* Notes *
Violinist Midori (pictured, photograph by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) played a solo performance of Bach, Thierry Escaich, and Annie Gosfield at Herbst Theatre Friday night at SF Performances. She plays another program of Bach, Jessie Montgomery, and John Zorn on Sunday, and I'm horribly tempted to attend, as Midori is such a singular talent.
The evening began with Bach's Sonata No. 2 in A Minor for Unaccompanied Violin, BMV 1003, Midori seemed so vulnerable as she started with the Grave. Her playing is not flashy, very precise but still nuanced and expressive. The quiet passages of the Fuga were lovely and it was impressive how she made the violin simply sing, as if the sound was simply emanating from the instrument. The double-stops in the Andante were incredible, so smooth and effortless with nary the hint of a crunch. The Allegro was rapid without being breathless.
Next was Escaich's Nun Komm, a piece less than 5 minutes long but obviously very difficult. It sounded rather buzzy and frenetic to me, and it was dumbfounding how Midori managed to pluck and bow the violin at the same time.
The first half of the show came to an end with Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C Major for Unaccompanied Violin, BMV 1005. The contrasts in dynamics were delightful, and Adagio, Fuga, and Largo all were smooth and sedate, and the final Allegro assai felt light and effortless.
After the intermission came Gosfield's Long Waves and Random Pulses, which was very descriptive of what we heard. I found the high notes to be screechy and bone chilling, and found the slides up and down to be rather fun, as were some of the percussive bits that showed up toward the end of the piece. It had a good sense of playfulness.
Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1004 was truly wonderful. I know this piece well but in Midori's hands it was entirely engaging and fresh. She never seems to run out of bow, she's always moving and playing clearly. It was humbling to be in the presence of such mastery, and it was hard to take any notes about what was happening, I just wanted to stay in the moment of hearing Bach's music.
* Tattling *
For the most part, the audience was very attentive to the Bach. There was some sort of electronic disturbance during the first piece in the center section of the orchestra level, Row H. There was a loud bang from Row B or C during the third piece that didn't register with Midori at all, she seemed completely in her own universe. Otherwise it was mostly sniffles and coughs, people did seem restless for the contemporary pieces in particular.