Tag Archives: Japanese pianist

Meet the Artist……Hiroaki Takenouchi, pianist

(photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega 2013)

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

Schumann: Concerto

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.

Nelson Freire

Roger Muraro

Krystian Zimerman

Oleg Boshnyakovich

Rudolf Serkin

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Glenn Gould

Pierre Boulez

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).

  

Website:

http://hiroakitakenouchi.com

Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/takenouchipianist

Twitter

https://twitter.com/giroaqui

 

 

Meet the Artist……Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming, pianist

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career? 

It was my pianist mother who wanted me to be a piano teacher and in a way, she forced me to learn the piano. She initially taught me, and as I continued my studies in Europe, I began developing a busy concert schedule.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

Leonard Bernstein while I was studying in Europe, and my pet cats, dogs and birds who have been there throughout my life and career.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Just when I was launching my career and I was about to perform with Leonard Bernstein in Vienna, I contracted a really high fever and I ended up losing much of my hearing, much of which is lost still today. My search for medical treatment took me to Stockholm though, and I ended up broadcasting on the Swedish and German radio there, so the positive in me sees the opportunity it brought for me.

However, I would not really say that I think of that as my greatest musical challenge – every collaboration with other musicians and orchestras is a challenge in its own way. One of the greatest recent challenges was the Chopin piano concerto I played with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra last year. The conductor as well as the whole orchestra were impressed with my performance and I was incredibly honoured to be asked to play with them again.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

I am my worst enemy and have never been happy with any of my performances!

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I think quite a few by Debussy, Chopin and Ravel.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? 

I always try to decide my repertoire with the concert and tour audience in mind, to ensure they enjoy listening; after all, they are the ones who are buying the tickets. I would never choose my repertoire to please the critics.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

I like venues with a retro feel to them, particularly ones in Paris. I do not remember the name but love the castle in Manheim, Germany where Mozart played just once. It is not famous at all…

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love playing pieces by Debussy, Ravel and Chopin, and listening to recordings by the Moscow Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Sergei Rachmaninoff and Georges Cziffra for the piano, and Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I do not think I have one – since I am always dissatisfied with my performance, I try to forget about it every time I finish playing!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

To be artistic and not to care too much about technique. I think the music schools nowadays tend to teach their students only technique. The teachers are not artistic enough and focus too much on the technique which is sad.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am doing a lot of concerts in Europe and Japan this year. I am about to tour in Germany will be performing in London at Cadogan Hall on 23 March 2014.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

I am planning to be retired by then, surrounded by my cats and dogs under a big tree and peacefully listening to the music such as Debussy’s “La Mer” and praying to God.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Believing in God and God’s promises.

What is your most treasured possession? 

My pet cats and dogs.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Listening to music while sewing.

What is your present state of mind? 

I feel life needs patience.

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming performs works by Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Brahms and Sukegawa with violinist Vasko Vassilev at London’s Cadogan Hall on 23rd March. Full details here

Born in Berlin to a Japanese pianist mother and a Russian-Swedish architect father, Fuzjko relocated to Tokyo at the age of five to be raised only by her mother, and also received piano lessons under her guidance. At the age of ten, Leonid Kreutzer, a Russian-born German pianist and her father’s longtime friend, started giving her piano lessons. At this point, he had predicted Fuzjko’s international success as a pianist. At 17, Fuzjko made her concert debut while still a high school student, and later won various prizes in major domestic competitions, such as the NHK Mainichi Music Contest and the Bunka Radio Broadcasting Co. Music Prize. She then began her professional career by collaborating with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and other Japanese Orchestras. Samson François who had just happened to be visiting Japan, heard her play and praised her musicianship and interpretation of Chopin and Liszt.

Fuzjko’s full biography

Interview date: 4th March 2014

Concert review: Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall

(photo: Richard Avedon)

I am a great admirer of Japanese pianist, Mitsuko Uchida. Not just her exquisite touch, and sensitivity to the score, but also her ability to bring intimacy even to the biggest performance spaces – as she did in her concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 7 March, part of the Southbank Centre’s excellent International Piano Series.

Read my review of her magical performance of Bach, Schoenberg and Schumann here

Concert review: Kimiko Ishizaka at the 1901 Arts Club

Just five minutes from Waterloo Station is the splendid 1901 Arts Club, an elegant venue that seeks to recreate the “salon culture” of 19th-century Europe. The building, a former schoolmaster’s house built in 1901, retains its late Victorian exterior, while inside the richly-decorated rooms suggest a private home. There is a comfortable upstairs sitting room and bar, and an intimate recital area downstairs, with a medium-sized Steinway piano set against a backdrop of gold swags and tails. The staff are welcoming and friendly, and the whole ambience is that of a private concert in your own home. It made for a very unique experience of the first book of J S Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, performed by Japanese pianist Kimiko Ishizaka.

Ms Ishizaka is on a mission to bring Bach to the people and to make his wonderful music accessible to everyone. Her Open Goldberg Variations, a crowd-funded (via Kickstarter), non-profit project that created a high-quality recording, typeset score and iPad app all free to download, is a fine example of her democratic approach.

Bach composed his Well-Tempered Clavier “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study”, in effect the forty-eight Preludes and Fugues are technical studies or Etudes, and were probably never intended to be performed as concert pieces. But in the years since their publication, the “48” as they are also called, have come to be regarded as some of the finest writing for keyboard. The works offer great variety of styles, structure, textures, colours, and moods, all of which Ms Ishizaka demonstrated in her performance.

In a concert lasting nearly two hours (with an interval), we experienced a committed and intense performance in which Ms Ishizaka highlighted the shifting moods and soundscapes of Bach’s writing. A serene opening Prelude in C Major (the most famous of the entire 48) launched us on a journey of discovery through dances and chorales (D minor and B-flat minor Preludes), joy and yearning (C-sharp major and F minor Preludes), sunshine and sadness (D major and C-sharp minor Preludes), seriousness and serenity (E mjaor and C minor Preludes). Ms Ishizaka eschewed the pedal throughout, though not through any wish to present a historically authentic performance. Rather, she did not need it: her superior legato technique created some exquisite cantabile playing, especially in the slow movements, while sprightly passagework and lively tempi gave the suggestion of the harpsichord in the rapid movements. Her sense of counterpoint was well-defined in the Fugues, with clear lines and distinct voices.

Ms Ishizaka is not afraid of robust fortes, perhaps sometimes too robust for the size of the venue, but overall her dynamic range was varied and colourful. There was judicious use of rubato in the Preludes, and some rather fine highlighting of dissonances and unusual harmonies, showing the forward pull of Bach’s musicial vision. Although a rather long evening of music, it was a fine lesson in Bach’s compositional thought, presented in an elegant and powerful performance.

Kimiko Ishizaka’s Meet the Artist interview

Open Goldberg Variations project

1901 Arts Club

Meet the Artist……Kimiko Ishizaka

Kimiko Ishizaka

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career? 

The inspiration to play piano came to me at the age of four when my mother first placed my tiny hands on the keyboard and pushed my fingers down with hers, thus teaching me the first piece I learned, the Minuet BWV 114 from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook, which at that time we still believed to be a piece by J.S. Bach. I say inspiration, but really it was a decision: a decision, that I would be a pianist, which was probably made before I was born.

The more interesting moment in time is the point at which I actually embraced my future and identity as a pianist. Certain experiences in my life, which began at university, contributed to my actively making the decision to become a musician for myself: the first time I really connected with an audience as a soloist (my early years were dominated by chamber music); having success at sports; learning a second language: these are all things that I needed to experience before I could embrace fully embrace the decision to be a pianist.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing? 

Everybody’s playing is a conglomerate of personal experience, and memories. I cannot name any single influence. However, there are many small clues that added up over time to lead me down a road of exploration that eventually allowed me to find my own voice as a pianist.

My experience as a weight lifter taught me that the millimetre matters, that a small change in the shift of your balance can mean the difference between success and failure. Also, my music school professor, Roswitha Gediga, would admonish me to relax my shoulders, to get to the bottom of the keys, and would demonstrate this to me in my lessons.

Those experiences and memories led me to deeply explore the physical aspect of my playing. And in the sanctity of my practice room, with the requisite time for exploration, I’ve looked at my playing and progressively learned about the physical mechanics of piano technique. You can’t do that type of exploration when you’ve got one 70-page chamber piece to get through after the next, where you really can’t ever find the time to get into the detail of each motion.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Every new piece that a pianist learns is a great challenge. It’s never the same set of problems twice, but this is a good thing, really. It keeps it fresh.

One challenge came at the point when I stopped playing in the chamber ensemble that occupied the first 17 years of my career. We had been playing up to 50 concerts a year and that number pretty much went to zero for me overnight when we quit. So while it was a profound change in the rhythm of my life, it afforded me the space and peace to finally embrace my identity as a pianist and make it my own.

Which performances and recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my recent solo recording from the Open Goldberg Variations project that completely occupied the last two years of my life. It was a large project that involved many more people than just myself, and we produced something that is truly new and beautiful.

The recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations is now in the public domain, as is the new engraving of the score of the piece, which I assisted in editing. People can get this recording directly from the Open Goldberg website – www.opengoldbergvariations.org – and enjoy the full freedom of a public domain work. That means you can download it, share it, and even use it as the starting point for new creative works.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

Any hall with a Bösendorfer and an attentive audience.

I recently played in the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts. The hall features a window behind the performer that looks out over the ocean. I liked that quite a bit because as I was warming up during the day, all sorts of birds were swimming in the water right below me.

There are some halls on my wish list as well. From the photographs I imagine that it is divine playing in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk.

In the end, music is this ephemeral thing with a very strange heartbeat of its own. When it’s a good performance, the music is all that matters. So whether it’s a large audience or small, whether the piano is working with you or against you, and whether the hall is resonant or dull, the pianist only has the music to think about in every case.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Music is a very personal thing. I recently performed a concert that was half Bach and half Chopin. It was interesting to me after the concert to listen to the audience members debating amongst themselves whether the Bach part or the Chopin part was the better, more enjoyable half.

Just like the audience at that concert, I have my personal preferences. I seek out the pieces that speak to me in the most profound way. The piano repertoire is very large, and there is far too much for anybody to play in a lifetime. So I have focused on a few composers to whom I have the closest relationship. This includes Bach, Schubert, Debussy, and more recently, Chopin. This is something that will certainly continue to evolve.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are many, of course, though I don’t listen to recordings nearly as much as one would expect. One of the most inspiring concerts I’ve attended recently was Radu Lupu performing Schubert and Schumann in Amsterdam.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

When I was 11, the trio I played in with my brothers debuted at the Sogakudo Concert Hall in Tokyo. At the time all three of us played both piano and a string instrument – mine was the violin. We played every combination of violin, cello, and piano music possible, including 6-handed piano.

What I remember distinctly was the audience’s extreme enthusiasm for what we had done. Many of them had brought flowers, and they placed the bouquets on the stage as we played successive encores. By the end there were over 30 bouquets, and this made a strong impression on me as a child.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

Be yourself. Attending your 20th masterclass won’t make you any smarter than the 19th did. Study the music, the actual piece. Not someone’s analysis of it, or the composer’s life, or the 10 other pieces that were written at the same time. The piece is supposed to stand by itself, and it’s got its own message, but you need to take the time to find it.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am preparing to make a studio recording of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Book One. The upcoming concert at the 1901 Arts Club in London is part of my preparation. I hope to go to the studios in January 2014. Before then there will be a period of fund raising, using Kickstarter.com, which will likely take place in September – November 2013.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Taking walks in the fresh snow. When the snow and ice go crunch under my feet I experience an advanced elevated state of happiness that cannot be equalled by anything.

German-born Japanese pianist Kimiko Ishizaka performs the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at the 1901 Arts Cub, London on Wednesday 30th January. Further information and tickets here

The Open Goldberg Project

Kimiko Ishizaka’s biography

CD review: Debussy – Takemitsu

Claude Debussy – Images Books I & II, Images oubliées

Toru Takemitsu – Les yeux clos, Les yeux clos II, Rain Tree Sketch, Rain Tree Sketch II

Rika Zayasu, piano

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, pianist Rika Zayasu has released a CD of two books of Images and Images oubliées, and four pieces by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.

