Classic Mornings

50, 60, 100, Farewell


It’s a headline worth repeating. And it’s a story worth retelling, years after the incident took place.

Those who worked their way through Section C of The New York Times on July 29,1986 saw at the top of page 11: ”Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins.” Her photo accompanied the article of 35 years ago.

I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. It was a hot summer night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The 14-year-old violinist, featured in Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium” for violin and orchestra, was close to the end of the work. Bernstein was conducting that evening. Suddenly, a string broke on the soloist’s ¾ size violin. Acting quickly, she took the full-size violin of the concertmaster and continued to play without missing a beat. Then a string broke on that instrument, and she reached for the violin of the associate concertmaster to complete the performance, again, without any interruption. They say she seemed surprised at the cheering, stomping, and whistling by the audience at the end of the Serenade.

The violinist turned 50 last Monday. I wanted to be sure that those who are new to classical music had the chance to hear that amazing story.

Earlier this year, Midori was one of the Kennedy Center Honors recipients along with Joan Baez, Dick Van Dyke, Garth Brooks, and dancer-actress-choreographer Debbie Allen. This past summer, she was part of an online discussion with Joyce di Donato and Wynton Marsalis about the role of music in promoting peaceful communication.

Midori is her given name. She was born in Osaka, Japan on October 25, 1971 and shares a birthday with 19th century composers Johann Strauss Jr. and Georges Bizet. She has a family name as well: Goto. But for so long, she’s been known simply as Midori. So, when you see the name Midori Goto online, you might wonder if it’s somebody else. There is another violinist with the name Midori. The German-Japanese violinist Midori Seiler, who also was born in Osaka and who celebrated her 50th two years ago, uses both her given and family name.

As famous as she’s been over the decades, it’s funny that when you simply search for Midori, you’ll come upon sites for a green, melon-flavored liquor from Japan. In Japanese, the word “midori” means the color green, as in leaves or shoots. Since the early 1980s, it has been closely associated with the violinist as well. Nevertheless, you still have to add the word violin or violinist to your search.

Besides her ongoing musical activities, Midori has been involved in both humanitarian and educational projects. According to her website, Midori & Friends provides music programs for New York City youth and communities. And Music Sharing, a Japan-based foundation, promotes classical and Japanese music traditions for young people in Japan and throughout Asia by presenting programs in schools, institutions, and hospitals. The violinist also works with student orchestras and participates in chamber music concerts in small communities with limited resources

Midori is probably the most famous classical musician of our time who goes by one name. It’s more common in popular music, although legendary classical artists like Toscanini, Caruso, Horowitz, and Pavarotti came to be known simply by their family names. 

Recently, we celebrated milestone birthdays for two musicians who have had to use both their given and family names in order to distinguish themselves from others. There are a few famous Wyntons out there. In fact, there are two in the jazz world. And there are several musicians in the well-known Marsalis family. Wynton Marsalis celebrated his 60th birthday on October 18th. He was in Berlin that day with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

October 21 marked the centennial of the birth of Sir Malcolm Arnold, who died 15 years ago. I’m guessing that he’s more famous in our time than English composer Samuel Arnold, who enjoyed popularity in the 18th century. Recalling Malcolm Arnold’s sense of humor, which seasoned a number of his works, I played, on his centennial, The Padstow Lifeboat, written for the dedication of a boat in the Cornwall town. Though they’ve since acquired another vessel to replace the one for which Sir Malcolm wrote his amusing march, the music has endured.

There was only one Bernard Haitink. The legendary Dutch conductor passed away on October 21 at age 92. He had gone into retirement two years ago after a final flurry of conducting activity that topped off an impressive career. We have a large number of the more than 450 recordings he made.

On Classic Mornings, you’ll hear some of those among the thousands of others we’ve enjoyed over the years. Tune in Monday through Friday from 9 to noon on FM 90.9 or online as