AUTHOR: Islet Xue 薛安琪
Original Print: Vantage Shanghai Official Website
Japanese-American violinist, Midori Gotō, has dazzled audiences worldwide with her impressive technique and sublime virtuosity on stage. What shines brightest, however, is her approachable charisma offstage.
Japanese-American violinist Midori Gotō came from a very musical family and was influenced by her talented mother who is also a violinist. In true prodigy fashion, she made her debut in 1982 at 11 years old at the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert, conducted by the legendary Zubin Mehta. She continues to win the hearts of millions with her increasing maturity of the sound, smooth phrasing and the incandescent purity of her technique. In 2004, Midori was named the Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. At USC, she gives individual violin instruction, while also teaching chamber music.
Vantage was granted an exclusive opportunity to interview the maestro the day before her concert.
The performance held at Shanghai Concert Hall is part of Midori’s Bach Project. Bach’s complex contrapuntal structure and constant variations were interpreted by Midori with a flawless purity and without any further ornamentation. During the performance, instead of traditionally holding her violin at its nut, she placed her hand slightly higher to accommodate more flexibility and withhold certain sounds of the Baroque style. Her tiny body could be seen naturally moving along with her illuminating the different episodes of the pieces. Midori played with eloquent phrasing and expressivity in order to deliver the dynamic colorings and nuanced sensibility of Bach which regaled Shanghai’s audiences.
Midori carried her violin on both of her shoulders while walking towards me, wearing a very light-colored long dress in a beautiful flower print. I complimented her dress and she laughed, jokingly replying, “This is the same dress I wore this from the states, you know, my suitcase got lost.”
A soft-spoken and small-framed lady, I can’t help but be reminded of a quote from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” The “ferocity” refers to the way she electrifies mighty masterpieces on stage accompanied by symphony orchestras composed of over 100 musicians.
Q&A (I=Islet M=Midori)
I: You have been evoking awe and striking inspiration for young musicians throughout the world. Who was your major musical influence?
M: I think my overall influence is from the feelings, opportunities and experiences that I have had. It’s not only a single or a handful of musicians. Your own life experiences form your personality and the way you think and the way you carry on your life. But I would also say musically my mother was quite influential because she was my first violin teacher. Without her teaching me the violin, I would never be where I am today.
I: Are you shifting most of your time from performing to coaching? Which role you enjoy the most? Teaching, performing or doing community outreach?
M: I am doing a lot of everything. It is so great to feel that somehow time has expanded. All of these added experience is able to be coordinated or for me to conceptualize much quicker, so therefore it even give me more time to be active.
Throughout the year, I don’t take breaks and I don’t take summers off. I teach from August to May and participate in community work throughout. But I’ve learned to switch my thinking very quickly and do all of these things simultaneously.
I: Music composed by Sibelius and Korngold took quite a while to be received by audiences in the arena of contemporary music. As a great advocate for commissioning contemporary music, what do you find challenging or exciting about playing new works?
M: Not only the new works. I find challenging areas in all the pieces I get to play, even Bach when I had been playing his pieces for years. I have never lost excitement about playing whether it is a classic concerto or new concerto, or working with composers. As part of this anniversary season, I am playing a new violin concerto written by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös (“”DoReMi” scrambles Midori’s name, and that inspired Eötvös to play around with the first three notes of the scale. Note from editor)
I: You have also played some premier works. How’s your experience with playing those new pieces? While almost all of the well-known violin works were composed in 18th and 19th centuries, the late 20th century didn’t really leave to us many modern pieces as melodic as the classical. What do you think of the contemporary violin composition?
M: I love having the opportunity to learn and perform new works, and also to collaborate, as appropriate, with living composers. With new works, we gain something that those traditional pieces don’t have for audiences today. That is, the new works offer us a glimpse into a living composer’s mind and into the world that we all live in. For this reason, contemporary compositions are sometimes able to communicate incredibly effectively with today’s performers and audience members. It should also be noted that music does not have to be conceptualized in terms of melody. Music is an artistic and aesthetic expression of sounds.
I: As a violinist with an Asian background, have your ethnic heritage and roots been embedded in your music expression or the way you interpret classic pieces?
M: People say Asians are hard working and that there are certain types of music written in specific contexts and environments relevant to our heritage. But you know the world now is so globalized and there is so much influence of different cultures. We are influencing each other and are being impacted by others. Through all kinds of technological advances, we now have access to any kind of traditional or regional music that used to be very contained to their locale. Without knowing it, we are being influenced everyday.
V: How do you like Shanghai so far?
M: I love Shanghai. I have been here a few times. My assistant is from Shanghai so I am very fortunate to have access to all of these views and local culture outside the confines of my hotel. Oh and I love shanghai food!
Postscript from Author
I had hesitantly asked Midori if I could have a glimpse of her prized 1734 Guarnerius violin, and without a second’s thought, she showed me the beautiful instrument and even allowed me to hold it. It was so surreal and I felt truly privileged to feel and touch this priceless violin; a piece that is on loan to her for her lifetime, from the Hayashibara Foundation.
