Midori is best known as one of the world's leading violinists, performing over 90 concerts worldwide each season, but she also touches people's lives in many other ways.
As Midori embarks on her 25th season before the public, in addition to maintaining her ambitious concert schedule, the focus of her energies is increasingly the community engagement activities she has initiated in the U.S. and Japan and her teaching responsibilities at the University of
During 2007-2008, Midori will make six trips to Europe and three to Asia. Among the highlights of her season is a unique project at Lincoln Center combining the music of J. S. Bach, Takemitsu and Schnittke. She will perform in Florida with the Cleveland Orchestra and will tour Japan with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Her third all-new-music recital tour will take place in Europe. Midori continues to devote significant energy to her numerous community engagement initiatives in the U.S. and in Asia and increases her commitment to USC's Thornton School of Music assuming the position of Chair of the Strings Department in September. Also in the 2007-2008 season, Midori will be featured on a new Sony BMG Masterworks release - sonatas of J.S.Bach (Solo sonata No.2 in A minor) and Bartok (No.1 in C-sharp minor with pianist Robert McDonald).
Midori is often asked when her talent first manifested itself; how, and when, her multidimensional career developed and what her various projects entail:
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan in 1971. From a very early age, she was attracted to the sound of the violin played by her mother, Setsu Goto. When Midori was four, her grandparents gave her a tiny violin of her own. Three years later, Midori gave her first public performance for an audience in Osaka playing a Paganini Caprice. She loved to practice and perform, and was surrounded by music at home. From an early age, Midori also became aware of her family's example as hardworking, highly motivated individuals with strong
She studied with her mother for several years, practicing with her every day. A visiting musician friend living in New York City heard Midori play and encouraged her mother to make a tape. As Setsu Goto held a small cassette recorder in her lap and, as the family's two dogs barked, Midori played the Paganini Concerto No. 1 and a Caprice, a Bach solo sonata and the Saint Sains Third Concerto. The tape ended up coincidentally in the hands of the prominent American violin teacher Dorothy DeLay,
When Miss DeLay first listened to the tape, she thought there had been a mistake. It was supposed to represent the playing of an eight-year-old child, but Miss DeLay thought it sounded like someone closer to twenty-eight years of age. She invited Midori to come to the Aspen (Colorado) Summer Music School and Festival in 1981, where they met for the first time. She later remembered that "at the beginning of the summer, every new student plays an audition. Midori came in and said she wanted to play the Bach Chaconne. We couldn't imagine a child of that age playing the Bach Chaconne. We thought we'd listen to two or three lines and she started and we couldn't stop her. We listened to the whole thing, not believing what we'd heard."
During her early years at Aspen, Midori met Pinchas Zukerman, who later said, "Out comes this tiny little thing, not even 10 at the time. I was sitting on a chair and I was as tall as she was standing. She tuned, she bowed to the audience, she bowed to me, she bowed to the pianist - and then she played the Bartok Second Concerto, and I went bananas. I sat there and tears started coming down my cheeks. I said, 'Do you play something else?' and through an interpreter, she said, 'Yes, the Sauret cadenza of the Paganini Concerto.' Ten years old, and she already played the Sauret cadenza like only a few people in the entire universe can do at any time! I'm talking about forever. And she had a tiny little half-size violin, but the sound that came out - it was ridiculous. I was absolutely stunned. I turned to the audience and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I have just witnessed a miracle.'"
Following her first summer at Aspen, Midori and her mother moved to New York City, where Midori studied at the pre-college division of the Juilliard School with Miss DeLay and attended the Professional Children's School for her academic studies. A few months later, Zubin Mehta, who had heard about Midori, contacted Miss DeLay to arrange for an audition. He invited a handful of New York Philharmonic players to stay behind after a rehearsal to listen to Midori. A rudimentary tape exists of Midori's audition for Zubin Mehta; nervous laughter betrays the astonishment with which the orchestra members took in the extent of her gift. In December, Midori made her debut with the New York Philharmonic. The New York Times reported, "[Midori's] command of [the Paganini Concerto's] torturous technical obstacles worked her audience into a fit of enthusiasm."
The following year, Midori made debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (where she performed Vivaldi's Concerto for Three Violins with Pinchas Zukerman and Isaac Stern, as well as the last movement of Saint Sains' Third Concerto). After her Toronto Symphony debut in 1985, she participated in the 'Hiroshima Peace Tour' assembled by Leonard Bernstein, as soloist with the European Community Youth Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein and Eiji Oue conducted the concerts in Europe and in Hiroshima, Japan, all of which were televised.
First Recordings for Philips and
Midori made the first of two recordings for Philips in 1986 (Bach/Vivaldi with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Pinchas Zukerman). The second, a Paganini/Tchaikovsky pairing with the London Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin, followed in 1987. During this same period, she gave first performances with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony, undertook her first European tour and made her now-legendary debut at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein conducting. The work was Bernstein's Serenade after Plato's 'Symposium' for Solo Violin, String Orchestra, Harp and Percussion.
In the fifth movement, Midori broke the E string and was quickly passed the violin of the concertmaster, continuing to play without missing a beat. When the unthinkable happened again and she broke the E string on the concertmaster's fiddle, she took the violin of the associate concertmaster. Both borrowed instruments were different in size - and both were larger than her own instrument - yet Midori was unfazed. When she came to the end, the audience and the orchestra erupted in applause and Bernstein fell to his knees. The following day, the front page of The New York Times read, "Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins."
Recordings for CBS Masterworks/Sony Classical/Sony BMG
In 1988, Midori signed an exclusive recording contract with CBS Masterworks, currently Sony BMG. Her recordings include live performances of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No.1 with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic; the Dvořok Violin Concerto with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, also recorded live; the two Bartok Violin Concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic under Mr. Mehta, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, with Mr. Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. 2001 saw the release of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, K364 (320d) with violist Nobuko Imai and the NDR Sinfonieorchester conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, and the reconstructed Concerto in D Major for Violin and Piano (K315f) with Mr. Eschenbach at the piano.
Other CDs byMidori include a Grammy-nominated recording of the Paganini Caprices for Solo Violin. She has recorded several discs of violin and piano repertoire with Robert McDonald including their Carnegie Hall recital debut in October 1990; the Elgar and Franck sonatas; Encore, a recording of virtuoso showpieces; and a duo recording of music by Saint-Sains, Debussy and Poulenc that won the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik.
Midori's 20th Anniversary Album, released in 2002, features a combination of recital and orchestral repertoire. With Robert McDonald she performs compositions by Debussy, Kreisler, Prokofiev, Elgar, Amy Beach and Ede Poldini and, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin, she performs the Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 1, recorded in 1988 for radio. Midori's recording of the Bruch G minor and Mendelssohn E minor concerti, recorded live with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Mariss Jansons, was released in 2003. It won the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, was CD of the Week on BBC Radio 3 and "Editor's Choice" in Gramophone magazine.
Believing that a recording is a '"record of who I am at any given point in time with indefinite life beyond my own physical life," Midori chooses to record works only after she has lived with the music for a long time and feels ready to commit it to disc. Her recent concerto recordings are only made live, with the unique excitement of actual performances.
Sony BMG has further plans to record diverse repertoire, including concertos, solo works and chamber music.
Concerts: late 1980s to the Present
Midori continued to expand her performing horizons in the late 1980s, making debuts with the London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Chicago and San Francisco symphonies and the Los Angeles and Israel Philharmonics. She also performed for the first time at the Hollywood Bowl and at summer festivals including Mostly Mozart (New York), Blossom (Cleveland) and Ravinia (Illinois), and made recital tours of Germany and Italy.
1990 was a banner year for Midori during which she gave debut recitals at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in Philadelphia, in London and at New York's Carnegie Hall. She also was the soloist at the Boston Symphony's Opening Gala, made debuts with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, NDR (Hamburg) and Czech Philharmonic and took part in the inauguration of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan with the LSO and Leonard Bernstein, which included some of the last concerts he conducted before his death.
Highlights of the early 1990s for Midori included her debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Bayerischer Rundfunk, her first collaboration with Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony, her London Proms debut with Mariss Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic and recital debuts in Boston, Cleveland, New York (Avery Fisher Hall), Vienna (Musikverein), Amsterdam and Warsaw.
As the years progressed and Midori's career was well established, there were fewer debuts and more re-appearances. Today she maintains close relationships with a number of orchestras and conductors; each time she returns, the musical and personal relationships deepen, often with rewarding musical results.
