Category Archives: Music

Midori in Missouri

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.

I haven’t seen a review yet but I’ll try to add that to this post when I do. Here’s a pre-performance Q&A with Midori in the Columbia Daily-Tribune, and another CDT piece on Robert McDonald.

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Beethoven at his best

Have been a little under the weather, with attention further diverted by school and the like. In lieu of posting something political tonight: Beethoven‘s Piano Sonata #14 in C# Minor, Third Movement.

This is actually part of the “Moonlight Sonata,” which begins with the beautiful, haunting tones and tempo of the first movement so widely recognized. Beethoven’s full brilliance is on display in the powerful release of emotion in this third movement, below.

To speed across the tonal spectrum of the instrument in this way has got to be incredible fun for composer and performer alike. If it’s a joy to listen to, how much more so to write or play? I’ve recently started learning the first movement, and I have fantasies of learning the third, but I think I need to not think about that for some time!

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Musician in the Spotlight: Caleb Johnson

My brother Caleb Johnson is a violist, studying at the respected Peabody Institute of John’s Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. He just launched a website showcasing his professional musical pursuits and background.

If you are looking to enjoy live classical music in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, consider an ensemble group like Vivre Musicale, Charm City String Quartet, or Peabody Camerata. In the former two cases, you could probably even secure the services of the same.

The site looks great, Caleb! I look forward to hearing you play when I’m in town for CPAC next month.

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And they call it Donny love-love…

My mother is very excited. Donny Osmond is hosting his very own radio show. Will Marie and the Osmond Brothers appear?

~ H.A.

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A moment’s reflection on music

I need more jazz in my life.

Was just listening to some John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Blue in Green. Incredibly relaxing. The type of stuff you can put on background and just exist emotionally, think intellectually, et cetera. Be absorbed by the very cool, very sophisticated grooves of it all. Transported.

I’ve been playing the piano recently…some of the simpler classics from Mozart, Handel, Burgmuller and Bertini.

Maybe it’s time I get into some jazz.

Hat tip of sorts to my fellow Pembroke Hill Class of 2000 alum Tim Kessler, for his casual mention of Blue in Green on Facebook!

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