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

By MICHAEL TUMELTY

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.