Of course, there are always new venues in which to perform and in the late 1990s, Midori expanded her recital horizons to include concert halls in England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Poland, France, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Japan and Hong Kong. She also renewed an interest in chamber music, spending several summers as a participant at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont and performing chamber music in London, New York, Cincinnati,
Philadelphia and Boston.
The 2002-2003 season, the 20th of Midori's performing career, was celebrated with a tour of Asia, performances at a wide array of Europe's premiere summer festivals and appearances with major American and European symphony orchestras. Three recital tours with Midori's longtime collaborator, pianist Robert McDonald - two in Europe and a third in the U.S. - culminated in a 20th anniversary recital at Carnegie Hall. Throughout the season Midori made a point of performing with many of the international orchestras and in the key concert halls around the world that have played an important role in the development of her career.
In 2007-2008 Midori appears with the Philadelphia Orchestra/Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony/Leonard Slatkin, followed by a U.S. recital tour with pianist Robert McDonald. Midori makes three additional recital tours this season, one more in the U.S. with Robert McDonald, and two to Europe with pianist Charles Abramovic. Midori's spring new music tour with Mr. Abramovic features the music of MacMillan, Penderecki, Lindberg and Adams, plus a number of new compositions commissioned for the occasion by her European presenters. Aside from her appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony, Midori's concerto engagements for the season include performances with the RSO Frankfurt/Hugh Wolff, the National Arts Centre Orchestra/Ludovic Morlot, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Sir Charles Mackerras, the Cleveland Orchestra/Giancarlo Guerrero (in both Cleveland and at the Orchestra's annual residency in Florida), the LSO/Daniel Harding, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic/
Midori and Friends & Music Sharing
Following in her family footsteps,Midori has always been interested in community engagement. In 1992, when she was twenty - an age at which many of her contemporaries were deciding what courses to take in their senior year of college - she added an important dimension to her life when she founded the first of her non-profit organizations, Midori & Friends, in response to alarming budget cuts in arts education. Its mission is to bring broad music education to public school children in New York City. Midori devotes a significant part of each season to her work with Midori & Friends, which offers instrument instruction and general music education, workshops and concerts to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity for involvement in the arts. Midori performs at many of the schools, as do musicians representing other musical genres, from jazz players to African drummers to Chinese flutists, and more. Midori & Friends also presents an annual all-day children's music festival in New York City.
In September 2002 the Japanese government granted non-profit status to Music Sharing, the organization Midori founded to concentrate on music education for young people in Japan. In Music Sharing, the special focus is on both classical music and traditional Japanese music. Midori performs only Western classical music but she has succeeded in recruiting traditional Japanese musicians to share their music with the children as well. The programs, which are offered to youth orchestras, public schools, children's hospitals and special institutions, place an emphasis on active audience participation and collaboration. Music Sharing also has important training programs for future teachers and young musicians and an instrumental instruction program for children with disabilities.
In 2006, Music Sharing added a community engagement program that sponsored a weeklong training experience for young musicians while they visited community venues in Vietnam. Aspiring musicians eager to learn about outreach joined Midori in ensembles that performed in schools, hospitals and other institutions in Vietnam, including some in rural areas with limited access to live music. The young musicians also performed music from both the Western Classical and the Vietnamese tradition with counterparts in Vietnam. Music Sharing's International Community Engagement Project in 2007 takes place in Cambodia.
Midori as a Student and as a Teacher
In 1995, Midori began her own college education at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. This surprised many people, as she was already established in a successful career, but, in her own words, "I was just continuing to satisfy my thirst for knowledge." At NYU, where Midori studied liberal arts, she had tutorials with her professors and attended classes but did a great deal of reading and paper writing in hotels, dressing rooms and libraries - wherever she found herself between performances and her other myriad responsibilities. She graduated in 2000 with a B.A. 'magna cum laude' in psychology and gender studies and completed her Masters degree in psychology in 2005.
