Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?
I don’t remember the inspiration per se; just remember that I liked it from the beginning!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Leaving Japan at the age of 18 and coming to the UK. For a long time I was undecided about whether to stay in Japan to study or to emigrate to see the “wider” world. I feel the choice I made was the right one and I’m still here.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
It often feels like extra work, having to learn pieces that are really hard and that I know I won’t play again for a while, if ever. Then again, I do this all the time, as I love the so-called rarities so I can’t exactly complain…
On a slightly different note, I had a period when I seriously considered a career-change in the middle of my undergraduate studies. My confidence level was at a record low then. In the end I came through to the other side and I am glad I didn’t change career only to escape the negative feelings I suffered from.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
For my latest Haydn disc from Artalinna, I intentionally chose his middle-period sonatas for harpsichord and fortepiano and recorded on a huge Steinway. I think it worked out pretty well. I’ve been in love with these sonatas ever since I found out about them when I was a teenager and there’s a talk of doing Vol.2. Please help us to make this happen!
The two great piano concerti (Catoire and Sherwood) I recorded with the RNSO for Dutton back in 2011 are both world-première recordings and I am rather proud of it too.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op.111
Boulez: 12 Notations
Chopin: Sonata No.3 Op.58
Elgar: Enigma Variations
Grieg: Ballade in G minor
Medtner Sonata minacciosa Op.53 No.2
Parry: “Hands Across the Centuries” Suite
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I love exploring the lesser-known repertoire, both new and old, so if it is appropriate, I like putting together a whole programme with my recent discoveries. That’s why I love playing in places like the Husum “Rarities of Piano Music” Festival in Germany. At other times, I tend to recycle my old mainstream pieces as the framework of a programme and insert a few curios.
I am becoming more and more aware that I don’t have forever to learn everything I love, so I try to digest a few pieces from my “Learn by 40” list every season.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Not in particular.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I keep finding new favourite pieces. My pattern is that I obsess over a piece for a while then move onto another obsession. I remember my first real obsession was Ravel’s La Valse: I would listen to it numerous times day after day when I was 13. Most recently, I’ve just graduated from Poulenc’s Dialogues des carmélites.
When I want to relax, I might listen to Nancarrow’s player-piano studies: they never fail to make me have a good laugh. Songs by Miyuki Nakajima are also on the list. She is a singer/songwriter who has an iconic status in Japan.
Who are your favourite musicians?
In no particular order and just off the top of my head – I’m bound to be missing many more.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
This is more to do with the state of mind I would love to be in before each performance: I was preparing to go on stage in Salzburg. My mental conditioning was as best as I could imagine. I was not nervous but felt calm yet so sharp, I could feel I was going to play really well. Then I went to the bathroom. The lock in the cubicle was a kind which I was not used to. And because I was so concentrated on my imminent performance, I couldn’t work out how to open the door and panicked thinking I got locked in.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I mostly find musicians who have serious non-musical interests inherently more interesting, not only as people but also as musicians.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m always trying to raise funds for the next recording projects, which I have so many! Also just starting to push my new CD of Haydn CD mentioned above.
To coincide with this release, I will be presenting a programme including two of the Haydn sonatas, Nancarrow & Prokofiev in a new festival in Paris Festival Piano-Oxygene on 3 October 2014.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
In a South American jungle looking for butterflies and orchids.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I had a great cigar lesson with the great Cuban pianist Jorge Luis Prats recently (with his custom-made Havanas). As a master of that art like him, one might get close, or at least I was made aware that that was the objective of the cigar culture. For this knowledge, I thank you, Jorge! My whole body stank of cigars for the next two days though.
What is your most treasured possession?
If music-related, it would be the first edition copy of Medtner’s book Muza i Moda (The Muse and the Fashion) signed by the composer.
Heralded by The Times as “just the sort of champion the newest of new music needs”, while being praised as “impeccable in his pianism and unfailing in his idiomatic grasp” by Gramophone, Takenouchi’s curiosity and a natural penchant for integrity makes his playing and vast repertoire unique amongst his generation of pianists: his love for the music of classical masters – particularly Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin – sits side by side with his passion for the music of Medtner and Rachmaninov, lesser-known British composers such as Sterndale Bennett and Parry, and the contemporary repertoire.
As a soloist, he has recently appeared on many concert platforms including the Wigmore Hall, Tokyo Opera City, the South Bank Centre. He has also performed at festivals in Bath, Cheltenham and Salzburg and given recitals in the UK, Japan, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and Canada. His future engagements will take him even further to the Far East, including performances in Singapore and Vietnam. His more unusual recent appearances include the Rarities of Piano Repertoire Festival in Husum (Germany) and the BBC Four documentary The Prince and the Composer on the life and music of Parry alongside HRH The Prince of Wales. Takenouchi’s discography includes Cosmos Haptic: Contemporary Piano Music from Japan (LORELT) as well as the world première recordings of works by James Dillon (NMC), Edwin Roxburgh (NMC) and Jeremy Dale Roberts (LORELT). 2012 saw two further releases: two piano arrangements of Delius’s orchestral works (SOMM with Simon Callaghan), and a highly acclaimed disc of piano concertos by Catoire and Sherwood (another world première recording) with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Dutton Epoch).
Since 2012 Takenouchi has been teaching piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow). He also returns every summer to give masterclasses at the Poros International Piano Academy (Greece) and Ingenium International Music Academy (UK).