English Blog

Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 109 11/5/18

November 5, 2018

I have been studying Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 109. I have taught this piece, but I have never performed it. Op. 109 has been living in my heart for a long time, and I am glad to prepare for the performance, finally. As everyone knows it is a very special piece. The first movement is so concise. Beethoven is not chatty. He knows what he wants to say. The first theme, the second theme and the third material (arpeggios) – Exposition – are all in one page! But the transition between themes and materials are so organic. You would not feel it is so packed and hurried. It is almost like walking in a Japanese garden. The objects are placed so randomly, but in a beautiful harmony. Attacca to the second movement! Here you encounter with a sudden storm in the garden! But the storm does not stay too long. Then the third movement will carry you to the heaven. It is a theme and variations. At the beginning of the theme the left hand will climb up from the low E to B for one and a half octave. It is “stairs to the heaven” to me. The right hand sings a very tender song. Each variations portrays different parts of our lives, and the final variations (variation VI) starts with the original theme and move into massive trills. “Praise be to Lord!” The piece ends with the theme to conclude our journey. Sir Andras Schiff said in his lecture it is like J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I totally agree with him. When you play the last note you are so comforted. I always remember Revelation from Bible when I play the third movement.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth;
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea.

And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem
coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying,
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with all,
and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people;
and God himself shall be with them and be their God;
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,
And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21: 1-4

Beethoven Second Piano Concerto Op. 19 10/26/18

October 26, 2018

In 1795 Beethoven had a mission to achieve! He had a Vienna debut concert coming up. Beethoven was 24 years old (at the time of the concert), and he needed to show how great he was as a composer and a pianist. Beethoven had 2 big musicians to follow, Mozart and Haydn. He carried their tradition and he explored more innovative harmonies, wide range of expression, and virtuoso piano writing in this piece.

By 1790′ the music became more and more popular among the aristocracy. Imagine! Beethoven was thinking about his audience when he was writing this piece (I think!). He is using the Viennese Folk tune in the 3rd movement. This movement is really fun and charming, and I imagine the aristocrats sitting in the Beethoven’s debut concert were smiling constantly during the 3rd movement. In the 2nd movement he uses an interesting pedal marking. He wants us to put our right foot on the sustain pedal for 10 measures! This creates a very special sound. The sound will take us to the space, almost! All of the notes are ringing together in the soft dynamic and the sound plays into the air. I love this moment! Another interesting fact is that we see “fugue” in the cadenza of 1st movement. Of course fugues is usually a signature of his late works. Do you know why? Because Beethoven wrote this cadenza much later than the body of the concerto, I believe around 1809. That is why this cadenza sounds more romantic. It is a long cadenza and the materials are from the orchestra exposition. He writes a virtuoso piano part for the cadenza, and it is really wonderful to play it. By the way this movement has double expositions, orchestra tutti exposition and piano entrance exposition! Beethoven put an extra effort to do this. It is fun to analyze this movement though!

At Beethoven’s Vienna debut concert he played not only this concerto, but also he played one of Mozart piano concertos. Later in that year, 1795, Haydn invited Beethoven to play a concert together, and they chose this concerto, Haydn conducting and Beethoven on piano! Beethoven carried Mozart and Haydn’s tradition and he went on to the next page in the music history.

I had a fantastic time performing this concerto last Saturday, as a part of “Beethoven and His Mentors” Concert. I felt really good how I played! And I appreciate many people came to me at the reception to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Thank you very much! I will continue my journey with Beethoven, and look forward to seeing you at my next concert!

Good Things to Remember Everyday 10/16/18

October 16, 2018

Recently I changed my long time routine. I quit reading books when I am in bed before going to sleep. From my very young age I always carry a book to go to bed, and read it. Instead I gently close my eyes and start remembering good things happened that day. Tasty fruit at breakfast, Beautiful blue sky, Fun articles on a newspaper, Having fun solving the puzzles on a newspaper, Short, but nice conversation with my neighbor or the clerk at the nearby supermarket, no traffic, students came to lesson with preparation (!), Spotted a beautiful flower while driving, Nice remarks in email communication, Good drama to watch on Japan TV (!), Good jokes with my colleagues at school.. etc. We have something good to remember each day. When we are about to sleep we can’t worry. We can’t be stressed. Our task is to have a good night sleep for tomorrow.

Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

A Movie “The Old Man and The Gun” 10/15/18

October 16, 2018

This movie is based on David Grann’s 2003 New Yorker article about Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a criminal expert (!) who robbed many banks, escaped from prison on at least 18 separate occasions (he escaped from San Quentin at the age of 70….), and went on his final crime attempt at the age of 79! That is amazing numbers to achieve. Tucker keeps the gun, which mostly sits unused in his well-made jacket pocket, but he is a good nature and well-mannered man even at the bank confronting the teller to give him money!! He is a charmer! It is a perfect movie for Robert Redford. I can’t imagine anyone else would do as well as Redford. He is a movie icon. He has a charisma. He still has, at the age of 82 (!), a smile which will melt our heart. Sissy Spacek (a woman who loves him despite of his profession) and Casey Affleck (John Hunt, who is a detective to try to catch him, but actually he becomes to  be captured by Tucker’s charm) have perfect roles as well. They fit into their characters naturally. Great acting! I have heard this can be Redford’s last movie before he retires from the movie business!! You will have a great time with this movie. Be charmed!

 

 

 

Movie “Science Fair” 10/1/18

October 1, 2018

What an energy!! Being young is just wonderful! The film picked 9 brilliant high school students from all over the world to follow their path to come to ISEF (The International Science and Engineering Fair). I really did not know anything about ISEF! It is a huge event. And many high schoolers think ISEF is the key point to be accepted by the good universities. 1700 students are selected from 78 different countries to come to the fair. Each student has different back ground, financially and ethnically. But their goal is to win the BEST in the fair which comes with $75,000 cash prize with many awards. All 1700 students are amazingly smart and quirky! And they work very very hard to prepare for the poster presentation in front of the distinguished judges. They are nervous. They are excited. It is a wonderful film. And it is very entertaining!

 

A Movie “Kusama: Infinity” 9/21/18

September 21, 2018

Yayoi Kusama, a 89 years old Japanese artist, is the top-selling female artist in the world. Her exhibitions are often sold-out. She speaks in Japanese in this movie and I hope the audience can feel the nuances in her Japanese in the subtitle. Her speaking manner is quite unique, but totally sincere. Kusama went through a hard journey from a conservative family (but wealthy) in Japan to a radical life in USA in 1960’s. She overcame countless odds to bring her artistic vision to the world. For the last 40 years she has been living in the mental institution in Tokyo, and commutes to her studio everyday. She has been well taken care by people around her. But for decades, her work pushed boundaries that often alienated her from the art world.

Before coming to US she was an underdog against everything in Japan, a life in a dysfunctional family that discouraged her from a creative ambitions, sexism in the art establishment, and mental illness in a culture where that was a particular shame. After coming back to Japan from US in 70’s she was also alienated because of her scandalous activities. Now she is a “Princess of Polka Dots, and has achieved the international fame. She has her own museum in her home town (she could not go back to her home town for many years because people simply did not accept her radical attitude). I love her arts and I was deeply moved by her sincere talk in the movie. When I went to see this movie at Laemmle there were only 3 of us… I hope many more people would see it.

