World Famous Violinist Plays Benefit For Pittsfield School

Apr 18, 2018

A world famous violinist with ties to the Berkshires performs in Great Barrington tonight.

The legend of Japanese violinist Midori began in 1982, when the prodigy made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 11. It was cemented by her string shredding tour de force in 1986 when she played Tanglewood at 14 under conductor Leonard Bernstein. But in 1983, Pittsfielders were privy to an early glimpse of genius between those pillars of her early history.

Andrew Pincus, who has covered classical music for The Berkshire Eagle since the 70s and written multiple books on the topic, was there.

“Well, it was sponsored by the temple, Anshe Amunim, as a series of young artist concerts, by a man named Arnold Deutsch, who’s no longer with us," said Pincus. "And he had impeccable taste — he not only premiered her in Pittsfield — really, a trial run for her, a showcase before she went public, but he had several other well-known musicians.”

One of those musicians was fellow violinist Gil Shahan. Tracy Wilson is executive director of the Berkshire Music School, and she says memories of the performance still resonate deeply with local fans.

“Nobody really knew her, and here’s this young girl that came down the aisle, and then she started to play — and people knew immediately, this was someone that will be catapulted to fame," said Wilson. "So they kind of take her as their adopted daughter.”

Tonight, Midori returns to the Berkshires at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington as a benefit for the Berkshire Music School.

“When her agent and I were talking about the possibility, I told him about the mission nof the school and our education focus," Wilson said. "Midori has a huge educational focus too. She’s got several organizations that she leads that sends chamber music and classical music into communities that don’t have it. She does a lot of work in the schools in New York City and various different places, so it was a perfect match.”

Wilson says proceeds will benefit the school’s educational mission.

“We try to keep our tuition as low as possible, so we offer lots of scholarships. It’ll all go into the scholarship program, the educational programs that we offer, we are doing a chamber music series right now with adult chamber players. We’re keeping that cost down to next to nothing so they can get going and get their feet wet and get a feel for what it’s like to be playing  music with each other, so all of the additional — the net proceeds from this benefit concert will go towards that,” said Wilson.

Midori’s selection for tonight’s performance runs the gamut from the familiar—

“A lot of people will love hearing these familiar Mozart and Schubert sonata,” said Pincus.

— to the rarely attempted.

“For me — I wouldn’t call it the highlight, but the most interesting thing, is to hear this Respighi sonata, which is almost never done. I’d love to know why she chose it, she hasn’t said," Pincus said. “Just to hear how it compares with the other music on the program — two classical pieces, Mozart, Schubert — and then these two very romantic pieces — Franck, which is standard romanticism, and Respighi, which is late romanticism, and over the top usually for this composer. So I’m just curious to hear what this sonata will sound like.”

Fans can find out tonight at 7:30 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.