At age twenty Japanese violinist Midori Goto, who performs under the name Midori, is no longer considered a mere child prodigy. With her virtuoso technique, pure tone, and artistic interpretations, she is quickly dispelling doubts about her future as a violinist. Midori has appeared with many of the world’s best orchestras, including those in Berlin, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Montreal, and London, performing some of the most technically difficult works in the solo violin repertoire.
Born in Osaka, Japan, on October 25, 1971, Midori demonstrated her musical ability at an early age. Her mother, a violinist, regularly took young Midori with her to orchestra rehearsals, and one day she noticed that the toddler was humming a piece that the orchestra had been practicing several days earlier. Midori, fascinated by her mother’s violin, often tried to touch the instrument, so on her third birthday, her mother gave her a one-sixteenth-size violin and began to teach her to play it. Later Midori maintained that learning to play the violin was as natural as learning to talk.
At age six, Midori gave her first public recital with a performance of a free form instrumental piece by Niccolo Paganini. She progressed rapidly during the next few years, practicing diligently, and she often went with her mother to the auditorium where orchestra rehearsals were conducted, practicing in one of the hall’s empty rooms. An American colleague of Midori’s mother chanced to hear the young girl play and, astonished by her technique, took a recording to renowned violin instructor Dorothy Delay at New York City’s Juilliard School of Music.
Delay, who taught at the music festival in Aspen, Colorado, during the summer of 1981, invited Midori to participate and arranged for a scholarship. Midori’s performances that summer confirmed Delay’s estimation of her talent, and a year later Midori and her mother moved to New York City so that Midori could enroll on a full scholarship at Juilliard in the precollege division.
After enduring years of an unhappy, arranged marriage, Midori’s parents divorced. Midori and her mother began a new life in the United States. Remembering those early years in New York, Midori told Los Angeles Times contributor Donna Perlmutter, “When she decided to bring me here—for the study opportunities, for a school like Juilliard—we had no money and could not even speak English.… It took amazing conviction to come alone to a foreign country with a little kid, and to go against the family wishes. I like to think I have some
For the Record…
Born Midori Goto, October 25, 1971, in Osaka, Japan; given name pronounced “Mee-dor-ee”; daughter of an engineer and a violinist; single. Education: Attended Juilliard School of Music, New York City.
Violinist. Has performed with orchestras and in recital throughout the United States and in Japan, 1981—.
Awards: Named Best Artist of the Year by the Japanese government, 1988; Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award, Los Angeles Music Center, 1989; Crystal Award, Ashani shimbun newspaper, for contributions to the arts.
Addresses: Home —New York, NY. Agent —ICM Artists Ltd., 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
of that strong-mindedness.” Midori’s mother obtained a position at the Hebrew Arts School in Manhattan, teaching violin to support the family. While studying at Juilliard, Midori attended the nearby Professional Children’s School for academic subjects. She also began performing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for young people’s concerts and galas, but her agent strictly limited her schedule.
In the summer of 1986, fourteen-year-old Midori took the stage with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. She performed Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade until a string on her violin broke. As is the custom, Midori calmly approached the concertmaster and borrowed his violin, a much larger one than her own. A short while later a string on this instrument broke. After Midori borrowed the associate concertmaster’s violin and finished the performance, the audience, orchestra members, and Bernstein, who was conducting that night, burst into hearty applause. The next day Midori’s photograph appeared on the front page of the New York Times.
Despite the sudden fame, the number of Midori’s annual performances was increased gradually. By 1990 she was appearing in a total of ninety concerts or recitals per year. Midori claims she does not suffer from stage fright. “I never get nervous or anything,” she told Michael Fleming of the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch. “For me it is such fun and so comfortable to play the violin. When I am on stage, those are some of the happiest times of my life.” Surprisingly, however, Midori maintains that she is always a bit disappointed with her performances, insisting that she will do better the next time. “I’m always fighting to be better, to improve, to express new ideas with my violin,” she explained to Denver Post writer Marian Christy. “After a concert I rate my performance: What was good? What was not so good? Then I tell myself that I’m not a robot. ” While traveling, Midori practices several hours each day, and until she graduated from the Professional Children’s School in June of 1990, she also did several hours of homework daily.
Earlier—in 1987—Midori left Juilliard because of personal differences with Delay, which she declines to discuss. “Between school homework, rehearsals and practice there was no time for anything else,” Midori explained to Perlmutter. “Since dropping out of Juilliard the world has opened. I go to concerts and movies and have a special curiosity to hear how this one plays and that one plays. I love it.” Midori enjoys reading, writing short stories, studying karate, and attending concerts. In addition, she regularly contributes a column on life in the United States to a Japanese teen magazine.
