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?
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