If you can, wait until night to watch this video. This is not just another classical music concert.
A violinist plays barefoot, wild yet controlled just enough. Her sound on the violin is smooth, the kind of smoothness that you think would lead to overthinking and coddling the violin. But she is more free, and passionate and graceful. She also plays barefoot, a preference of hers.
This is Lucia Micarelli’s performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Pay attention to the build up, half crazed, to the moment at the 2:45 mark when the first note for Kashmir drops.
The entire stadium’s soul feels elated. This is the kind of artistry you want to rhapsodize about.
Micarelli is one of the young stars in current classical music. Born in Queens in 1983 to a Korean mother and an Italian father, Micarelli began studying violin, piano and dance when she was three years old. When she was six years old, she was a violin soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. By age 11, she was studying at the Julliard School, where she would learn from Dorothy DeLay, Itzhak Perlman. Then, she would also study with Pinchas Zukerman at the Manhattan School of Music.
Micarelli has three albums: “Music from a Farther Room” (2004), “Interlude” (2007), and a live performance album, “An Evening with Lucia Micarelli” (2018).
The “Kashmir” performance took place when Micarelli joined Josh Groban on his “Awake Live” tour in 2008. The performance was in Salt Lake City, and the person introducing her at the start of the video is Groban.
Unfortunately, Micarelli hasn’t approached that kind of wild and free artistry since then.
In 2010, Micarelli, who had always dabbled in various art forms and genres, went into acting, landing a role on “Treme,” an HBO drama set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Then, on that Fourth of July, Micarelli fell and cut her left hand on a wine glass, severing nerves in that hand. According to an article in Strings magazine in September 2018, Micarelli at that time still only had partial feeling in three fingers.
Fans of her music were devastated. “Thus the voice of Lucia Micarelli on the violin has fallen largely silent — or so it seems to me,” one blog lamented in 2011.
Since then, Micarelli has been continuing to explore other genres, including jazz and rock and folk music.
But the Kashmir performance is the one that continues to stir the imagination of people who love music for its feeling.
“Uninhibited, unchained, unfettered, unconventional,” one comment on the video praised her. “A wild wind swirls in the soul of this creature and music sets it free.”
The interesting thing about the “Kashmir” piece is the first part sounds like a freestyle, but it’s actually the beginning of a concerto by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. That concerto, if continued, has a very different feeling from Kashmir. (Here is an example.)
In her 2018 PBS live performance video for “An Evening with Lucia Micarelli,” she plays Kashmir again, but with more thinking and hesitation than before. She also used to play with her entire body, but now she’s more focused on the instrument.
One of the horrible part of the times that we live in is that even classical music has been affected. There has been too much thinking in the playing, not enough feeling. Somehow, the flow of instinct and feeling has been disrupted. It seems the only classical musicians who survive do so by overthinking, leading to halted, uncomfortable performances. Or some musicians make it all about themselves. When is the cloud over the world going to lift, so that people are free to play on instinct and feeling again and true talent can shine?
In 2008, Micarelli played rock music as classical music. Or, is it that she plays classical music like rock music?
Maybe she has no definition, and that’s how she likes it.
Here is Lucia Micarelli’s performance of “Kashmir”: