Midori / Õzgür Aydin

Bloch, Janácek, Shostakovich

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The career of Japanese American violinist Midori has largely been associated with the major Romantic violin concertos, but, whether because the market will no longer support so many of those or because she feels she has earned the right to explore new repertory, she has made a major shift in direction, recording 20th century works that are hardly crowd-pleasers in the traditional sense. The results are quite strong here, for the program is so intelligently chosen that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Midori defines the program this way: "These are three works that interweave the anxieties of the modern world condition with much hope for the future." The emphasis in the music itself is on the anxieties, but perhaps the hope lies in expressing them. All are intensely inward works that express mystical spirituality (Bloch), intense inner warfare (Janácek), and profound despair (Shostakovich). It's a brilliant combination, and in Bloch's Violin Sonata No. 2 ("Poème mystique"), Midori and pianist Ozgür Aydín combine for some incredibly delicate textures. The other two works are not quite as strong; one misses a bit of violence in the Janácek Sonata and a bit of Russian spirit in the second movement of the Shostakovich Violin Sonata of 1968. But nothing is less than idiomatically played, and the album as a whole is a deeply engaging tour through the age of anxiety. The West German Radio network contributes excellent sound; the album, despite its "Cologne Broadcasts" rubric, is apparently a studio recording.

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