MIDORI | The Herald (Scotland), August 26, 2013
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The Herald (Scotland), August 26, 2013


Japanese violinist Midori, in her comprehensive performances of Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas for violin on Thursday and Saturday, included in each concert a short contemporary work for violin and electronics. Thursday’s was a characteristically intense memorial to Shostakovich by Schnittke.

Saturday’s piece, by Mario Davidovsky, was the ninth in a series of Synchronisms, where the dynamic relationship between acoustic violin and computer electronics was amazing, with a near-theatrical series of exchanges in which Midori demonstrated another facet of her genius.

The over-riding impression of her Bach playing on Saturday, in the wonderful Second Sonata and in both Partitas, came in a single thought: “We’re hearing Bach; only Bach: she’s not getting in the way.” By which I mean this: she bobs and weaves as she plays; there is a certain physicality to the business of playing. But she’s not putting on a show. There’s no ego or performer-dominated presence. We’re just hearing Bach, played with purity and clarity.

Now, largely she played without vibrato. Should we applaud this as it’s fashionable? No; fashion is irrelevant. What Midori has achieved is a triumph of content over style. The aching tenderness in the third movement of the Sonata wasn’t Midori imposing. It was Bach. Midori didn’t put it in: she brought it out. And however exciting all those teeming scales and tumbling arpeggios in the Partitas might have seemed, they were in fact compact and economic; and that’s the way they were written by Bach. It takes a musician of Midori’s stature to realise them and let Bach speak. Her art is the exact antithesis of hollow virtuosity.