Sunday, January 10, 2010

Midori is not a liqueur

Midori at the LPO concert on January 9, 2010 in New Orleans

For those of you who don't already know my propensity for music, allow me to explain. My mother and uncles ran one of the oldest record stores in New Orleans for nearly 50 years. The inventory ran the gamut - from popular music to classical to Broadway to opera to New Orleans funk to rhythm and blues and even world music and country thrown in for good measure. I was first steeped in classical music appreciation as a child, but preferred the popular tunes for my first two decades. Later, I became an authority on all music because I sold it at the store and managed it after my broadcasting career was over. Even as a child working at the store on Saturdays, it was important for me to become familiar with the artists, repertoire and, in the case of classical and opera, to be able to recommend one performance over another. When CDs were a fairly recent addition, Deutsche Grammaphon helped launch the recording career of a young Japanese prodigy in several performances. Her name was Midori Gotõ, but everyone knew her simply as Midori. In the classical world, there are rare instances where a figure or personage has but one name. It is not unlike those one-named popular stars such as Cher, Madonna or Sting. Midori at 12 was an astonishingly accomplished star, who played like an experienced veteran of decades of play. She had been playing since she was seven and was a student at the Julliard School of Music for four years before she left as an artist in her own right. One night she played a performance at the Tanglewood Music Center, a music complex outside of Boston. In the middle of her play of the very difficult Bach "Chaconne," her e-string on her violin broke. She was forced to borrow the concertmaster's instrument in order to finish when that e-string also splintered. After she finished the concert with a third violin, Leonard Bernstein was reported to have bowed to her in admiration. She actually played here with the New Orleans Philharmonic back in 1986, but that was before the reorganization of that hallowed group into the present musician-run Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, a necessary outgrowth of self-preservation. To my delight Midori returned last night to New Orleans. She appeared on the Mahalia Jackson stage in a program along the side of the very capable Maestro Carlos Prieto. She played the Sibelius Violin Concerto, a 37-minute long classical ride that was both lilting and powerful. The support she received from the orchestra and the conductor was outstanding, but none of that lessened her skillful play nor her graciousness after the performance, when she insisted on greeting doyens at intermission. It was one of the opportunities that I could not pass by. I had 15 seconds to tell her how I used to sell her "records" and to have two pictures snapped of the now nearly 40-year old classical star. The first picture was of her alone beaming her lovely countenance and the second showed the two of us together that a member of the LPO staff took on my behalf. As you can see, it was a very proud night for me and the second half of the performance included one of my favorite symphonies, the Dvorak Symphony 9, titled "From the New World." It was an exquisite night of music and one I will always treasure. It is my understanding that Midori and the LPO will perform for local underprivileged youth today, part of the work she does now as a psychologist. This has been a lifelong passion for her. In 1992 she formed a group in New York City called Midori and Friends and has held numerous concerts to benefit the inner city youth there. About ten years ago she graduated from New York University's Gallatin School with a psychology degree and subsequently earned her master's degree in psychology a few years later. Midori is not only a great performer, but a great humanitarian too. Currently she is the strings department chair at the Thornton School of Music and the Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California near her Los Angeles home. If I am fortunate, I shall one day hear her perform yet another time.

No comments: