Tag Archives: Japanese pianist

Meet the Artist…..Noriko Ogawa

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music? 

My mother is a piano teacher. I used to crawl under the piano when my mother was teaching – I am talking about when I was not even a year old.  So, it was totally natural for me to take up piano lessons.  As for pursuing a career, I am still looking for the secret to succeed.  Quite honestly, I still feel like a music college student because the basics of my life have been the same (whether piano practise is done or not is a major issue of the day).

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

My mother Michiko for a start.  As for teachers, I am really grateful to two teachers, Mr. Hironaka who taught me in Japan and Benjamin Kaplan who coped with me in London.  Ben was the one who told me how to look at the music, how to analyse, and how to perform.

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

I cannot think of anything much off the top of my head. Coming from a family with a piano teacher with absolutely no connection to any ‘important’ people in Japan, let alone outside Japan, I feel I have done pretty OK.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Recordings…. Takemitsu piano music because it was the first CD of the journey with Robert von Bahr and BIS (now, I have recorded 33 CDs with them!!!!).  I am proud of the most recent recording, SATIE with an 1890 Erard Piano.  I was asked to perform a recital on an Erard piano once.  I was reluctant because I am not a period instrument specialist, but the piano was so wonderful that I fell in love immediately.  As soon as I played the concert, I grabbed the arm of the owner of the instrument.  I asked him if I could use the piano for a CD recording. I am totally fascinated by Erik Satie at the moment. His music is raw, but the ideas he came up with are 20-30 years ahead of his time. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to re-discover his ability, to look into his musicality with more respect. Satie has been underestimated for a long time. Having the Erard for the recording has helped me to realise his genius approach, just because I love this particular instrument so very much!!

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

Debussy, Takemitsu for sure because I like working on ‘beauty of sound’ at the piano.  And some Rachmaninov.  I say this because every time I work with Russian orchestra, they tell me I have a ‘quasi-Russian’ heart.  Personally, I like performing Schumann and Liszt very much and I have been including their pieces in my solo recitals this year because 2016 is marks anniversaries of their deaths [Schumann 1856, Liszt 1886]. They show me the depth of piano music. Very often, I am totally emotional and shaken by their music when I walk off the stage after a performance.

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

Nowadays, it is important to know ‘anniversaries’ of composers or any musical events.  When I find my favourite composers’ anniversaries, I feel as though I won a lottery.  It doesn’t mean I am worked up with it.  In reality, I speak to the promoters of concerts and build programmes.  So, each concert is unique.

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

I am one of the advisors of Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall in Japan.  It is a magnificent concert hall.  Of course, Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Wigmore, Cadogan, Kings Place in London are all very special to me.   Personally, I am happy wherever I am taken.  A school classroom can be a wonderful venue if I establish rapport with the audience.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

I like my close colleagues rather than superstars in the world. I get excited when I get to see what is so amazing about them close up – Peter Donohoe, Martin Roscoe, Kathryn Stott, Ronan O’Hora, Charles Owen, Katya Apekisheva to name a few.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

When a huge black hairy spider came out from ‘between keys’ on the piano after I finished playing the first item.  The spider looked massive and dramatic against very white keys!

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

One has to go through very tough practising.  It is important to have that level of work to get out there.  On top of it, there are many things one has to have in order to make career. Noticing a moment of ‘chance’ is important. I am talking about all yjr practical bits. Of course, talent and enthusiasm have to be there too.

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

The same… if I can still manage the same things in 10 years from now, I would be delighted.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Happiness is something every individual decides. I am happy when I am pottering around the house. Equally, I am very happy when I receive some good feedback from the audience. I nearly forgot to say this… I am very happy when a performance has gone well. But even happier when I have done my piano practice according to my plan (most of the time, everything gets delayed, I don’t complete my plan)

What is your most treasured possession?

I have been keeping my diary for the last 30 some years, nothing detailed, it is more like a log, just a record what I have done that day. I often think what would be my luxury on a desert island. Nail clippers!

www.norikoogawa.co.uk

Noriko Ogawa has achieved considerable renown throughout the world since her success at the Leeds International Piano Competition. Noriko’s “ravishingly poetic playing” (Telegraph) sets her apart from her contemporaries and acclaim for her complete Debussy series with BIS Records, confirms her as a fine Debussy specialist. Her Images Book I and II were chosen as the top recommendation ‘exquisite delicacy’, BBC Radio 3’s CD Review, January 2014. Noriko’s latest recording for BIS records is of solo piano music by Eric Satie.

Noriko appears with all the major European, Japanese and US orchestras including the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the world premiere of Richard Dubugnon’s Piano Concerto. Noriko made her BBC Proms debut in August 2013 and appeared again in 2014 with the Endymion Ensemble. She was the Artistic Director for the Reflections on Debussy Festival 2012 at Bridgewater Hall. In 2015 she continued as Associate Artist for Ravel and Rachmaninov Festival.

