English Blog

A Book “Indivisible by Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony” by Arnold Steinhardt 5/28/10

May 28, 2010

Dear Mr. Steinhardt,

I just finished your book, and I am still in the state of something—. Your book gave me tear, giggle, smile—-. You wrote a wonderful book. As the book is finishing for the last few pages you talk about Schubert “Death and the Maiden” quartet.  So I pulled the music out of the bookshelf, and played the score as I read. FYI: I play piano. As I heard the harmony, moving voices, melody lines which you describe, it seemed the spirit of Schubert came down to my Southern California house, and the tear came down too. I have been hearing the music of many string quartet in my life, but it is the first time to really think about the greatness of this special art, and I am slightly jealous–. I can’t be in SQ. I can play with the string quartet!

The beauty of your friendship and musicianship in Guarneri String Quartet is the center of this book, and it drew me to your book. So I lost keeping my time to practice for my own pieces!  I think it is time to get back to what I have to do. Again thank you for writing this wonderful book for us! I listened many of Beethoven’s string quartets while I was reading your book.

As a Collaborative Pianist— 5/25/10

May 26, 2010

I have been performing with many different musicians, and I suppose I can be called a collaborative pianist. One point of pianist lives pianists who played with other musicians were called all together “Accompanists”. and I am sure some pianists claimed that we were not Just Accompanying!! We play music with other musicians! So now we are officially called “Collaborative Pianists”. Some music schools have a separate study on collaborative piano besides solo piano study.

My collaborative pianist life started when I was in Tokyo Metropolitan High School for Performing and Visual Arts. This school was an excellent place for me! It had only 6 classes for grades 10-12, and focused on music or visual arts. My class mates were violin players, french horn player, singers, composers, future musicologists–. So it was natural to play with friends for fun, lessons and concerts.  After I went to Toho Conservatory for my bachelor’s degree my collaborative life was expanded. I met so many wonderful musician friends at school, and it was so fun to discover the new repertoire with different instruments, especially violin, flute and brass area. My piano professor was not happy that I spent hours on those non-piano solo pieces, but I had a good time! Among many instruments I was a pianist in Seizi Ozawa’s conducting class, and I read the symphony scores with other pianist. One read the strings and other read the rest, and we learned Brahms, Beethoven symphonies.  After I came to US and while was still in the school for master’s and doctor’s degree I got a job at High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. That gave me a working visa, H-1! My work was to accompany (!) choirs and singers for their recitals. So I expanded my repertoire in vocal area, playing Broadway style to jazzy pieces, German, Italian, American and French songs, and the choir music! During my Houston days I performed with fantastic instrumentalists for higher level than I was doing in Toho Conservatory. And to make a living I played for the students’ competitions and concerts, mostly string instruments.  And in LA where I resides now I have learned extensive brass repertoire. In just this spring I have performed with 8 different brass players! 

I played with 2 flute recitals in this spring, and one included Dutilleux Sonatine for flute and piano which I performed when I was in Toho Conservatory! Fun memory came back to me!  When I learned it for the first time I fell in love with this piece! Nothing goes to waste. My husband is a cellist so I am known to be a cello pianist. I know basically all of cello pieces, and own the music too! So convenient! I have performed major piano trios, and other chamber music involves piano, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Mendelssohn—-. I love to play any of these chamber music any time!

Of course I should have listened to my piano professor at Toho Conservatory to focus on piano solo repertoire (I performed 3 solo recitals this spring!), but I have had great pleasure to explore and to learn new repertoire, to meet new musicians, to exchange jokes during the rehearsals (!), and to perform so many so many different genre of music,  and I have been making a living as a performer because of my collaborative work.  I am looking forward to collaborating with many more musicians!

As A Sumo Fan– 5/20/10

May 20, 2010

I have been a big Sumo fan since when I was a child in Japan, and followed time to time. There are 6 Sumo tornaments in a year, January(Tokyo), March(Osaka), May(Tokyo), July(Nagoya), September(Tokyo), November(Fukuoka), and each last 15 days from Sunday to Sunday. I have studied enough to understand their techniques, favorite skills, and I know most of Juryo and Makuuchi Rikishi (Juryo and Makuuchi are their ranking, and the top rankings are Yokozuna, Ozeki, Sekiwake, Komusubi in Makuuchi. rikishi=Sumo Wrestlers). Each match has the drama!! And of course Sumo has long history so the ritual and the ceremonial parts are very important as well.

Now it is in May Basho (tournament) in Tokyo. When I am in Japan during Basho of course I go to Kokugi-kan (Sumo Venue in Tokyo) to see their matches. Some of my old favorite Rikishi, like Chiyo-no-Fuji, become Oyakata (teachers) and we can see them in Kokugi-kan or on TV as a commentator. Those 15 days every other month I dedicate myself to follow Sumo matches! LA is 16 hours behind Japan, and it is not easy to watch their live matches on TV because it is 12am-2am in summer time! But as an authentic Sumo fan I try to stay awake–, if not I watch their replays! There are 3 days to finish this Basho, and it seems Yokozuna Hakuho got the championship of this Basho. Min-na Ganbatte!

Schumann/Chopin Bicentennial Concerts 5/20/10

May 20, 2010

As a member of Belrose Duo, cello and piano duo with my husband David Garrett, I have performed 3 concerts on bicentennial program of Chopin and Schumann this spring.  Chopin wrote An Introduction and Polonaise, and Sonata for cello and piano, and both are fantastic pieces to play and listen.  Polonaise was written when he was about 20 years old and even before he went to Paris. Sonata was written before he passed away and after he broke up with Sand.  So those 2 pieces show so much different aspects of Chopin’s life. I love both pieces! Both are idiomatic, but are still very technical! And they show to us the greatness of this piano composer! Schumann’s 3 pieces, Adagio and Allegro, Fantasy Pieces, and 5 Folk Pieces, are typical of Schumann’s music, romance, poem, character, visual–.  Technically they are not demanding as Chopin’s 2 pieces on this program, but musically they are very deep. 2 players do the musical conversations constantly, and need to be flexible in phrases. 

I play so many different programs all the time, and I have great joy learning new pieces! But playing the music of Chopin/Schumann stands in a special part of my piano life.  I go back to my root , and really face to myself to polish my technique, phrasing, timbre, and voicing. My fingers feel great playing the music of  piano composers.  Now I practice for Bach’s concerto in D Minor coming up in few weeks!

Concert at Renaissance Arts academy in LA 5/9/10

May 9, 2010

My husband and I performed at Renaissance Arts Academy as a part of partner program of Los Angeles Philharmonic Education Department last Friday.  Ren Arts is a small public charter school with performing arts emphasis for middle-high school students. The uniqueness of this school is their policy of One Room School. They don’t have individual class rooms. All of students study in one huge room! They gather several big desks for each group. So when we perform they put the desks and chairs away, and the room become a concert hall! It reminds me the lives of  Japanese family in old days. They lived in small Tatami room which was used for many occasions, dining room, study room for kids, and bed room. When they go to sleep they put tables and pillows away, and put Futon to sleep.

It is a very successful school! Our program of bicentennial program was well received and we got some very interesting questions from the students at the end. I love to visit schools to play music!

Movie – The Secret in Their Eyes 5/3/10

May 3, 2010

It is amazing! I had a free day first time in few weeks! Free day is sometimes wasted because of no schedule attitude, but I spent my free day fun and efficient. One of activities I did was to see this Argentina movie which received an academy for the foreign film category.  Spanish in Argentina is different than one in Mexico or the one spoken in LA.  It is a good exercise for me to hear different Spanish so it is almost my field trip for my Spanish study!

It is a love $ thriller movie with deep psychology. I felt some connection with the movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Rape-murder and the search on the old unsolved case are the center of the story in both movies.  The ending of “The Secret in Their Eyes” is little too abrupt and easy, but I enjoyed this twisted thriller!

My Piano Studio Recital at Occidental College 4/29/10

April 29, 2010

To conclude our semester in piano I always organize a friendly and casual recital for my piano students at Occidental College.  I have all kinds of students, music majors and non-music majors, and it is an opportunity to perform each other at the end of the semester. When I started to teach this school 5 or 6 years ago there was unofficial juries for every student who was taking piano lesson, and I thought that was not appropriate in the liberal arts college environment. I remember some of my students quit coming toward the end of the semester because of this jury system.  They were scared! (juries mean in music performance test)  I am glad I can provide different atmosphere now! The music majors and the scholarship recipients have to perform at the jury, but not for others! I was proud of everybody last night at our studio recital, and enjoyed listening their music and achievement. Each student has different goal in piano, and I try to accommodate and would like to help them to reach their goals.

Tomorrow will be our official juries so some of my students will repeat their repertoire from the recital. And our spring semester will be done!

Los Angeles Violoncello Society Scholarship Audition and the Concert 4/29/10

April 29, 2010

It was my pleasure to assist and support very gifted young cellists over the 2 events at Los Angeles Violoncello Society, scholarship audition and the winners concert.  It was so wonderful to hear those hard-working young cellists up to the age 14. I accompanied as young as 7 years old and up to 14 years, and I was very impressed by everyone performed for this audition.  Their hard work for preparation, the parents’ support, the teachers’ excellent guidance—. They need everything to come to this high level. I sat down in the audience while I was not playing with the students at the concert, and I was very moved. Congratulations for everybody! I look forward to participating for the future events! And thank you for the great work by Los Angeles Violoncello Society to provide this great opportunity for the future musicians!

Movie – The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo 4/20/10

April 20, 2010

It is an amazing movie–, one of the best movies I have seen recently. The story, the drama, the characters, the beautiful sceneries, psychology, romance, suspense, —. It has everything. It is a 2&1/2 hour movie, but I did not feel that long at all. The theme of this movie is pretty heavy. The original title will tell us  “Men Who Hate Women”. The original was the 1st of late Stieg Larsson (Swedish authour)’ s Millennium Trilogy. Larsson comments on Swedish society. Reviewer  reports that “Larsson favourite targets are violence against women, the incompetence and cowardice of investigative journalists, the moral bankruptcy of big capital and the virulent strain of Nazism still festering away …” in Swedish society. I am finally recovered from this movie, but I was haunted for few days.  I heard that Hollywood is planning to remake this story–! This movie’s success is based on Swedish language and European acters and actress. I strongly recommend this movie.

The Seven Last Words of Christ (1899) by Francois-Clement Theodore Dubois 4/5/10

April 5, 2010

Last week was holy week, and we heard many music related to Easter. One of them was the Seven Last Words of Christ. It is a romantic and appealing music, and some moment reminded me of Puccini’s opera. There are 3 components  chorus, soloists, and chamber orchestra, and it is constructed in the good balance. It is very interesting there are only 3 soloists without alto–??  It seems alto voice can be perfect for this text to express. I guess it was composed in the height of romantic era, and the composer wanted to be flashy? It was a very nice performance at our church fitting into the Holy Thursday service. We left church quietly after the service to observe the meaning of this day.