When violinist Midori made her debut with the New York Philharmonic, she was only 11 years old, and in the 30-odd years since, she's developed an amazing career in international performance, musical outreach (her 21-year-old nonprofit Midori & Friends brings music education to underserved kids in New York) and higher education as chair of University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music strings department.
How genius strikes a toddler is still quite mysterious, but as the story goes, Midori's mother discovered the violinist's innate musical talent at age 2 when she heard her humming a snippet of Bach. Try not to compare yourself, or 2-year-olds you know. A story on yesterday's Morning Edition says that it's not clear whether or how a prodigy's brain is different from the brains of other children, but what is clear from a Midori performance (she goes by her first name only, like a classical music Madonna) is that she throws her whole body into the piece. Midori plays violin from the feet up.
Midori plays with the Louisville Orchestra on Friday night on Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major, conducted by music director Jorge Mester. The first half of the show features the orchestra on Sergei Prokofiev's rousing Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major. Tonight’s performance starts at 8 p.m. in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall. Get there early and catch WUOL's Daniel Gilliam giving a pre-show talk in the Mary Anderson room at 7 p.m.
I caught yesterday morning’s coffee classics concert performance (hint: if you can make it to the daytime shows, there’s free Heine Bros. coffee and Krispy Kremes in the lobby). Prokofiev’s finale on his No. 5 is a pretty tough act to follow – the symphony itself is a dance between fast and slow movements, alternately joyful and dreamy, that ends in an ebullient, dizzying flourish. (The Ukrainian-born composer created the piece as “a hymn to free and happy man” in 1944 against the backdrop of the bitter end of World War II.) But Midori is a stunning, kinetic performer. She and the orchestra held the audience in rapt attention throughout the Brahms concerto (especially lovely work by Jennifer Potochnic on oboe in the second movement, too).
The orchestra program notes are not to be missed, by the way. Did you know that Brahms came of age in Hamburg playing piano in a Red Light District saloon? And that the Stalinists once deemed Prokofiev’s music — his repertoire includes ballet scores for “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella” and the children’s classic “Peter and the Wolf” — degenerate?
(Speaking of things you don't learn in class, here's Stylus Magazine's list of the top ten classical music samples in hip hop. Example: Ludacris sampling both Mozart's “Requiem” and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 from “The New World” in his “Coming 2 America.” Happy Friday.)
And a taste of what you'll see tonight: here's Midoro playing the Brahms violin concerto with the Munich Philharmonic: