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CD Feature/ Midori: "The Essential Midori"

img  Tobias

What kind of selection could ever truly be considered „essential“ with this lady? Despite the obvious highlights of her recording career, compiling this release must have been hell for the classical department at Sony BMG Masterworks. Fans will probably assert that every singly note Midori has ever recorded should be regarded as seminal. Purists, on the other hand, will find it hard to believe that the soul of her repertoire could ever fully come to fruition on a sampler which joyously jumps from one episode of her life to the next. No one, it seems, has got anything to gain with a release like this one.

Or have they? As randomly juxtaposed as these extracts from a total of thirteen albums over a period of 20 years may seem at first sight, they are, in fact, imaginatively balanced and clevery sequenced. Starting with the naked truth of some of her solo performances and her duets with congenial Piano partner Robert MacDonald, culminating with a full disc of orchestral works and incorporating five of the ravishingly performed Paganini Solo Caprices of her 1988 debut as well as Bach's „Solo Violin Sonata No. 2“ taken from her most recent full-length last year, this record can, with some justification, be considered „incomplete but astoundingly representative“ - which, from my point of view, is a result worthy of the highest praise.

What „The Essential“ effectively demonstrates is that Midori, contrary to what some might think, has covered far more than the typical classical core pieces. Her heart beats just as passionately for Bruch as for Bach and her Tchaikovsky is as momentuous as her Bartok. In a time, when every self-respecting Violinist seems to consider it a virtue performing pieces by contemporary composers regardless of whether they actually enjoy them or not, the canon of her discography remarkably ends with the death of Fritz Kreisler in 1962. We'll leave the debate about whether or not that is a good or bad thing to others, but the honesty of this deliberate decision is a noteworthy statement in its own right and marks Midori as a musician with a strong sense of integrity.

It's not as if the tension arch she is spanning on „The Essential“ wasn't impressive as it is, either. The pieces that have dominated concert halls and living room listening sessions for the past decades and centuries are almost all represented here: Violin Concertos by Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Sibelius and Mendelssohn, a Beethoven Violin Sonata and Ravel's „Tzigane“. Midori plays these works both with a naive charm and a confident stroke and as though they had never been played before: Recognition and amazement have always been closely connected in her oeuvre.

Even though the dynamic large-scale opi on the second disc may offer a more monumental experience, a merely three-minute composition sums up this release best to me. Elgar's „Salut d'amour“ opens almost casually with MacDonald's lighthearted rhythmical Piano chords, before the duo feels their way forward into a cave of black sweetness and the unbearable pain and pang of love. Contrary to the cliche, Midori doesn't get louder and schmaltzy as the music progresses, but instead turns her tone down to a plaintive whisper filled with metaphorical poetry, as if caressingly wrapping her tongue around a ripe, dark cherry. Everybody has something to gain from performances like this one.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Midori
Homepage: Sony BMG Masterworks

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