Midori is a visionary artist, activist and educator whose unique career has transcended traditional boundaries through her relentless drive to explore and build connections between music and the human experience. Never at rest, Midori brings the same dynamic innovation and expressive insight that has made her a prominent concert violinist to her other roles as a noted global cultural ambassador and a dedicated music educator.
A leading concert violinist for over 35 years, Midori regularly transfixes audiences around the world, bringing together graceful precision and intimate expression that allows the listening public to not just hear music but to be personally moved by it. She has performed with, among many others, the London, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco symphony orchestras, the Berlin, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, St Petersburg and Czech philharmonics, the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. She has collaborated with such outstanding musicians as Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Emanuel Ax, Zubin Mehta, Seiki Ozawa, Christoph Eschenbach, Mariss Jansons, Paavo Järvi, Antonello Manacorda, Constantinos Carydis, Yo-Yo Ma, Susanna Mälkki, and Menahem Pressler.
Midori’s recent and upcoming global engagements highlight her versatility through performances of orchestral and chamber works by Bernstein, Bach, Respighi, Beethoven, Schumann, Fauré, Debussy, Enescu, Prokofiev and Brahms. Her tour schedule has included Europe with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Japan with the Estonian Festival Orchestra and Paavo Järvi and it takes her in the 2019:20 season to Asia with Festival Strings Lucerne. She also undertakes a worldwide recital tour with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. She makes guest appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Kammerakademie Potsdam, Orchestra del Teatro Massimo and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester.
An advocate for music and composers of her time, Midori will present compositions by living female composers as part of a project dedicated to promoting contemporary music. She will also premiere a new violin concerto by Detlev Glanert in Hamburg in May 2020, during the Beethoven anniversary year. Midori previously inspired Peter Eötvös to compose the violin concerto DoReMi, which she then recording with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by the composer. Other commissions and world premieres have included works by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Brett Dean and Johannes Staud.
Midori’s diverse discography includes sonatas by Bloch, Janácek and Shostakovich performed with pianist Özgür Aydi, and a 2013 GRAMMY Award-winning recording of Hindemith’s violin concerto with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the NDR Symphony Orchestra. The two-CD set of her highly acclaimed interpretation of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin was released in 2015, followed in 2017 by a DVD of the same repertoire, filmed at Köthen Castle, where Bach served as Kapellmeister. Earlier recordings on the Sony Classical label feature works by Mozart, Dvorák, Bartók, Poulenc and Sibelius, among others.
In her quest to explore and expand how music is essential to people everywhere, Midori goes beyond the concert hall and recording studio to areas where music access is most needed. In 2017, Midori celebrated the 25th anniversary of the activities of two of her non-profit organisations: Midori & Friends, which brings high-quality music education to New York City youth, and MUSIC SHARING, a Japan-based programme that provides access to both western classical and Japanese music traditions through innovative events, activities, instruction and presentations in local schools, institutions and hospitals. Her Partners in Performance organisation, now in its 16th year, promotes interest in classical music outside of major urban centres across the United States, while her Orchestral Residencies Program, founded in 2004, encourages young musicians in the United States and beyond to develop a life-long and multifaceted engagement with the performing arts, helping to ensure that the classical scene will continue vibrantly for years to come.
Midori also brings her activism to a global level. MUSIC SHARING’s International Community Engagement Program (ICEP) promotes intercultural exchange by enabling young musicians from around the world to come together and present community performances for audiences with limited exposure to classical music. The programme’s ensembles have performed in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, Vietnam (twice) and India with follow-up appearances each season in Japan. The 2019:20 ICEP takes place for the second time in Cambodia.
A persuasive advocate for cultural diplomacy, Midori has also been invited to speak a the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C., among other places. She has been honoured for her international activism: in 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Midori a Messenger of Peace, and in 2012 she received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2019 she was invited to attend the annual meeting of the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, where she performed for and addresses Pope Francis and other world leaders, calling on them to believe in the transformative power of women and girls in underserved remote communities. The same year, the Carnegie Corporation of New York honoured Midori, a naturalized American citizen, with its “Great Immigrant” award in recognition of her work as a global cultural ambassador.
The same vision that motivates Midori’s activism also guides her educational approach. Since Autumn 2018, she has been part of the renowned violin faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, bringing her musical expertise as an active top-level performer to her studio and her experience as an activist to the school’s community engagement programmes. In October 2019, she was appointed to the school’s Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Violin Studies.
Until May 2018, Midori held the Jascha Heifetz Chair as a Distinguished Professor at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, where she taught for 14 years. She continues her involvement at USC in a visiting artist role as Judge Widney Professor of Music. She is also a distinguished visiting artist and violin faculty member at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University.
Midori is an honorary professor at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music and a guest professor at both Soai University in Osaka and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In addition, she teaches regularly at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute and the Weimar Meisterkurse. Her own degrees in gender studies and psychology from New York University (BA 2000, MA 2005) strongly inform her holistic teaching philosophy: “In our studio, the tenets of Honesty, Health, and Dignity guide us through the times of trial, self-doubt, self-questioning, and growth.”
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan in 1971 and began her violin studies with her mother Setsu Goto, after displaying a strong aptitude for music at an early age. In 1982, conductor Zubin Mehta invited the then 11-year-old Midori to perform with the New York Philharmonic in the orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert. The standing ovation that followed her debut spurred Midori to pursue a major musical career at the highest level.
Midori plays the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù ‘ex-Huberman’. She uses four bows – two by Dominique Peccatte, one by François Peccatte and one by Paul Siefried.