English Blog

Robert Schumann and Vincent Van Gogh, Their Beautiful Mind 6/4/18

June 4, 2018

I recently had a chance to see the movie “Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing”, which is a documentary film directed by David Bickerstaff. The movie shows Van Gogh’s iconic works and featuring exclusive interviews with the amazing curatorial team at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Perhaps more than any other artist, Van Gogh’s life (1853-1890) has long captured the imagination of storytellers. This film gives us an intimate look at Vincent’s life through his brother, Theo Van Gogh’s letter collection, as well as the over 200 paintings he inherited after his brother’s death. Van Gogh’s fascinating and sometimes deeply troubled world is well presented in this documentary.

And in the same week I went to hear the dress rehearsal of Robert Schumann’s “Das Paradies und die Peri” by LA Phil at Disney Concert Hall, the oratorio Schumann (1810-1956) wrote in 1843.  Although his life was difficult in many ways Robert Schumann nonetheless composed music that elevates us through his beautiful mind and amazing musical sense. I personally love Schumann’s music deeply, and recently performed his piano quartet Op. 47 (as a part of LA Phil’s Schumann Focus), Davidsbundlertanze Op. 6 and Kreisleriana Op. 16. This oratorio is not played often, but is one of his finest compositions which Clara adored. The oratorio tells that Peri, who is a fairy-like spirit from Persian mythology, somewhere between an angel and a devil, has been cast out of heaven, and she is trying to find the way back to heaven. She has to find the gift that God will like the best…..

I felt the very close relationship between Van Gogh and Schumann, and are moved by their spirit. Both had a strong support by their loved ones, Theo Van Gogh for Vincent and Clara Schumann for Robert. Theo did everything for Vincent and so as Clara. Clara promoted Robert’s music throughout her career. Both Vincent and Robert were so creative and real artists, but they had deep madness to cope with. I imagine when they felt the inner inspiration they would work restlessly. They just needed to catch what they heard and saw in their mind. I am touched by their beautiful mind.

It was a great week for me to meet Robert and Vincent going with my own projects, performing Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet with my great friends for LA Phil’s Chamber Music concert, performing Bruch and Mozart with my great friends for LA Phil’s Committee concert, and rehearsing Mozart, Lutoslawski, Rachmaninoff and Milhaud with my dear piano partner for 2 piano concert which will be in July. In the previous week I was in South America to play a concert and to teach masterclass as a part of the celebration of the 110th relationship between Colombia and Japan. I had a wonderful time there! My music life is still going!





A Movie “Godard mon amour” 5/3/18

May 4, 2018

It is a very interesting idea to make a movie about the living filmmaker?? And this filmmaker is not an ordinary one. It is Jean-Luc Godard (played by Luis Garrel). The film covers the period of the 37-year-old Godard’s marriage to the 19-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsly (on whose memoir it’s based) and the unsettlement of French students and workers in May 1968. This movement lead to shut down that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Godard in 1967 and 1968 was a famous and controversial director, adapting political climate and against to his own fame. And he got married to Anne (played by Stacy Martin), a granddaughter of the conservative writer Francois Mauriac… Energy and Craziness! To me the movie is very French, especially the way they argue and discuss. I don’t know much about the life of Godard, therefore I enjoyed seeing the film. The film may have portrayed him so wrong?? I don’t know. But it is very witty and creative. I liked it!

Learning American Culture from TV 4/26/18

April 26, 2018

When I was a child I loved to watch American dramas on TV. Especially I liked “Bewitched”! But amazingly the Japanese title translated from English title was “My wife is a witch”. It already shows the huge culture gaps! I thought Samantha was beautiful and Darrin was a kind and gentle husband. Their house looked humongous and all of furniture looked so pretty (Japanese houses are known to be compact and simple)! Their kid, Tabitha, was so cute (contrast to us, Japanese kids!). The show basically made a huge impact on me. Years passed I arrived in US and one of the first TV dramas I watched was “Roseanne”. OMG! Where did my dream American family go?? It was too REAL! I watched “Wheel of Fortune” because I did not need to understand English much! Pat Sejak and Vanna! I actually learned English from this show! Now I live in American house happily with Japanese mind! I heard “Roseanne” is back on TV. Very interesting! I may not watch this time.

Sir Andras Schiff at Disney Concert Hall 4/10/18

April 11, 2018

It has been for few years since his last appearance in Los Angeles and all of us were looking forward to attending the concert. This time Sir Andras is traveling with Bosendorfer and his piano technician. His program was all of my favorite including Brahms’ late works, ops. 117, 118, and 119. I have treasured those pieces for years. When we hear Sir Andras’ concert we almost forget there is piano. Of course he plays piano in the highest possible way, but piano almost does not matter. He plays music. He tells story. He shares his imagination with us. He sings. He plays piano in this very special way. His soul is there. And he enjoys every moment. It was so wonderful to see him in the backstage. I am honored to know him. He is truly inspirational. He plays piano the way no one can do. He played Capriccio by J. S. Bach for the encore. So perfect! The story continued from Beethoven’s Les Adieux. Archduke is back, but Johann Jacob Bach is leaving town! I love Capriccio (on the departure of a beloved brother). I think this is one of the oldest programmatic music for keyboard… J. S. and his friends cheer for his departure with postillion’s horn in the last movement because it was not the eternal good-bye.

I am heading to my music journey to Iowa tomorrow. I will perform at University of Iowa and teach master class. My program includes Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze, op. 6. I hope to play with full of emotion while depicting Robert and Clara’s affection, jokes, fun, melancholy, silliness…. I also will play Liszt, Piazzolla and some of my favorite Japanese composers. This concert is partially supported by the Japan Foundation. It will be refreshing to be in the colder weather!! I look forward to visiting Iowa.

