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Pauline Lerner

Midori in Concert and Igor and Valeri Oistrakh on CD

October 25, 2005 at 7:34 AM

Last night I heard Midori play a concert of chamber music with a pianist, Charles Abramov. Years ago, I decided that I really don’t like her style too much. I have an old recording of her playing the Paganini caprices, and she sounds downright martial. I decided that I would try listening to her in person, but my reaction to her was no different.
For most of the concert, her posture looked very pained. She had her head at almost a 90 degree angle from her neck with her face pointing down to the floor. It reminded me of a couple of Picasso’s paintings in his angst style. It also made me think that she must have chronic neck pain. Her first piece was Mozart’s Violin Sonata in A major, K. 305. Her playing was disappointingly cool to me, but I reminded myself that Mozart was not a Romantic era composer, and some people would probably feel that the coolness was appropriate. Then she played the Prokofiev Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op.80, which I enjoyed more than the other pieces she played. I did not like Schoenberg’s Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment, Op. 47, but that was no surprise. After all, it was by Schoenberg. I had the highest hopes and the greatest disappointment for the last piece of the performance, Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor for Violin and Piano, Op.30, No. 2. It sounded terribly repressed. At times she played very softly, but not gently, with a small portion of her bow, her knees bent, and her body hunched over. I was reminded of the violin lesson I had given earlier in the day, in which I told the student not to be stingy with his bow or his feelings. (Sorry, but it’s true.) When she played this piece softly, her sound was quite overwhelmed by the sound of the piano, but the balance of the two instruments was very good in the rest of the concert. During the Beethoven, she occasionally lifted up her head and I could see her face. I was startled, especially when I realized why. She had the sheet music on a stand in front of her, and she raised her head to look at it from time to time. She had not used sheet music for the other pieces she played. Over all, I felt that her performance was rather dry.

As I write this, I’m listening to a CD with Igor and Valeri Oistrakh playing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and two Mozart duos, G major, KV 423 and B flat major, KV 424. The sound is so sweet andcomforting. I listen to it over and over without tiring of it. One of my definitions of great art or music is that you can come back to it many, many times, and it is always fresh.

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