English Blog

Music in a Difficult Time. Brahms: Drei Intermezzi Op. 117

March 17, 2020

We suddenly live in a very difficult time. The things we had before are out of reach. Worries, concerns, anxieties… But it won’t be forever. We have to live through and will go back to a better time.

After dealing with so many changes and making decisions (I am still doing it), I play music. First piece came to my mind is Brahms: Op. 117. This piece has a special place in my heart. Sweetness, tenderness, melancholy, affections, timelessness… I play Op. 117 every day, and explore voicing, phrasing, color, or just play it. Brahms quotes a poem at the beginning (English Translation):

Sleep soft my child,

Sleep soft and lovely.

I feel sadness when you weep.

Brahms’ lifelong soul mate, Clara Schumann, was delighted to receive the copy of Op. 117. She was loving it. They did not see each other often toward the end of their lives, but they were inseparable each other in their hearts. Brahms died not too long after Clara’s passing.

I will play No. 1 of Op. 117 as a part of a recorded service this coming Sunday (http://fumcpasadena.org) at 10am Los Angeles Time. (I will record at my house and it will be played toward the middle of the service.) Please stay safe and well, and take care.




Movie “Emma” 3/2/20

March 2, 2020

What a witty movie it is! Casting is fantastic. Emma is young, handsome, and clever from a rich family. She has everything. She lives in a small (not a lot happening!) town and she controls people’s mind. She thinks she is above everyone and all the boys should be attracted by her. she is so beautiful. It is a great comedy. The story is simple, finding love after misguided matches and romances. I loved the historical costumes. So charming!! If you need a moment to relax and laugh, this is the one!

A Movie “The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders” 1/14/20

February 10, 2020

I am sure every person in the audience wanted to go to Madrid after seeing this movie! The picture is beautiful and the narration is very nice. But the museum collection is so huge and the stories behind the museum is so much to observe and take in, and I was almost overwhelmed to watch through the movie. The movie is wonderfully written out, including Vélazquez, Rubens, Titian, Mantegna, Bosch, Goya, El Greco, and rulers, painters, artists, architects, collectors, curators, intellectuals, visitors from the last six centuries…. I will take it as an introduction to Madrid (I have never been to that city) and I will definitely visit Madrid when I have chance, maybe this summer??


Musica Dei donum optimi (Music, God’s supreme gift) 2/9/20

February 9, 2020

Latin text                                                    English translation

Musica Dei donum optimi                      Music, God’s supreme gift,

trahit homines, trahit deos;                   draws people, draws gods;

musica truces mollit animos                  music makes savage souls gentle

tristeque mentes erigit.                           and uplifts sad minds.

Musica vel ipsas arbores                         Music moves the very trees

et horridas movet feras.                          and the wild beasts.

– Anonymous, 1594

And Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Soli Deo Gloria” (To the Glory of God Alone)

Robert Schumann: Papillon OP. 2 1/29/2020

January 29, 2020

What a delight! I learned this piece when I was in conservatory in Japan. It has been so long and I don’t know why, but suddenly I wanted to play it again. It will be in my program at a concert “Stories in Music” on Saturday February 15 in Pasadena, CA. Schumann’s music is closely connected to a literature, and this Papillon is a great example. Papillon represents a masked ball and there are 3 characters playing in Papillon, Wina – angelic love, Walt – poetic soul, and Walt’s twin brother Vult – mordant temperament. Those characters are from Jean Paul’s novel “Flegeljahre (Awkward Age) ” written in 1804-5. Jean Paul was Schumann’s idol, and two great artists share a same tendency, a rapid transformation of mood in their works. And there is always a humor! Jean Paul writes “Poetry and love struggling with reality”. I am sure Schumann totally agrees with this statement! Schumann writes “Almost unawares I found myself at the piano, and thus there arose one papillon after another.” Fantasy and imagination.. I have been practicing Papillon for few weeks and 3 characters are very alive in my playing! I love books and actually I can’t live without books. I feel so close to Robert Schumann for his connection to literature.

Papillon was written between 1829 and 1832. At the beginning Schumann was still a law student, and later he decided to dedicate himself to the arts, literature and music. Papillon (butterfly) as a symbol of freedom?? Please join me at the concert. The program will include J. S. Bach: Toccata from 6th Partita, Schumann: Papillon Op. 2, Ginestera: danzas argentinas, Granados: ochos valses poeticos, and Chopin: Fantasie Op. 49. I will share my insight with pieces during the concert.

Prayer for New Year

December 27, 2019

May God make your year a happy one!

Not by shielding us from all sorrows and pain,

But by strengthening us to bear it, as it comes;

Not by making our path easy,

But by making us sturdy to travel any path;

Not by taking hardships from us,

But by taking fear from our heart;

Not by granting us unbroken sunshine,

But by keeping our face bright, even in the shadows;

Not by making our life always pleasant,

But by showing us when people and their causes need us most, and by making us anxious to be there to help.

God’s love, peace, hope and joy to us for the year ahead.

– author unknown


Movie “Parasite” 12/27/19

December 27, 2019

“Parasite” is a 2019 South Korean black comedy/thriller/social justice movie. But most importantly it is very entertaining! It is about the two families, Park – typical rich and high-class family, and Kim – smart, but living in a horrible condition. With some coincidence those families are brought together and Kim family sees it as an opportunity to raise to a high-class. As you imagine “opportunity” lies on a thin ice (actually lies on their lies!), nothing is real, but Kim family does not think it that way. They started to feel Park’s wealth as theirs. That is why it is “Parasite”. The theme is very dark, and some scenes are quite violent and ugly. But you won’t be bored in any moment in this movie. Well-made movie! Bravo!

A Movie “Knives Out” 12/18/19

December 18, 2019

Are you looking for a good holiday movie? This is the one to watch.  I love this kind of humor and twisty wit. It is so perfect. Do you like “mystery” ? Do you like “comedy”? It is a parody of Agatha Christie, but it is very sophisticated. It is not just a parody. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his huge estate just after his 85th birthday, the Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. No one knows who hired him! Everyone in Harlan’s family has a motive to kill him. So the audience keeps guessing! I can’t tell you the whole story. An amazing cast and story! You don’t want miss this movie. Knives Out is a very stylish and entertaining movie.

A Movie “Citizen K” 12/7/19

December 7, 2019

What do we believe? It is up to us. I don’t want to discuss about any politics. I was born in Japan, and will die as a Japanese wherever I will be. And I feel very lucky in that position. The enigmatic case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once believed to be the wealthiest man – amass a fortune in financing and oil production – and former oligarch in Russia, is this movie’s theme. Khodorkovsky turned political dissident for the anti-Putin movement. Actually he served a decade in prison. Today, as an exile living in London, he continues to speak out against Putin’s two-decade power.

Norton Simon Museum “By Day & by Night: Paris in the Belle Époque” exhibition 11/29/19

November 29, 2019

I attended the lecture and the exhibition at Norton Simon Museum. This museum is 15 minutes from my house by car, and it is so nice to enjoy their beautiful garden as well as the museum. LA offers a lot to do, including a famous traffic war!, and museums are ones of great assets in this city. By Day & by Night portraits the innovative spirit of art and culture in Paris during the belle époque, from the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 to the outbreak of World War II in 1914,  through a selection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. It was an era characterized by economic prosperity, and technological and scientific innovations. In this period, the arts flourished, especially in Paris. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual arts gained acknowledgement. Several friends of mine, who go to this museum often, think this is one of the best exhibitions at Norton Simon. As a musician myself this period is very fascinating. Many (yes, so many!!) fantastic music was written and played in Paris. I was imagining Stravinsky’s 3 ballet music and the music of Debussy and Ravel. while strolling the exhibition.