National Symphony Orchestra With Conductor Christoph Eschenbach and Violinist Midori Plays Britten

The great and much loved violinist Midori is in town, joining Maestro Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for a concert featuring works by Golijov, Britten, and Shostakovich.

Midori. Courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Midori doesn’t miss. A musician with a gentle soul and caring spirit as big as her exceptional talent, she is fascinating to watch. Her natural abilities are without question, but her execution makes clear that her lifelong training, preparation, and practice leave little room for error. Her bowings, fingerings, phrasing, and dynamics are always sure. She crouches, twists, and turns throughout her performances, but never at the expense of her simply flawless technique.

Britten’s Violin Concerto is a gorgeous three movement work, a perfect vehicle for Midori’s talents and abilities, and a compliment to the rest of the program. Midori performed it beautifully, in virtually constant motion, almost dancing, at times crouching nearly down to the floor and then rising so that the power in her strong up bows seemed to come from her legs as much as her bow arm. She played with incredible speed and a very percussive pizzicato. It’s a beautiful performance by a wonderful and giving person, as dedicated to teaching and outreach as to her personal performance career.

The concert opened with a short work by Golijov called Sidereus. Co-commissioned by the NSO, the ten-minute work was dedicated to former NSO Executive Director Henry Fogel.

Maestro Christoph Eshenbach. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Maestro Eschenbach closed the concert with the Shostakovich Symphony No. 1.  Composed by Shostakovich at the tender age of nineteen as his conservatory graduation project, the four movement work is clearly influenced by the composers who were contemporaries of Shostakovich, composers whose works he had been studying, the political climate in which he lived, and his experiences as a composer for film and theatre, and simply in his life as a young musician. For this, the work is sometimes criticized as being less sophisticated than some would prefer, but I find this unconstrained early work to be refreshingly honest, with many opportunities to profile the talented musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Under the direction of Maestro Eschenbach, the NSO is sounding somehow better. I am hearing greater power, more dynamic range, and cleaner downbeats.

Running Time: approximately 90 minutes with one intermission.

There are two more opportunities to hear this great concert, which will be repeated both December 2nd and December 3rd at 8pm, at The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (800) 444-1324, or 202-467-4600, or purchase them online.

Watch and listen as Midori plays Carmen-Fantasie by Sarasate.