 

Convenience Store Woman (コンビニ人間)Sayaka Murata (村田沙耶香) Portobello Books 9/10/18

September 10, 2018

I got this book at Hong Kong Airport. I saw the review on “Convenience Store Woman” on LA Times a little while ago, and I was interested in reading it. The translation from Japanese to English is very quirky and funny, for purpose, I think. It sometimes sounds some of bad owners manuals in English we found in Asian products! The Convine (an abbreviation for a convenience store) is totally a Japanese culture! People take it as a sanctuary, a hang-around place, a restaurant (you can find basically everything there), etc.. Things are packed so neatly (as you imagine in Japan!) and everything is done according to manuals. The store opens 24 hours/7 days all year-long, and it is always clean and organized! So the character in this book, Ms. Furukura, loves rules and manuals. In all her life she struggled to fit into the society, and finally she found “Convine” as her comfortable place to be. She feels she is a part of the store. Her life is to work at the store, she tries to sleep and eat well in order to work well at the store. I don’t want to give away everything! You have to read the rest of the book, whether in English or Japanese! I liked the most about this book is Ms. Furukura’s family. They accept her weirdness and peculiar attitude, and simply love her. It is about the Japanese culture, but it applies to everywhere. How do we want to be an individual human-being? Everybody is different.

Beethoven Focus for 2018-19 season 9/5/18

September 5, 2018

I finally came home yesterday! Huh.. I was away for a long period of time this summer, and it is nice to sleep on my own bed 🙂 Lately I carry my pillow (Japanese small one) on my traveling and it gives me a slight comfort though!

For 2018-19 I will focus on Beethoven including, 1) Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 19,  2) 3 piano sonatas, Op. 31 No. 3, Op. 53, and Op. 109, 3) 3 cello sonatas, Op. 5 No. 1, Op. 69, and Op. 102 No. 2, 4) piano trio Op. 70 No. 1 “Ghost”, 5) piano quartet Op. 16, 6) variations on the theme of Waldstein for piano 4 hands WoO 67. I am very excited to live with the great, and to perform different genres of his music. I have never performed a half of above program, and have been having a wonderful time learning them. Some people asked “why this year??” .. Of course the big celebration is coming up in 2020 as his 250th birthday! But I won’t wait to celebrate his music. Every year is a celebration and all of us are blessed by his contribution to this world. My programs will include music from his early period to his late period. We must remember that the instrument “piano” was developing during Beethoven’s time, and his writing for piano was changing accordingly. Also we must remember that his hearing was changing gradually. Could we take his hearing loss as negatively or positively? For instance Beethoven wrote Op. 109 without hearing any note. He only heard it in his imagination. Did he write a same music if he could hear it? That would be an interesting imagination for us to think. There will be a lot to think and imagine this year!

You can find the details of the concert dates in this website.

My Favorite Schubert’s Quotes and Op. Posth.142 No. 3 7/16/18

July 16, 2018

For upcoming performances I have been practicing Franz Schubert’s Impromptu Op. Posth. 142 No. 3. What a tender and gentle soul Schubert displays in this piece! This heartfelt impromptu starts with Rosemunde’s melody, and goes through 5 variations with Schubert’s signature modulations. If I have to choose my most favorite of Schubert I most likely choose his B flat Sonata, the last sonata. Op. 142 No. 3 Impromptu and B flat sonata share the same key and same character, eternity. Schubert was very close to his last days and wrote those joyful and tender music…

Those are some of Schubert’s quotes I treasure:

When I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wished to sing of sorrow, it was transformed for me into love.

Some people come into our lives, and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.

 

A Movie “RBG” 6/19/18

June 19, 2018

Even a non-American myself of course I have heard about RBG and I knew she has been a center of equal right movement for any gender. And now I understand why she has a huge name. This movie portrays her intimate life from the very young age. At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has achieved a giant legal legacy and she is still going! She is an icon!

This documentary shows her personal journey from Harvard/Colombia to the nation’s highest court while raising 2 children with a life time partner, Marty, her husband. RBG is a quiet warrior and Marty is an outgoing personality with amazing sense of humor. Their chemistry was started at Harvard! No one in her family is showy. They seem normal people. The movie is inspirational. 1 and 1/2 hour of the movie will take us to her exceptional life and mind. The movie is MUST to see!