She has not only commanded the rapturous respect of international music critics and revered musicians, but also and most importantly, she has generously spread her enthusiasm for music to the global community. Midori has committed herself to several community outreach programs to improve the state of the world by the power of music. Midori takes great pains to give back to music community, through her own foundation Midori and Friends, which she founded in 1992. This foundation has served as a cornerstone for music instruction, especially to kids with special needs and those coming from underserved backgrounds.
Named a Messenger of Peace by United Nations in 2007, she has created a new model for connecting young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives. Midori was on her way to attend a concert for autistic children in the evening following the interview. “I feel very privileged and grateful that I am able to help these kids through this work,” says Midori. “ My hope is that there would be more encouragement and opportunities for all musicians to become more involved in community engagement. Unfortunately, despite the fact that communities all over the world stand to benefit from outreach by professional and pre-professional musicians, limited resources and, in some cases, a lack of awareness mean that it can be difficult for musicians to have these opportunities. Therefore, a proactive approach is very helpful. “
I am a huge fan of Midori and seeing her in person is dream come true to me. My father saw her last year in Shenzhen and he was extremely impressed by Midori’s humility in the way she was giving autographs to every single audience member after the concert and didn’t even take time to rest.
She has astounded audiences worldwide with her impressive technique and sublime brilliance on stage. What sets her apart from usual musical prodigy is her warm and welcoming magnetism behind the scenes. Midori, I would say, is undoubtedly a master in every facet of her life: she is a virtuoso violinist, humanitarian, peace messenger, mentor, and on the top of everything, a truly genuine person of superlative grace and generosity.
AUTHOR: Islet Xue 薛安琪
The traditional indoor concert is the closed space with delicate and seamless architectural acoustic design catering to give the full and original sound to the audience. However, it also puts restrictions such as the dress code, silence of the mobile phones, prohibit of photography, and no talking. Meanwhile, it also cripples the intimacy and the connection between audience and the music itself. The rite of going to outdoor music festival or concert is epidemic and is being put into people’s agenda of entertainment and recreation. Outdoor Classical Concert, also called Open Air Classical concert, is a roaring craze among the new generation especially those who have rarely attended any former indoor concerts otherwise. It has formed a tradition in western countries with most of the concerts take place in the summer as part of its regional music festivals to celebrate its own cultural tradition as well as to attract more tourists around the world.
The concept of outdoor classical concert is to bust classical music out of the ivory tower of all the solemn, delicacy, elegance into spaces where both casual listeners and connoisseurs can go. It gives the freedom and joy to the audience which allows them to whisper to one another and even sip a glass of wine during the concert. The form of “outdoor” concert combines seamlessly the nature with music which not only extend the possibility of space where the music is delivered; increase the capacity of people participating; transform the conventional mode of appreciating classical music. Moreover, it enables the audiences to connect themselves to the music under a more relaxing ambience.
It is especially well received for its family-friendless where you can immerse your kids in the high-end music without forcing them to straighten clothes and sit properly. The programs most likely include some light-hearted or cantabile pieces that comes along perfectly with summer breeze. In addition, outdoor concerts can help to foster a new demographic who might be potential regular concert-goers in the future.
Below are the best outdoor music venues in the world that have perfected the combination of sight and sound for your viewing pleasure.
· Hollywood Bowl (LA, CA, the United States)
Hollywood Bowl(LA, CA, the United States)
· Wembley Stadium(Brent, London)
· Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (Vienna, VA)
· Nikon at Jones Beach Theater (Wantagh, NY, the United States,)
· La Pinède Gould (Antibes, France)
· Kindl-Buehne Wuhlheide (East Berlin, Germany)
One of the most internationally renowned annual outdoor concerts is Berlin Philharmonic Waldbühne summer outdoor concert programs, which takes place at an immense outdoor venue sitting in a natural valley near the Olympic stadium in Berlin. The prestigious Berlin Philharmonic performs at this “forest stage” seats 2,300 people to answer its curtain call gorgeously for its season. New York Philharmonic orchestra has been treating its loyal audiences for the past 48 years with its summer tradition on the Great Lawn at Central Park under a night of summer stars followed by splendid fireworks. Shanghai Symphony was invited to co-perform with NY Phi Orchestra at Central Park in 2010, as the first-ever guest ensemble.
Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Long Yu, shared the bill with the New York Philharmonic at Central Park on Tuesday night
Inspired by its counterparts’ successful outcomes in the western countries, Shanghai Weekly Radio Concert made the debut of Chenshan Meadow Broadcast Music Concert in 2012. It turned out a huge success with sold-out concert with 4000 audiences flocking to this big summer retreat.
From 2013, Chenshan Meadow Broadcast Music Concert host by Classical FM94.7 of Shanghai East Radio Company will be branded as a regular, long-term based outdoor music landmark which is expected to welcome audiences every spring.