As a recitalist and chamber musician, with her piano duet partner Kathryn Stott, Noriko has performed Malcolm Arnold’s Concerto for Two Pianos at the 2013 BBC Proms.

Noriko regularly judges the BBC Young Musician, Munich International Piano Competition, Honens International Piano Competition and the Scottish International Piano Competition. Noriko has been appointed as Chairperson of the Jury for Japan’s prestigious 10th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2018.

Noriko’s Japanese translation of Susan Tomes’s book Out of Silence – a pianist’s yearbook has been reprinted due to popular demand.

Noriko is passionate about charity work, after the tsunami in Japan in 2011, she has raised over £40,000 for the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Fund. Noriko founded Jamie’s Concerts a series for autistic children and parents and is a Cultural Ambassador for the National Autistic Society.

Noriko is a professor at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Meet the Artist……Ayako Fujiki, pianist & composer

ayako-13

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music? 

I hardly remember when I first started to play the piano. I remember that I used to have a red toy piano. My mom bought it when my older sister was born. I grew up playing this toy piano, played some songs which I just learnt by singing. When my grandmother saw me she decided to buy a piano for me.

My family is pretty musical family. My father plays the guitar and sings opera, my mother used to play the Koto (japanese traditional instrument), and my sister played the piano, the clarinet and a bit of the violin. For me it is pretty normal to play some instruments. But I was passionate about the  piano and loved the piano’s sound. But also I played percussion in the kids orchestra and played little bit of the violin.

I have always felt passionate about the beauty of piano sound and the piano pieces composed by others. I tried hard and explored how to get better, how to play that sound, how to express music and I enjoyed those processes…  I love it and I feel restless if I don’t;  so I thought I might as well make it my profession.

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

Alicia de Larrocha definitely comes on top – I used to listen to her Granados/Goyescas and Albeniz/Iberia all the time before studying with her. I became a huge fan and fought for the privilege of becoming her pupil in Barcelona. I succeeded!  I also owe a lot to Carmen Bravo Mompou  – a great pianist and the widow of Frederic Mompou – one of my favourite composers, and Carlota Garriga – also a great pianist and the widow of one of renown conductors, Igor Markevich.

When composing I think I am between Japanese and some mixture of those countries I  was stimulated by  – I intuitively belong to Japanese culture because I grew up there but at the same time I absorbed lots of mixed cultures. I like Japanese composers, such as Toru Takemitsu, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joe Hisaishi etc. and the most of classical music composers like Debussy, Mompou, Chopin, Granados lots more..

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

To find my own way and stick to it.  Combining ambitious classical performance with being a composer is not always easy.  I try hard at my composing and my performing leveraging each other.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Finishing my ‘Brightwater’ CD gave me a great sense of achievement – I worked on it really hard for more than a year with the help of a number of people, including OBC concertmaster Christian Chivu and the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu the 1st soloist-cellist Cristoforo Pestalozzi.  I should say, as well, that felt really emotional when I played one of my pieces in a full Barcelona’s Palau de la Música in the context of a charity event to raise funds to support people affected by Japan’s big earthquake.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

Probably French and Spanish classical.  I also get carried away with romanticism in music such as Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn lots more… And my own pieces!

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

I think carefully about how the pieces tie with one another.  I think about the concert as a whole, trying to give it different moments, different emotions and would usually challenge myself to leverage on my cross-cultural musical background to choose the pieces.

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

I might say there is a venue in each city of each country. I like those places because they are fruits of cultural heritage from there. I especially like Palau de la Música in Barcelona, beautiful architecture, the size of the place and the acoustics are perfect.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Beyond classical, I listen to lots of electronic and ambient music – I like Anohni (Antony Hegarty), Tori Amos, Sigur Ros, etc.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

I would go for Martha Argerich, Maria Joao Pires, Daniel Barenboim, Mitsuko Uchida, Joshua Bell, Ryuichi Sakamoto.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

Playing Schumann Piano Concert in Bulgaria. I hardly communicated with most of orchestra members because of the language barrier, but on with the conductor, Sir Palikalov who is great musician and speaks English. But through music, we communicated very well and we understood each other. That process was a wonderful experience.

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

I guess be ambitious with the quality of the product and be yourself. Never give up making steps ahead.

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

I would like to have made an impact in the musical circles – big or small – but an impact which I feel proud of.

What is your most treasured possession?  

My Steinway…….

Ayako Fujiki’s new album ‘Brightwater’, featuring her own original pieces, was released on 30th September in UK. Ayako composes her own music, incorporating classical and electronic music techniques.

Born in Tokyo, Ayako Fujiki started playing the piano as a young child and performed her first concert at age seven, playing Beethoven and Chopin.  She has performed in Japan, Spain, UK, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Colombia and Bulgaria.

ayakofujiki.com

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