I'm not going to pretend that any analysis I might offer regarding classical music would be particularly illuminating; my formal training on the piano began when I was five and ended when I was eleven or twelve, and while I could probably hold my own at the salon for half an hour or so, I'd be in over my head before long.
Still, I listen, with increasing pleasure, to my modest collection, and I increase its numbers whenever I find myself down at Offbeat here in Durham. A month or two ago I spotted a Midori CD, and remembered hearing about her when she was one of the Next Big Things. I always found the single-name moniker distracting (as I do in the case of Nigel Kennedy, who, when he cast off his first name, said it was because he didn't like the name "Nigel," which is just crazy talk), but that's a stupid reason not to investigate somebody's work. Still, life's short and the world vast, so I never got around to Midori.
The one I picked up is called French Violin Sonatas - note the niche-within-a-niche nature of the parameters here; it's like somebody was aiming specifically at my tastes - and to anyone who's looking for something distinctly autumnal as the leaves begin to turn, I recommend it. The Poulenc sonata that opens the disc is lively and bracing, and the Saint-Saens that closes is delicate and complex, but it's the Debussy in the middle that'll knock you over. Debussy, more than practically any other composer to my ears, seems to speak specifically to our time: not in the sense of sounding like he belongs here now with us, but as if the thing that he came to say had been meant especially for our ears, and our hearts. His sense of space and interplay is tranquil or light on the suface and slightly agitated underneath, except when (as in the middle of the second movement of this sonata) it's agitated on the surface and slightly tranquil underneath. Midori (with her pianist Robert McDonald) approaches this tension with depth and diligence. In my opinion - again, a pretty undereducated one; I'm mainly only got my ears to work with - Debussy's tricky; err too far on the side of the heart and you'll turn him into a romantic, but rely too much on the head and you'll exaggerate his modernity. This is an historical question, which is to say, a very pesonal one, and Midori's approach is to just dive directly in. She opens Debussy up for me, and if you've been wondering about him as I have - off and on, occasionally, ever since first hearing of him - then you might find this reading a good place to spend a few rainy afternoons inside.
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