Virtuoso plays to all ages

Queen of Arts

Virtuoso plays to all agesBy LAURA LEIGH MONTEREY

It’s not uncommon to proclaim something to be “world class,” but in truth, it’s not often we get it. Music-lovers who attended Midori’s concert on Sunday, however, did.

In the first half of the concert, accompanied by Lithuanian pianist, Ieva Jokubaviciute, Midori performed the “Scherzo from F-A-E Sonata” by Johannes Brahms, “Sonata for Violin and Piano” by Claude Debussy, and “Bon Soir” by Debussy, arranged for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz. Immediately, Midori and Ieva were fully engaged. The music was, by turns, sweet or thundering, nostalgic or compelling.

Both musicians played with power and intensity as well as delicacy and temperament, alone and together, each in command, yet reflective of each other. Integrated.

“They were more a duet,” commented Anna McFarland, who attended the concert while visiting family for the weekend. “I liked that Midori had presence,” she said. “She performed the music. Her movements were like contemporary interpretive dance. It’s not just listening to the violin, but listening to an organic whole.”

Which is not to say that Midori is showy or flamboyant – she lets the music do that – but that she is not a bystander. Ieva, too, played with expression that went beyond simply engaging the instrument. Her own movements complemented Midori’s perfectly. Neither upstaged the other. The balance and synchronicity between them was itself a thing of beauty.

Intermission was when I realized just how many children and young people were attending. The Ridgecrest Chamber Music Society encouraged music teachers to promote the concert among their students, so judging from the lack of young people at other similar concerts, these children may have been almost exclusively from musical families. Perhaps music is good for us.

The second half of the concert began with a touching rendition of “Les Berceaux, Opus 28, No. 1,” by Gabriel Faure, and finished with the “Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Opus 108” by Johannes Brahms.

The standing ovation may not have brought on an encore, but Midori and Ieva graciously spent time taking questions from the audience. Asked what they liked to do in their free time, both of them commented on how music is consuming, although Midori, who has her degree in psychology, likes to read the history of the nations and peoples she visits, and Ieva delights in spending time with her 7-year-old daughter.

Midori’s greatest inspiration? Her mother. “She was a violinist, and I was inspired listening to her.” So much so that she began formal violin studies under her mother. When Midori was 5 years old, the family moved to New York from Japan, where she continued with the violin. She debuted with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta when she was only 11 years old. The success of that performance launched her study of violin and engagements at the highest level.

And yet, Midori herself carries no celebrity airs about her. Even after Q&A, she and Ieva mingled easily with adults and children, listening to their stories, giving words of encouragement, and taking compliments, as when 7-year-old Elizabeth Ahlin, a student of the guitar, told Midori that she enjoyed her music very much.

How is it that virtuosi of this caliber made their way to Ridgecrest?

According to Fran Rogers, spokesperson for Ridgecrest Chamber Music Society, Midori and Ieva were able to come here through the support provided by Partners in Performance, a nonprofit organization that Midori founded herself in 2003 for the sole purpose of bringing fine musical performance to smaller communities in outlying areas in partnership with smaller chamber music organizations.

RCMS is a member organization of Chamber Music America, a national nonprofit that provides professional musicians in small ensembles with means and avenues to progress in their musical careers. As a member, RCMS was contacted by PIP to apply for a grant which supplies artists for two consecutive years. This year, the visiting musician is Midori. “Not every musician at this level does this,” Rogers observed.

Indeed, in Midori and Ieva, we have world-class.

The chamber music ensemble coming next year is yet to be announced.

Pictured: Elizabeth Ahlin, age 7, tells Midori how much she enjoyed her music, explaining that while she was listening, the dolls she brought with her were dancing. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-09-27