Recorded at St Bartholomew’s, Brighton, this CD is produced and mastered by Claudio Records, using their new ‘Q-Lab Sound/192-Stereo High Definition Audio’, a technique which results in a remarkably pristine and natural quality of sound (undoubtedly helped by the fine acoustic of the recording venue and the quality Steinway instrument). CDs produced using this technique can be played on high-quality DVD-Audio equipment and Blu-Ray surround sound systems.

Rika plays with great sensitivity, displaying grace and precision in touch and use of pedal, and her understanding of Debussy’s music is clear from the range of musical shadings, nuances, colours, articulation and rhythmic vitality she brings to these works. The first Image from Book I, ‘Reflets dans l’eau’, is supple and fluid, with a rippling, luminous treble over a rich bass, which never overpowers. The oriental elements of this music (as in the other pieces in this suite) are highlighted, reminding us of Debussy’s fascination for Japonisme and eastern gamelan music. ‘Hommage à Rameau’ is haunting, stately and antique, its tempo relaxed but not dragging, so we never lose a sense of its structure, underpinned by the underlying 3-in-a-bar pulse, with some beautifully paced climaxes (again, evident in other works on the CD). ‘Mouvement’, in contrast, is sprightly and animated, with bright, joyful, bell-like sounds which continue into ‘Cloches a travers les feuilles’, in which Debussy evokes the sonorities of bells and carillons, and Far Eastern percussion. Here, there is some lovely, subtle highlighting of the internal melodic lines of this complex music. ‘Poissons d’or’ is vibrant and colourful, shimmering and characterful.

The Images oubliées are more introspective (Debussy described the pieces as “not for brilliantly lit salons … but rather conversations between the piano and oneself.”) . The ‘Lent’ is expressive and melancholy, while the ‘Sarabande’ (later reworked for the middle movement of Pour le Piano, with a few adjustments to harmony and phrasing) moves with a solemn, ancient elegance, with some lovely bright, clean fortes in the climaxes on the final page of the music. ‘Tres Vite’ is humourous, with toccata-like qualities which recall both the ‘Prelude’ and ‘Toccata’ from Pour le Piano, and ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ from Estampes.

The four pieces by Takemitsu perfectly complement the works by Debussy, and are related to them in the use of titles to stimulate the listener’s imagination. Les yeux clos (The Closed Eyes - three pieces in total) are inspired by a lithograph by the French symbolist artist Odilon Redon, which depicts a bust of a woman whose eyes are closed. It suggests a dream or inner world. Takemitsu’s music reflects this in the use of fragmented melodies over sustained pitches, with flexible durations, which freely connect to one another. Similarly, the Rain Tree Sketches were inspired by a poem by Japanese novelist, and friend to the composer, Kenzaburo Oe, which describes ‘the clever rain tree’, an ancient tree whose thousands of tiny leaves collect and store rain water, so that after the storm has passed, rain continues to fall from the tree. Precipitation is suggested through single droplets of quiet, lone sustained notes and sudden dissonant clusters of sounds, as if shaken from saturated branches.

All four pieces are played with immense control and insight. Soft, pastel-coloured sound showers and radiant trebles chime over rich bass sonorities and pedal points, while the silences are as carefully judged as the notes between them. These pieces are evocative and ethereal, their transcendental nature emphasised through the precise use of pedals, and the pianist’s ability to allow sounds to resonate and ring, or fade to nothing, which create an exquisite sense of stillness.

My Meet the Artist interview with Rika Zayasu

www.claudiorecords.com

Rika Zayasu plays Takemitsu Rain Tree Sketch II

Meet the Artist……Rika Zayasu

Rika Zayasu (Image credit: Laura Cortes)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career? 

My grandmother taught music at school and my aunt is a pianist, so I was familiar with the piano, but it was presented as something of importance and treated as such, so I didn’t have much access to it. And I didn’t even know what it was called! Then my mother asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons. I said ‘yes’ because the name sounded somehow pretty and magical to me and I expected something – I was 3 or 4. I’m glad I said yes then! And all followed accordingly as I continued playing. There were few moments of difficulties but I’m glad to be where I am now. Playing he piano is my job but it is also my way of life, a form of being musician.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing? 

I had truly great teachers who taught me how to be not only a better musician and pianist but also a better human being. But my greatest influences have been always of my fellow musician friends.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Everyday practice.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble? 

It depends on the orchestras and ensemble, and also the pieces you are playing. Sometimes, the lack of rehearsal time, but this could also be an exciting factor.

