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November 2, 2009

Midori gives brilliant recital for Shriver Hall Concert Series

MidoriIt is hardly news that Midori is a superb violinist. At 14, she was already making waves for her technical polish and professional poise -- she hit the front-page of the New York Times at that age for the feat of playing Leonard Bernstein's "Serenade" flawlessly, despite having to change violins twice in mid-performance due to broken strings, as an awed Bernstein conducted.

Unlike any number of other prodigies, Midori developed steadily and deeply as a musician. Today, at 38, she remains in a class by herself. Her remarkable artistic maturity was reaffirmed Sunday evening in her thoroughly arresting Shriver Hall Concert Series debut.

She opened her program with the rather elusive Hindemith's E-flat major Sonata (Op. 11, No. 1), and proceeded to limn its subtle expressive power eloquently, supported ably by pianist Robert McDonald. Midori's pinpoint intonation, subtly controlled vibrato and poetic phrasing proved equally telling in Brahms' G major Sonata -- just the gentle way the violinist entered the musical dialog was in itself remarkably beautiful and affecting. I would have liked to hear more tonal richness and personality from McDonald in the Brahms work (and elsewhere in the program, for that matter), but the smoothness and clarity of his partnering held its own rewards.

The violinist produced a wealth of atmospheric coloring in

de Falla's "Suite Populaire Espagnole," phrasing the melodic lines like a great singer. For sheer fireworks, there was Ravel's "Tzigane," which Midori tackled with startling brio.

But the summit in this recital of Alpine peaks came when when she had the stage to her herself (along with the overflow from the sold-out house sitting there) for Bach's unaccompanied G minor Sonata. Here, Midori cast quite a spell with her blend of sterling virtuosity and vividly poetic phrasing. Even coughing and other assorted distractions in the audience could not distract from such intensely soulful music-making. (This wasn't the finest hour for the Shriver crowd. In addition -- Midori and McDonald had to wait for a persistent cell phone to be silenced before even starting the recital).

For an encore, the duo offered a delectable account of Kreisler's "Syncopation," a piece that sounds like a cross-pollination of Johann Strauss and Scott Joplin.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:15 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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