Japanese violinist Midori Goto performed with American pianist Robert McDonald last night in Columbia, Missouri. The recital was held at the Missouri Theatre, and sponsored by the Mozart-Higday Music Trust. Earlier in the day I surprised myself by finishing a paper on time when I thought there was no way I was going to make the deadline, so I rewarded myself by calling the theatre for tickets. Even more surprising was the fact that they still had some available, and they had just opened the front row for seating.
If you’ve not been to the Missouri Theatre, it’s a beautiful building. Visually and acoustically, the front row center seats were good but not the best in the house. You’re looking up at a slight angle and, to make an educated guess, missing some of the sound waves coming off the stage you are slightly below. What the vantage did wonderfully allow, however, was to see in very close detail every movement and expression of the performers. At one point early in the performance, I realized that Midori had not one but two strings hanging from her bow – one from the bottom and one from the top. Or was it the same string split in half?
It was early in the piece and I nearly held my breath as I wondered if the hanging strings would affect her playing ability, either landing on the strings and disrupting the sound quality, or simply as a distraction to her attention. I watched and waited, at first wondering anxiously whether she would make a mistake, then eagerly anticipating her ability to play through successfully. She finished the piece without error. At the end of the movement, she quickly and quietly plucked the strings from her bow and prepared for the next. At that point, I was definitely liking the front row seats!
Seeing this reminded me of a story of one of the great classical musicians – was it Mozart, perhaps? – who was performing on stage in front of a very large audience at a major concert. One of the strings broke during the performance, which would have stopped just about anybody from continuing on. Instead, Mozart (or whomever it was) kept playing, not missing a note, transposing every note from the missing string onto another string. To do this in the moment required sheer genius musical ability. Whether this is a real story or the stuff of legends I do not know.
I won’t try to describe all the music I heard because I would not do it justice. However, they played four pieces together, and Midori played one of her own. If I recall correctly most were written by European (or American) composers of the late 17th and 18th centuries. There was one by a Spanish composer which had a great deal of flair to it. At the end of the night, in response to audience applause, the duo came on stage for two brief encore performance, playing Meditation by Alexander Glazunov and and Syncopation by Fritz Kreisler.
Unfortunately, the event was not sold out. While the Missouri Theatre is a decent sized venue and Columbia is not a large town, I still would have hoped that such a pair of world class performers would have attracted a sellout crowd. Though, it should be noted that Columbia held its municipal elections last night, including a contested mayoral race, and the election parties of the various candidates and their supporters probably did draw away a small portion of the town’s natural constituency for such an event.