Serious business, being a prodigy

The London Symphony Orchestra launches its new season at the Barbican tonight with a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto given by Japanese- American child prodigy turned international violinist Midori

The words "child prodigy" always carry a suspicious ring. Do these superkids ever stay the distance to flourish into a major adult talent? Too often a spark of brilliance, managed by pushy parents, leads to early burn out.

This is not the case with Japanese-born violinist Midori - who launched her career at the age of 11. Today, aged 25, she has established herself as one of the world's most outstanding international concert artists. To celebrate the10th anniversary of her debut with the London Symphony Orchestra (at the age of 15), Midori will this week be helping to launch the orchestra's autumn season with two performances of Beethoven's Violin Concerto under the LSO's principal conductor, Sir Colin Davis.

While Midori is the main attraction, the LSO's winter programme offers a fine and diverse selection of musical talent. Richard Hickox will direct two concerts of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams to mark the 125th anniversary of the composer's birth. Mark Wigglesworth, the young music director of the BBC Welsh National Orchestra, will make his LSO debut with a performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No 7, and Andre Previn, the orchestra's one-time MD, returns to conduct three concerts over the next month.

While Midori has been nurtured by an ambitious violin-teacher mother, her flame has burnt steady and matured. Critics have talked about her with rapture, saying that she is obsessively serious and boasts the musicianship of a veteran within the body of an adolescent. She's been compared to the violinists equivalent of a bonsai - in that she has been fastidiously and intensively cultivated.

And yes, as you'd expect, she's not just talented, but intense. In interviews she answers personal questions with answers about work, indeed, the two are synonymous. Was arriving in New York a shock, aged 11? "Yes, most of all I had to discover how to learn repertoire really fast. I was bringing to my lessons a concerto per week."

The London Symphony Orchestra is at the Barbican from today. Concerts start at 7.30 pm . (0171-435 9254)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is at the Royal Albert Hall from tomorrow. Concerts start at 7.30pm. Call 0171-546 1600;

London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia are at the Royal Festival Hall from today. Concerts start at 7.30pm. Call the box office on 0171- 960 4242

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