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Living with Beethoven’s Life 1/21/19

January 21, 2019

I am focusing on Beethoven’s music in the 2018-19 season. I was little overwhelmed few weeks ago preparing so many Beethovens! I just performed Beethoven’s 3 cello sonatas, and will perform Beethoven’s 3 piano sonatas in February. It was almost “miracle” that I started to feel comforted once I passed the stage being overwhelmed. Beethoven’s life has given us the great imagination for many years in the world. He is a giant and he is a human-being. I often find moments in his music “Ludwig, you are trying to trick us?!” or “You are having an amazing time!” or “You are giving me a hard time…” or just simply “I love your music”. It has been and it will be an honor to live with Beethoven’s music and life.

Beethoven wrote various sonatas for various instruments in a different part of his life and it is a wonderful journey to survey those pieces with his life. I am preparing Op. 31 No. 3 “Hunt”, Op. 53 “Waldstein”, and Op. 109, “Hunt” as one of the happiest sonatas, “Waldstein” as one of the most virtuoso ones, and Op. 109 as most tender one. He tells a lot of stories in those sonatas. As I wrote in the past 2 main facts should be examined for studying piano sonatas, one to be the instrument development (pianoforte to modern piano), and another one to be his deafness which transformed his existence. I imagine Beethoven loved new gadget. If he would live in the current era I am sure he would love the technology! So piano development was a big part of Beethoven’s piano composition.

My concert for 3 Beethoven Sonatas will be on Saturday February 16 at 4pm at First United Methodist Church of Pasadena (500 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91101) as a part of 3rd@1st Concert Series . I will speak about the pieces and will perform.


A Movie “Capernaum” 1/2/19

January 2, 2019

I saw this movie just before Christmas. “Capernaum” blurs the line between fiction and reality. The performers are not acting. They are real people, like the characters in the movie. The movie is from Lebanon, and directed by Nadine Labaki. The movie starts with the scene which a 12 years old, Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), is in the court suing his own parents for their negligence and abuse. He wanted to sue his parents because he was born, and he wanted his parents to stop having more children. They are not registered. His parents have stayed where they were born, but Zain wanted to change. He has been taking care of his siblings, and he works at the nearby market. He is the one to bring food for the family. His father drinks. Everything is so painful and hopeless. But Zain has a mind and strength to think. The movie received the jury prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2018. It is a very powerful movie. It has been more than a week since I saw this movie, and I still think about it.

Christmas Prayer 12/24/18

December 24, 2018

Holy God of love, we rejoice in the reality of who you are.

We live within the joy of your love for us.

Our contentment comes and goes.

Our happiness ebbs and flows.

Our feelings depends upon our circumstances,

but our joy is deeply rooted in our identity as you beloved children. 

We give you thanks this day and always.


A Movie “Shoplifters” 万引き家族 12/3/18

December 3, 2018

I have been looking forward to seeing this movie since this summer. Finally it is showing at the nearby theater. I love Kore-eda’s movies. “Shoplifters” won this year’s Palme d’Or! Kore-eda revisits the theme on “Family”, this time even deeper. The made-up family lives with an old lady in the very tiny house in Tokyo. Each member does not have any blood relation to the other, but the group functions as a family. They are poor, and probably not educated. One cold night they found a little girl on the street and she will become a new family member! What is “Family”? What do we want in our lives? Kore-eda strips everything and shows us the true human. At the end he does not give us the answer we want to hear. Amazing acting! Fantastic camera work! You must watch!

A Movie “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” 11/20/18

November 20, 2018

She is Maria Callas!! And she talks about herself. So it is easy to imagine what we may see in the movie 🙂 What a life! She died when she was 53 in her apartment in Paris. When I was in Paris I happened to spot her tomb. It is very simple, unlike her real life. I could not believe it first…

Anyway the movie is very interesting. And we will be convinced by the word”Diva”! She fully lived for the life of Diva, every moment! There is no word from her manager, accompanist, and family in the movie, and I would love to hear from them for the next time. It is very entertaining!

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!