Midori has successfully ventured into the recording industry as well, releasing double concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi with Pinchas Zuckerman, two violin concertos by Bela Bartok, the violin concerto of Antonin Dvorak, and caprices by Paganini. Under an exclusive contract with CBS Masterworks, Midori chooses her own repertory for recordings and also selects the conductor and orchestra, though some orchestras and conductors are unavailable because of contracts with other record companies. After listening to some of the records she made in the 1980s, Midori confessed to Fleming: “I sound like a little girl. But now … I’m different; I’m sure I will sound different when I’m forty. That’s the great advantage of playing from an early age, that you get to see yourself change.”
J. S. Bach: Concerto No. 2, Philips.
J. S. Bach: Concertos for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor, Philips.
Dvorak: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor, Columbia Masterworks.
Dvorak: Romances for Violin and Orchestra in F Minor, Columbia Masterworks.
Live at Carnegie Hall, Sony Classical.
Paganini: Complete Caprices for Unaccompanied Violin, Columbia Masterworks.
Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 1, Philips.
Tchaikovsky: Serenade melancolique, Philips.
Tchaikovsky: Valse-Scherzo, Philips.
Vivaldi: Concertos for Violins and Orchestra, Op. 3 No. 8, Philips.
Atlanta Journal, April 12, 1989.
Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA), August 26, 1988.
Boston Herald, July 22, 1988.
Buffalo News, March 26, 1989.
Denver Post, March 21, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1990.
New York Times, July 28, 1986.
Ovation, August 1987.
Reader’s Digest, March 1987.
St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch, September 8, 1990.
San Francisco Examiner, February 7, 1991.
Strad, May 1987.
Washington Post, January 24, 1988.
—Jeanne M. Lesinski
"Midori." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/midori
"Midori." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/midori
Midori's career started dramatically on the last day of 1982 at the age of eleven when conductor Zubin Mehta invited her to perform the Paganini Concerto as surprise guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic at the orchestra's traditional New Year's Eve concert. The slight girl performed flawlessly with a maturity and refinement well beyond her years, and the audience responded by jumping to its feet. The concert quickly became a modern musical legend, and overnight Midori became a star.
She first picked up the violin at the age of three in Osaka, Japan, studying and practicing with her mother, Setsu Goto, herself an accomplished violinist. At the age of six she made her concert debut in Osaka, and three years later came to the Juilliard School in New York to study with Dorothy Delay. When she was ten, the Hayashibara Foundation made her the lifelong loan of a rare 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu violin.
The music world has a longstanding fascination with child prodigies, and Midori was the child prodigy of the 1980s, performing with major orchestras and some of the biggest names in classical music. She became a media darling, finding herself the object of intense media attention. In addition to her concerts she was booked on mainstream entertainment shows such as The Tonight Show and on Sesame Street, and was the subject of interviews on Cable News Network, CBS Sunday Morning, and on French, Japanese, German, and British television.
In 1986 the Midori legend grew again when, during her debut performance at Tanglewood (in Bernstein's Serenade ) with the Boston Symphony and Leonard Bernstein, she broke two strings and ended up playing three different violins before the piece ended, never missing a note. The next day a story about the concert landed on the front page of the New York Times under the headline "Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins."
In 1990 she made her Carnegie Hall debut, which was recorded and issued as a live recording to wide acclaim. In 1991 she was back at Carnegie for the concert hall's historic 100th Anniversary concert, which was recorded and broadcast around the world. In 1992 she performed for another worldwide television audience in a performance from the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France.
That year she also set up a nonprofit foundation called Midori & Friends, to promote arts education in New York City; she devotes a significant part of her schedule to working on the foundation. In the mid-1990s, she surprised many of her fans by enrolling at New York University, graduating with a degree in psychology and gender studies.
In 2001 Midori was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, and in 2002 she was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America. With pianist Robert McDonald she has recorded much of the solo violin literature, and has performed and recorded with many of the world's top orchestras.
Music prodigies often have a difficult time making the transition to mature artist, but after a period of introspection in her twenties, Midori seems to have accomplished it with ease. Many critics note a deepening of her musicianship as her interests have broadened.
Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich: Violin Concertos, with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic (Sony, 1998); Midori—Live At Carnegie Hall, with pianist Robert McDonald (Sony, 1990).
"Midori." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/midori-0
"Midori." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/midori-0
"midori." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/midori
"midori." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/midori