Midori holds a place in the top rank of the world’s violinists. A former child prodigy, she has been a prolific performer and recording artist specializing in mainstream violin repertory from Bach to Bartók.
Midori Goto was born in Osaka, Japan, on October 25, 1971. From the age of three, she studied violin, at first on a 1/16 size instrument, with her mother, Setsu Goto, a violinist who had noticed the toddler singing melodies by Bach she had heard days earlier at a rehearsal. Midori made her concert debut in Osaka at six. She came to the U.S. in 1981, studying with Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Music School and later the Juilliard School; a less direct mentor was Pinchas Zukerman. Midori made her debut at the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert in 1982 when she was ten. She charmed the crowd: a group of collectors loaned her an original Stradivarius instrument that she continues to play, and conductor Zubin Mehta invited her to tour Asia with the orchestra. The same year, she signed with CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical), and her international career was launched. She dropped her surname after her parents’ divorce, briefly calling herself Mi Dori and then adopting the solid spelling. At 14, she landed on the front page of the New York Times after a performance with the Philharmonic in Central Park, and she benefited throughout her teen years from sympathetic press. She stunned both teachers and audiences with her mastery of some of the most difficult works in the violin repertory, including Paganini’s 24 Caprices for solo violin, Op. 1, which she recorded in 1988.
Midori successfully left prodigy status behind and assumed a consistent position in the most prestigious group of international concert attractions. Often associated with Mehta at first, she has worked with other conductors and orchestras worldwide. A charismatic performer, Midori has for much of her career remained within the boundaries of the mainstream violin concerto repertoire from Bach to Bartók. She has gradually broadened her scope, however, first with recitals (her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 1990 was recorded), and later with chamber music (her first tour as part of a trio came in 2008, with pianist Jonathan Biss and cellist Johannes Moser) and commissions for new works. In addition to her activities as a prominent performer, Midori has also founded and nurtured “Midori and Friends,” a nonprofit organization providing educational experiences and concerts for underprivileged and hospitalized children. By 2020, the program had benefited more than 250,000 students. She has supplanted it with a community-oriented chamber music organization called “Partners in Performance,” and a similar group in Japan called “Music Sharing.” Her work to promote classical music at the community level has taken her as far afield as Indonesia. Midori’s numerous awards include both musical and humanitarian honors. She was a winner of the Avery Fisher Prize in 2001, and in 2007, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon named her an official U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Midori has released more than 20 albums. In the late 2000s, she left Sony Classical, recording for Ondine, Onyx Classics (where she released a complete cycle of Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin in 2015), and other labels. In 2020, she moved to Warner Classics and recorded Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, for the first time. The holder of bachelor’s (magna cum laude, 2000) and master’s (2005) degrees in psychology from New York University, Midori has taught at the University of Southern California since 2005. In 2018, she joined the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as well. ~ James Manheim