The violinist Midori has been a celebrated performer for more than 35 years, this recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, complemented by his two Romances for violin and orchestra, marks the composer’s 250th birthday in December 2020.
This album, on which Midori plays with the Festival Strings Lucerne, was made in early March 2020. The sessions were originally planned around a concert performance at the KKL, Lucerne’s impressive Culture and Congress Centre, and subsequent concerts in the UK, Singapore, China and Korea – but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation or postponement of all the public events. The Swiss concert was cancelled at less than 48 hours’ notice, when Midori and the orchestra were already rehearsing. As she explained in Summer 2020: “As everyone's health and safety were of paramount concern, we were naturally obliged to follow official guidance. Nonetheless, we were grateful to receive permission to move ahead with our recording. Just beyond, a new and dangerous world was lurking – if still in hiding – and I now realise that there was not much of an idea amongst us of a new reality coming into being … In retrospect, the recording experience felt as if we were racing against the clock, to still be making live music, in direct company of each other, breathing in harmony.
“Through all of that, Beethoven guided my colleagues and me, his work focusing and inspiring us, our concentrations heightened, enveloped together in our musical efforts ... Beethoven has provided a fortunate focus for me in such fraught times. I am reminded that he was a man of strong beliefs and a morality to which he fully committed, as an activist who took firm stands on many major issues of his day. At the same time he maintained the discipline that allowed him to create profoundly beautiful, often serene music, despite his many personal disappointments and struggles.
“Beethoven's determination still provides a model for humankind, leading us to recognise the best in our world as we reach toward the many achievements of which we are all potentially capable. Finding my place, as a musician, interpreting several of Beethoven’s masterpieces, grounds and inspires me today, as we all face so many challenges ahead.”
Born in Japan, Midori first attracted international attention in 1982 when, aged just eleven, she performed with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta. Since then, she has distinguished herself as a major musician who takes a responsible and creative approach to building the future. As the New York Times wrote in 2011: “She has balanced her career as a performer with public service projects and the four educational initiatives she has established, which include an orchestra residencies program in which she visits professional and youth ensembles across the country [the USA]. In recent years she has also turned her attention to playing contemporary repertory and commissioning works.” When she performed the Beethoven Concerto in Avery Fisher Hall the previous year, the newspaper’s critic described her as “a complete artist who knows what she wants”.