Last night was our first concert of the calendar year. Our conductor and music director, Michael Stern, could not be there, as his wife was in labor at the hospital. In his stead, our fresh faced new assistant conductor Steven Jarvi took the helm. Since this is his first season with the KC Symphony, we hadn't seen him before. He is very talented and was very nice to watch. He moves very calmly and with precision. And has conductor hair. Red conductor hair.
The renowned violinist Midori was the guest performer and she was dynamic. She played the Brahms Concerto in D Major for Violin (one of the greatest pieces of the 19th century1). She stood so calmly at first, and then with a few wide waves of her bow, as though she were getting a running start, she launched in to her first solo with so much vigor. It was beautiful - and she is so amazing to watch. She has a wide-legged stance, curls her upper body around her violin, and moves haltingly like a marionette or an automaton ... making it even harder to believe she is actually real. During the second movement, which had a much calmer tone, wisps of hair that had come loose from her bun and bow strings that had snapped waved in the wind as she swayed back and forth. In the third movement - which I realized I knew suddenly when her solo began - the energy returned and she mesmerized the audience straight through to the end of the standing ovation.
Midori debuted to wide acclaim 25 years ago with the New York Philharmonic. She was just 11. Since then, she has founded an organization that supports music education for underprivileged children, in addition to touring extensively, recording, and mesmerizing. As if all that weren't enough, she is also being designated an official Messenger of Peace by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.
Oh, and her violin? It's the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu "ex-Huberman." I'm not certain exactly what that means. Except for the "the." Her violin has a name and a "the." It must be something very singular indeed ... like Midori herself. "The" 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu "ex-Huberman" violin is on lifetime loan to Midori from the Hayashibara Foundation. And based on her performance last night, I think I can see why.
1. Richard Rodda, KC Symphony Concert Guide, 22.