Phew, after a long tiring work week, the weekend past was at the very least filled with great music. Watched a couple of concerts, including the one featuring violinist Midori with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
As it was also a Goh Keng Swee Memorial Concert, the audience included President SR Nathan who was seated less than 5m away from me as well as Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh. The SSO started off with Rachmaninov’s Vocalise as a tribute to the late Goh Keng Swee who is credited as founding Singapore’s very own classical music orchestra. What a blessing for music lovers of Singapore. True to the Russian theme for the evening, the SSO went on to play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture (it was the night before Easter Sunday after all) and I thought the SSO did a good job on that. The concluding piece of the night was Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 3.
But the highlight of the evening was Midori’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D. There is a very understated, effortless, graceful and yet passionate quality about Midori’s performance that lifted almost the entire Esplanade Concert Hall audience into a roaring standing ovation. And even though I’ve listened to the Concerto in D countless times and regard David Oistrakh as my favourite interpreter, Midori’s interpretation is refreshing, pure and absolutely inspiring.
The petite Midori is used to bringing the house down at concerts. Here’s a video of the famous concert given by Midori when she was 14 at the 1986 Tanglewood festival with conductor Leonard Bernstein: then, she played a very difficult piece written by Bernstein, on her three-quarter sized violin, a remarkable feat by itself. Notice how she plays from memory, whilst the composer conducts from the score. But wait, it gets better: while sawing through the complex final movement, one of the strings on her violin breaks. Unfazed she turns to the concertmaster for his full-sized violin. Not 2 minutes later, yet another string breaks, and she turns to the concertmaster who hands her the assistant concertmaster’s violin. The incredible thing is, she picks up from where she left off – some dazzlingly convoluted difficult section – and continues without missing a beat! Notice the gasps of surprise in the audience.
The next day, the New York Times published this headline: Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins, although the paper mis-spelt her name.