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"Midori's back!" was all the introduction needed – and given. Indeed, fame precedes Midori wherever she goes. And by observing her help of nascent virtuosi, we can glimpse at how her mindset, concentration, and precision contribute to creating fame. The setting on this occasion was a masterclass for the students of this year's Eastern Music Festival.
The first student to be heard was Jacky Tang, 24, from Hong Kong, who played the first movement of the Concerto No. 4, in D, K.218, by W. A. Mozart. After complimenting the performance, she asked if he had any particular questions for her, and he mentioned clarity in soft passages, a subject she came to a bit later. First she spoke of interaction with the orchestra (adeptly recreated by Eunhye Choi at the piano), "more dialogue… more differences…." I thought of a lively conversation where each exchange provokes the next one – as opposed to some dialogues I've had with bureaucrats where the answers have no relation to the questions. She suggested three levels of musical awareness – realizing that something has changed after-the-fact, aware that something is in the process of changing, but best, predicting where/when change will occur. (I recall my teacher often saying that the end of a composition is predicted from the beginning, which is true to the extent that the musician has analyzed, studied, and decided upon which alternatives to apply.)
She then worked on clarity in soft passages, which led her to state "always left before right," practicing slowly and having the fingers in place ("left") before moving the bow ("right"). She also stressed the energy the left hand must have, especially in soft passages. "How do you want the sound to travel?" And think about how a long note should end.
Mateo Garza, 17, of Bend, Oregon, then played the first movement of the Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21, by Édouard Lalo. After praising his playing, she asked him if he was shy. "A bit!" Then she spoke of thinking ahead, of planning in advance, and of having a "theatrical story of the music… – play[ing] the lyrical passage for that lady in red in the balcony – she is the one who needs to hear it." After trying several times, it worked, and the soft lyrical passage also had carrying power. And then she worked a couple of technical passages: "Can you move your left hand in your head?" – a cue for visualizing. And, "Can you hear the notes without the instrument?" – also called audiation.
The final person to play was the daughter of esteemed colleagues, Anna Sykes, 17, from Greensboro, NC, who choose to play the first movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. After complimenting her she worked on phrasing – "everything must have a shape." And the more they worked together, the clearer the phrasing became and the more expressive.
Clearly Midori thinks a great deal about structure and works from the macro-structure to the micro-structure. The personal lesson I took away from the class was the extent and depth of concentration and attention paid to these "non-details." I was inspired by the depth of her personality!
Note: For a review of Midori's concert, click here.