Johann Sebastian Bach – 333rd Birthday! 3/15/18

March 16, 2018

Have you noticed J. S. Bach will celebrate his 333rd birthday in few weeks! All of pianists (including me!) grow up with substantial amount of Bach’s music. We start with Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, then Inventions and Sinfonias. When I finished 15 inventions my teacher told me that I need to study all of them again! That was quite shocking! But I did not have any other choice so I did it again. Oh well! Then some of miscellaneous pieces and suites. I was very lucky to have Bach’s assignments every week, going with etudes and pieces. In lessons I brought Bach’s piece with some kind of analyses for the first week, and memorized for the second week. When I reached WTC that was monumental. And the story continued! One of highlight in my life was to play Goldberg Variations with candle light at Los Angeles Bach Festival. The place was packed and when I finished the area at the end that feeling!! I can’t forget. Life is good! The long journey is over with joy and happiness, and satisfaction.

Easter is coming up soon. There is a beautiful J. S. Bach’s music, O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118. The text is:

O Jesus Christ, light of my life,

my refuge, my comfort, my reassurance,

on earth I am only a guest

And the burden of sin presses down heavily upon me.

Martin Behm (1557- 1622)

A Movie “King of Hearts” 3/11/18

March 12, 2018

“King of Hearts” is a 1966 French comedy-drama film directed by Philippe de Broca. 50 years after the original film release, the movie is shown in a beautiful new 4k restoration. I did not know that “King of Hearts” has been a world wide cult favorite movie and it has been attracting the audience around the world! It is my first experience with this movie! It is very quirky and colorful, silly and truthful. The wits in the movie reminds me Monty Python (I confess that I am a big fan of MP). They share a similar tone of voice! During the World War I, Scottish soldier Private Plumpick is sent on a mission to a French village in the countryside to disarm a bomb set by the German army. Plumpick meets escapees from the local asylum who are the only people left in the village….. Who would tell the truth?? You have to see the movie! I strongly recommend this movie (especially if you like Monty Python!).

A Book “The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann” 2/18/18

February 18, 2018

This is the book I have been wanting to read! There are 2 volumes and it is really a complete correspondence. Eva Weissweiler has edited and Hildegard Fritsch and Ronald Crawford have translated into English. Thanks to my university! They let me have this book for a long period of time. We learn so many things from their letters, not only their lives, but also the lives of musicians in 19th century. I enjoy reading several letters a day and imagine their lives! It will take me for a while to complete reading it!

I am little envious to Clara and Robert. They write everything in their letters. They don’t hide their struggles, negative feelings, and complaining. I suppose they did not need to hide their feelings and emotions in their relationship. They cry, they laugh, they make jokes, they love, they do everything together!

Because of their long separations (before their marriage) their letters were often like essays. They spoke each other in their letters, longing and yearning. In one letter Clara writes ” You will crown me with the most beautiful wreath, the myrtle wreath..” When Robert composed his song collection Op. 25 he named “Myrthen (Myrtle) and dedicated to Clara in the year they got married. (By the way I have been playing Davidsbundlertanze recently and I hear Widmung – the first piece in Myrthen – in No. 6 of Book II in Davidsbundlertanze!!) The myrtle wreath is a symbol of love and it is quite an amazing naming for a gift to a new bride, Clara! Clara and Robert used their compositions as their love letters as well. Their lives give me a never-ending fantasy!

Piano Concert “Romance on Piano” Sat. 2/17 at 4pm

February 15, 2018

I am excited to perform this program this Saturday, 2/17 at 4pm, as a part of the concert series 3rd@1st. I have been coordinating this series and it is the 4th season! I am delighted to see the increase of audience and I really appreciate to all of donors to support the series. Thank you!!

The program will include Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze, Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase, Brahms: Klavierstucke Op. 118, and Chopin: Andante spianato et Grand Polonaise brillante, Op. 22. (Please forgive me I did not add German accents) I will share anecdotes and my personal attachment to the pieces during the concert. I hope you can join me to meet Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Chopin! (http://fumcpasadena.org/news-events/thirdfirst/)

Ash Wednesday, beginning of the Holy Lenten Season

February 15, 2018

Prayer (based on a prayer by St. Ambrose of Milan)

O Lord, who has mercy on all, heal me, renew me, reconfigure me. Mercifully kindle in me the fire of your Holy Spirit, O God. Take away from me the heart of stone. Give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore you, to delight in you, to follow and enjoy you, for Christ’ sake, Amen.

Bernstein “Mass” with Dudamel and LA Phil 2/3/18

February 3, 2018

Bernstein himself arranged 3 meditations from “Mass” for cello and piano, and I have played it for several occasions. Now things make more sense to me after attending the dress rehearsal of “Mass” at Disney Concert Hall with Dudamel, LA Phil, LA Master Chorale, LA Children’s Chorus, UCLA Wind Ensemble Players (marching band), 22 singers, 7 dancers, and 158 props and 6 stage set pieces! It is totally extravaganza! Bernstein composed ‘Mass” in 1971 in the time of confusion in America. He combined avant-garde attitude, rock band, Broadway style songs and music, organ and electric keyboards, and so many effects and craziness! From the first note I was mesmerized by the massiveness and saturated stage! There are so much to observe simultaneously. Bernstein is of course so genius to create this new approach in music, using “Mass” (religious service) to voice out the struggle in the society. The production is just amazing, so colorful and so much energy! I loved it! Also all of musicians and singers are fantastic.  But once the excitement is receding we start to listen music more closely, every note and every word. And we will face to ourselves, “What is this??” This massiveness is so related to the saturated society where we live currently. Where is the truth?