Midori made her fourth appearance with the Harriman-Jewell Series on Thursday night at the Folly Theater, Kansas City’s grande dame venue.
She displayed her legendary virtuosity and versatility on the violin in recital with pianist Özgür Aydin.
The first half opened with Mozart’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in E flat major, K. 380. Mozart was only 25 years old when he wrote it, and the piece shows his developing style and displays a partnership between the instruments, though the piano is more prominent during the cascading figures and joyful melodies.
Midori and Aydin played with a united, conversational style. The ornaments and filigrees in the music were not unlike the decorative features of the venerable Folly.
Next was Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 134, by Dmitri Shostakovich, a stark contrast to the lively young Mozart. Shostakovich was intrigued by 12-tone composition (a practice frowned upon by Soviet leaders), which has become associated with his obsession on the subject of death.
The alienated harmonies and disjointed themes are easily identifiable as work by a man whose existence was precarious: a volatile political climate, poor health and hand problems that ended his performance career.
The structure put distance between the players and created a spare atmosphere, as though two lost souls were walking side by side, unable to find each other. The violin sounded like it was weeping at times; in other moments Midori played with a fierce defiance, leaning into the gruffer chords. Aydin created substantial character out of a mechanistic part.
For the second half, they performed works that explored the changeable state of the psyche.
Robert Schumann is infamous for his mental health, and his Sonata in A minor, op. 105, written just a few years before his death, suggests the shifting moods he battled. The passionate themes are disrupted, continuous lines are treated as anxious interjections under the melody and robust chords break through the delicate moments.
Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in C major, D. 934 parceled out distinct segments of lively and intricate melodies, an exuberant contrast to the earlier works.
Midori and Aynid performed two encores, lighter pieces that buoyed the recital’s serious fare: the delicately virtuosic Capriccio-Waltz by Henryk Wieniawski and an ethereal lullaby “Sea-Shell,” by Carl Engel, arranged by Efrem Zimbalist.
Tuning issues haunted Midori on the soft harmonics and forceful pizzicatos; the piano overshadowed the violin on some of the delicate sections.