Which recordings are you most proud of?  

Well, my first commercial CD featuring Debussy and Takemitsu will be released on Claudio Records at the end of October! Claudio developed their cutting edge new recording system especially for these two composers and the venue, St Bartholomew’s in Brighton, and we had a wonderful instrument to play on too. The result is quite amazing, and we are very proud.

Do you have a favourite concert venue? 

I don’t know many prestigious venues, which I I’m sure I could have listed here. But so far, the Wigmore Hall and Salle Gaveau in Paris are two of my favourite venues to perform in. Both halls provide the right balance between intimacy and distance, which allows both audience and performers to concentrate on the musical communication. I think for a live concert, you don’t necessarily need the perfect acoustics or instruments to achieve this.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

I am a big fan of the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen! I also admire the piano playing of the late Vlado Perlemuter. In fact it was he who encouraged me to come to Paris when I played Chopin’s 3rd Ballade for him when I was very young. I didn’t actually study with him, but stayed there in my formative years for nearly 7 years before settling in London, so it was important event and I have always liked his music since then.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I would like all my concerts to be memorable and I remember every single performance I have given so far, as most of performers do, I believe. There is no storage limit for this kind of memory.

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to? 

Debussy. I also love the sound of the oboe d’amore, so tend to get recordings which feature the instrument.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians/students? 

To inspire and get inspired. Because I think inspiration is one of the most powerful ways of communication. I wouldn’t say ‘there is no inspiration’ as some of the greatest composers used to say.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Scriabin Piano Sonatas for the next Claudio CD. Also Christian Mason’s ‘On Love and Death’ for soprano sax and piano.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

I have recently started pastel drawings, mainly the portraits of my musician friends. It makes you realise so many things and you learn so much from it.

 

Born in Tokyo in 1972, Rika began playing the piano at the age of five, inspired by her pianist aunt Yoshiko Ogimi and encouraged by her mother who was an amateur violinist. Following the completion of her study at the Tokyo Metropolitan High School of Music and Fine Arts, she moved to Paris and took private lessons with Michel Béroff and Denis Pascal for three years. She also studied with Louis-Claude Thirion and obtained a 1er prix à l’unanimité (piano) and a gold medal (chamber music) from the Conservatoire de Boulogne-Billancourt.

She moved to London in 1995 and studied with Maria Curcio, the legendary pupil of Artur Schnabel for more than five years. Rika continued her study with Joan Havill and the late Paul Hamburger at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and obtained her Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s Degree in music performance.

In 2006, she has completed her thesis on the music of Tōru Takemitsu entitled To the Edge of Sound: Tōru Takemitsu’s works for soloist and orchestra at the University of York. Her research interests broadly across the period of global musical exchange since the late 19th century. She is currently undertaking a research on the relation of music to the surrealism.

She is an advocate of new music and gave several world premieres in the UK and abroad. It is her great privilege to have worked with composers such as, Thomas Simaku and John Stringer – but also Evis Sammoutis, Ian Dickson, Christian Mason and many others.

She gave the first performance of her piano transcription of Takemitsu’s Requiem for string orchestra at St. Martin-in-the-fields in London to critical acclaim. Her new album featuring piano works by Debussy and Takemitsu is released on Claudio Records.

Rika Zayasu performs as a recitalist, soloist with orchestras, and chamber musician. Her recent appearances include London, Paris, and Tokyo. During the 2012/13 season, she will make several appearances in the UK, at the venues including St John’s Smith Square in London, West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge, and Sir Jack Lyon’s Concert Hall in York.

She currently lives in London with her husband and a Welsh springer spaniel.

Interview first published October 2012

www.rikazayasu.com

Concert review: Noriko Ogawa at Wigmore Hall

Image credit: Noriko Ogawa © Satoru Mitsuta

It was fitting that critically acclaimed Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa should open her Wigmore Hall lunchtime concert with a work by one of her countrymen: Rain Tree Sketch II by Toru Takemitsu. Not only does this piece of late 20th-century impressionism draw direct influences from the music of Debussy, which formed the bulk of the programme, it was performed on a day when many people came into the Wigmore shaking rain from umbrellas, hats and raincoats.

Read my full review here