March 26, 2011

I am overwhelmed and shaken by the extent of the damages and sufferings caused by the giant earthquake and subsequent tsunamis on March 11, only to be followed by radioactive threats from nuclear reactors on the coast of Tohoku or Northeast Region of Japan.

Every year I spend two and a half months teaching at a university in Akita, one of the major cities of Tohoku or Northeast Region.  Unlike adjacent prefectures (districts) Akita faces the Japan Sea, not the Pacific Ocean.  And when the tsunamis arrived they were not so damaging.

The devastated areas are close to my heart because I know many of them.  For the past several years, I have performed regularly in this region.  And when the weather was mild, I frequently hiked the mountain trails of hard hit prefectures of Iwate, Aomori and Miyagi.

Just several days before the great earthquake struck, I had taken part in a chamber music concert in Akita City with two other musicians.  One was Takeshi Sato, a young pianist who resides in Germany and another, Shinsuke Hagawa, a cellist who is active in Japan.  Both hail from Akita.  The packed audience and the three of us had enjoyed the exciting afternoon.

The program note included an interview with me which was held a week earlier.  Below I include some excerpts:

Q: What do you remember about this Akita Atorion Music Hall?

A: Ever since the Akita International University (国際教養大学) opened its doors in 2004, I played many times here.  To mention some events: three times with the Akita  Atorion Chamber Orchestra; two lecture-concerts, sponsored by the university ;  a Christmas concert, sponsored by this Hall; a duo concert in 2010 with Nuyoya, a marimba player, who resides in Germany.   Through these events   I met many music lovers and performers in Akita and neighboring prefectures and developed lasting personal ties.

Q: Who influenced you in your steps to become a professional musician?

A:  Different people helped me in various phases of my career development.  When I began to play at 3 years old, my teachers taught me the fundamentals of technique and musical sense.  I think the basic skills which I acquired while very young carried me through in later stages.  At Julliard School of Music, my teacher Joseph Fuchs, guided me as a father does toward his daughter.  He illustrated to me with his unwavering stance toward music (even at the age of 90) what it takes to come closer to the true nature of music.  He also taught me that through such continuous endeavors, moments of joy visit us unexpectedly.

Giuseppe Sinopoli, who suddenly passed away while directing an opera in Berlin in 2001, invited me to numerous big stages in Europe.  I also had an opportunity to record violin and chamber concertos by Berg with him. Through several concert tours with him in Europe and Japan, I learned that a bona fide, first class musician always possesses his/her concrete vision of how to express a particular piece.   And he/she has the will of steel, which never compromises, until he arrives at the actualization of his vision.

In New York, from time to time, the late Isaac Stern would listen to my playing in front of him.  He taught me the need to retain a rigorous and strict stance toward music.  I never forget the conversation with him right after his performance of Mozart concert.  His view toward his own performance was shockingly objective and analytical.

Q:  What should we look for in the coming chamber music concert?

A:   When people hear the term "chamber music", some think of it as somewhat plain.  But it is the most important genre in music.    For composers, unlike an orchestral piece where many instruments appear, chamber music treasures most intimate interactions among a limited number of instruments.

 Chamber music displays the most fundamental aspect of music -- the structure.   Thus, it is a very important element in music.  Recently, the music director of Suntory Hall (in Tokyo) and a world class cellist, T. Tsutsumi wrote in a newspaper, "Chamber music is the most basic part of music.  I find that wherever chamber music is very popular, the level of music of that city is equally high and vice versa.  I hope that Japanese musicians will have more opportunities in play chamber music and that Japanese music lovers begin to appreciate its charm more."

I cannot agree more with the sentiment of Mr. Tsutsumi, based on my past professional experience.   I hope many people would come to chamber music concerts more often.

Q: Any message for young, aspiring musicians?

A:  Music is like a dialogue.  A musician shouldn't concentrate on her part alone, but must make effort to understand how the melody fits in the overall structure and flow of harmony.  Don't miss any opportunity to play chamber music, and take serious interest in understanding the structure of music.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Reiko Watanabe published on April 5, 2011 6:27 PM.

Dec. 5, 2009 Judge at National Music Competition & Patience was the previous entry in this blog.

Pressler Recital is the next entry in this blog.

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