This year the concert was presented by 75-year old Prague Symphony Orchestra, one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world with more than 100 recordings and numerous presences on major stages worldwide. The evening was filled with music generously presented of great vast and variety going back centuries (Classical period) or composed in recent years (such as the movie scores) representatives of all genres and styles. Arguably, almost every piece could be highlight of the evening including the master pieces by Beethoven, Dvorak and Mascagni；the main theme from Hollywood blockbuster Star Wars and Harry Potter; the enduring selection of musicals by “the father of musical”-Andrew Lloyd Webber; the cantabile scores from “Waltz’King”-Johnn Strauss Family.
The culmination was the encore of Dance Song of Yao Tribe, one of the most household Chinese traditional minority music. The orchestra conveyed surprisingly well the subtly and implicity of Chinese traditional music.
On May 19, I (the author) partook of this great musical feast fused by great artistic virtuosity that brought me back to the memories of outdoor concerts at central parks in New York. Each of the piece were woven together with resonating video playing on the LED screen selected and edited by the organizer according to the theme or the origin of the music. The Blue Danube was playing while the tilt shift video showing the colorful and vivid scenery of Canal of Venice, Harry Potter was wielding the magic stick on his hand with the elfin-like sound by Celesta; the Intermezzo from opera Cavalleria rusticana was witnessing the love scenes of the hero and heroine of the popular Japanese TV drama “Nodame Cantabile”. The multifunction of such a performance was great testimonial of combining the multimedia technology with the storytelling character of music. It is such a joy to see the increasing attempts and efforts made to enrich the arts life in Shanghai where the dissemination of the classic music has been in its great maturity.
To me, or through my lens, New York is a “stage” that the people are engaged intentionally or unconsciously regardless of their profession, race, age and background. To be more precise, it is impossible to distinguish people in New York. The grass-root artists will exhausted their bag of tricks to outshine in the crowed full of their “competitors” even if the people walked by did not even give a glimpse, not alone to throw a penny or applaud. The entire vibe is so overwhelmed by all different kinds of performances. Ironically, those “ordinary” ones who are walking, sitting or chatting, are so dramatically structured, staged and acted. They are “selling” their acts and performances so hard, but so light…
L’ Accordeur – Olivier Treiner France / 2010
It is been a universally conventional wisdom that artists are those who have overly special attributes or untypical traits. These artistically gifted people are always portrayed or perceived by public in a niche of marginalized group of people with physical defeat, bizarre behaviors, miserable childhood or dramatic upheavals in their personal life. It is like the bitterness become an indispensible ingredient in the cuisine called “arts”.
This is a short firm with sharp plot and shocking ending that is undeniably intriguing but also poignant. The barebone of the story is about a controversial decision that Adrien, a young pianist made which he had to pay off in the end of the story. As much as gifted Adrien was with his piano performance, this prodigy was devastated after a “failure” of a piano competition that he had been working on for 15 years. He decided to become a piano tuner, a blind one, which he found out can easily win his clients’ trust. He can infiltrate all of his clients’ privacy and intimacy by “seeing” such as a topless female clients dancing wildly while he was playing. People believe he has better hearing because he lost his ”sight” and he become more confident while he is playing the piano. This self-redeemed joy did not last long when he knocked the door of a client’s door, more accurately, the door of death. He stumbled into a murderer’s house that he “witness” a wife just killed her husband. He had to pretend not knowing anything and kept tuning the piano. He could have run but his “work ethic” of being a blind man overpowered his instinct of saving his own life! “ She would not kill when I am playing the piano, she wouldn’t…”
This undisclosed ending ( it dosen’t matter whether he was killed eventually) has compellingly triggered a thought-provoking question. Shall we equip ourselves with the masks of the myth to lead our life or live with whatever we are embedded?
Review- by Anqi Xue
The life of “non-living” – Annie Leiboveitz’s “Pilgrimage”
by Anqi Xue
“Annie explores the independent phase of People’s life”, quote by Doris Kearns Goodwin the co-author of the diaristic photographic book Pilgrimage who summarized the totality of Annie Leiboveitz’s artistic mindset of her new series of photographic exhibition (American Art Museum January 20, 2012 – May 20, 2012)
After nearly 40 years of glorious accomplishment with a significant amount of masterpieces in the advertising, fashion and celebrity portraiture, Annie Leiboveitz has been designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and has received many other awards and recognitions.
Unexpectedly, Annie “casted herself away from” her well-known extravagant, eccentric, dramatic sometimes controversial photographic presentation. Instead, this series of her works are extremely simple, unpolished and forthright.
What strikes me the most of this collection is that her unconventional angel of capturing the daily routine subject that all these figures left behind. She photographed the view from Emerson’s bedroom window, Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden, Elvis’ 1957 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide motorcycle and a box of O’Keffer’s homemade pastels. “I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?” (The New York Times).
I was so mesmerized by how magically the “rawness” and “organic presentation” of her non-portrait photos can inexpressibly resurrect the truth that every single element and fragment in the past of our ordinary life (pilgrimaging towards our own destination) contributes to what we have become now regardless how complicated or monumental we are staged and portrayed by others. We all suffer and lament of the sadness and grieves as well as celebrate and cheer for the excitement and joy that we left behind in our life journey.
This article was also posted in Cultural Tourism DC Website, click here to take a look.