smiling and interacting with the orchestra and conductor. This time, a cloud seemed to enter the hall with her – gone were the smiles. Intensity and concentration were present, but not spontaneity and joy in music making. While from a distance she appears youthful, up close on the platform she seemed older, more worn than one would expect. She seemed more to be battling her instrument than at one with it – taking some extremes of interpretation in the Sibelius that seemed more a test of her internal fortitude than expressions of the beauty of the music.
I wonder what has happened in Midori’s life since her last appearance here. Clearly, there has been a marked change (at least outwardly) in her since the last time she was here.
This aside, she has something to say in her performance of the Sibelius concerto, but what exactly that is, I do not know. There could not be a more marked difference between her and Pinchas Zukerman, who was here two weeks ago. Where his playing is magisterial, extrovert, and effortless, hers is taut, introvert, and tortured. One has to wonder how long playing of this sort can be sustained over the course of a long career. Only time will tell.
NOTE: By the way – Yo-yo Ma’s performance next season has officially sold out, only 227 days ahead of the concert!