From the mid-1990s Midori became a violin teacher herself, giving master classes to advanced violin students and teaching at the Manhattan School of Music from 2001-2006. Her teaching style reflects her own multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary educational background. Midori was named to the Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music starting in the autumn of 2004. At USC, Midori gives individual violin instruction and teaches chamber music. A key component of her chamber music syllabus is the requirement that, each semester, her students should perform at several locations on campus outside the music building as a way of learning to engage with new audiences. In September 2007, Midori additionally assumed the position of Chair of the Strings
Department at USC.
Midori worked closely with colleagues at USC to create the Midori Center for Community Engagement at the Thornton School of Music at USC, which includes a resource library and sponsors seminars to help musicians learn the art of engaging with communities.
Total Experience, Orchestra Residency Program, Partners in Performance and University Residency Program
As a performer, Midori is committed to developing innovative educational and community-based outreach programs in conjunction with presenters and other artists. As part of her 20th anniversary celebrations, Midori planned and initiated a project called Total Experience in which she worked with 13 towns in Japan around the concept of "kizuna" - the Japanese word for relationships and interconnectedness. Total Experience brings artists, presenters, audiences and communities together to experience the theme in as many different and creative ways as possible and involved Midori giving a series of concerts and appearances as well. In 2005, Midori created another Total Experience model, this time in collaboration with arts management majors at universities in Niigata and Atsugi, Japan. This series was based on the concept of "Wa," which roughly translates as link, circle, or cycle.
Applying the Residency concept to orchestras in smaller cities, Midori established an Orchestra Residencies Program (ORP) in 2004-2005. Over the period of a week, she works closely with a local youth orchestra with ties to a small professional orchestra, performing, coaching young musicians, appearing at benefits and subscription series concerts and working with both orchestras to raise arts awareness within the community. The first Orchestra Residencies Programs were conducted in Alaska, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana, and North Carolina. In 2007-2008, there will be Orchestra Residencies in Iowa
and South Dakota.
In October 2001, Midori was awarded the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. The prize came with a cash award, which Midori devoted to a new foundation called Partners in Performance (PiP), whose aim is to broaden the audience for chamber music by bringing high profile chamber music performances to small community-based organizations in North America. Each year, through PiP, Midori donates her services to institutions or concert presenters outside the major concert tour circuit. Proceeds from the concerts are used to fund projects, programs or equipment at the discretion of the Program grantees. Since its inception, Partners in Performance concerts have been presented in Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. In the 2007-2008 season, Midori and Robert McDonald give PiP recitals in four small communities, two each in Montana and Minnesota. Midori intends to involve other performing artist colleagues in future PiP presentations in order to benefit as many institutions as possible. Beginning in 2008-2009, PiP will add a young artist component to its program.
For Midori, performing is a means to bring people together - not only other musicians and traditional classical music audiences but a broader element of the community as well. This has proved enormously successful in her Total Experience program in Japan and, at the outset of the 2003-2004 season, Midori inaugurated another such community-based project, the University Residencies Program (URP). Intended to strengthen ties among artists, students, faculty, and University-affiliated presenters, residencies involve ten-to-fourteen-day visits (spread out over two years) by Midori and other invited artists. The first URP partner was North Park University in Chicago (NPU), with the first cycle beginning in November 2003. At NPU, she worked closely with faculty to reach out to music and non-music majors through various activities. During the residency, Midori rehearsed a chamber music program with music students, visited NPU Design and Feminism classes, took part in a Chapel discussion about community service and a student press conference run by journalism students, and took tea with North Park students in the Library. She also gave a recital with pianist Jonathan Feldman. During the second cycle of the residency at NPU in November 2004, Midori performed the Beethoven and Sibelius violin concertos with the University orchestra as well as a formal recital with Robert McDonald. Both Midori and McDonald participated in chamber music workshops and students took leadership roles in planning cross-departmental activities with them. In the 2004-2005 season, as Midori took part in the second half of her NPU residency, she also did the first part of a residency in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
In a refreshing juxtaposition of repertoire, Midori's first new recording in five years, features J.S. Bach's Unaccompanied Sonata No.2 in A Minor with Bartok's Sonata No.1 in C-sharp Minor. The SONY BMG Masterworks recording pairs Pianist Robert McDonald with Midori in the Bartok. "Both in my own personal listening and in concert programs, I really enjoy combining works from diverse historical periods - I believe they shed light on one another in the most wonderful way," says Midori, "so I thought it would be terrific to put these two great sonatas next to one another on a recording."
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