Press Room

Music From Japan: Festival 2011

Music From Japan and its Artistic Director, Naoyuki Miura, are thrilled to announce Festival 2011: a weekend of events in New York City’s Baruch Performing Arts Center (Feb 12 & 13, 2011), and a concert at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC (Feb 16).  Now in its 36th season, the festival introduces the worlds of Japanese song and flutes, showcasing the talents of leading exponents of both art forms through traditional and contemporary music, including world premieres of two new Music From Japan commissions.  In New York the festival is presented in two programs: “Flutes from the East and the West,” which explores the relationship between these two great musical cultures from multiple perspectives, and “Song from the Spirit of Japan,” which celebrates the nation’s enduring song-setting tradition.
“Flutes from the East and the West” opens Music From Japan’s 36th season at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City on Saturday, February 12, 2011.  The concert features Kohei Nishikawa and Elizabeth Brown performing new and traditional music for Western classical flute and three kinds of Japanese flute: the transverse nohkan and shinobue, as heard in Noh, kabuki theatre, and village festivals, and the shakuhachi, the vertical bamboo flute.  While Nishikawa hails from Japan and Brown from the United States, the two share similar, boundary-crossing career paths, having initially distinguished themselves within the Western classical tradition before moving on to Japanese flutes.  The program features works from the traditional to the contemporary, with contributions from such eminent composers as the late Yoshihisa Taira, alongside the world premiere of a new Music From Japan commission from Elizabeth Brown herself.  A recent Guggenheim Fellow, Brown worked closely with Nishikawa to create the new work, an antiphonal duet for nohkan and shakuhachi entitled fragments for the moon (2010).
The second concert in Music From Japan’s 36th-season presentation, also at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, is on Sunday, February 13, 2011.  “Song from the Spirit of Japan” marks the first time Music From Japan has programmed a singer as a featured artist; mezzo-soprano Keiko Aoyama is the undisputed “premier performer of Japanese composers’ songs” (Ongaku Gendai [Music Today], Jan 2010).  With her regular pianist, Yoshio Tsukada, Aoyama sings settings of traditional folk songs, of songs with traditional Japanese sonorities, and of poems by the popular Hakushu Kitahara (1885-1942), the notable poet and novelist Haruo Sato (1892–1964), and the avant-garde Shoko Ema (1913-2000), one of the few female lyricists of the pre-war period.  The featured settings are by composers of the past century ranging from Kosaku Yamada, whose Romanticism reflects the influence of his teacher Max Bruch, to the self-taught film composer Fumio Hayasaka, an advocate of musical pan-orientalism.  Aoyama is joined by Kohei Nishikawa on nohkan in the world premiere performance of Norio Fukushi’s Night of the Full Moon (2011).  Based on Taketori monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), the oldest surviving tale in the Japanese language, this new work was commissioned for the occasion by Music From Japan.
The concert on Sunday will be followed by an open forum, offering audience members the opportunity to interact with the artists and share thoughts and questions arising from this convergence of Eastern and Western aesthetics. Taking part in the discussion will be Elizabeth Brown, Prof. Fukushi, and Kikuko Massumoto, some of whose works are also featured in the song recital. Mr. Tsukada will also comment on the Japanese songs that were presented in the program. Sharon Nakazato will interpret and moderate the forum.
The performance at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 will present all four artists in highlights of the two programs, including both new Music From Japan commissions.
About the featured artists:
Mezzo-soprano Keiko Aoyama is the world’s leading exponent of Japanese song.  Following studies at Tokyo University of the Arts, in 1987 she became the first vocalist to receive a doctorate in Japan.  In 1984 she established Ashikabi no Kai – a group featuring pianist Yoshio Tsukada – to present concerts of Japanese song.  She has held “Concerts of Japanese Poetry” in such key Japanese venues as Suntory Hall, and continues to perform throughout the nation, promoting Japanese poetry and song.  Her many prestigious recital and opera appearances include a Michio Mamiya showcase in 2006 and a starring role in Kosaku Yamada’s opera The Black Ships – Dawn at Tokyo’s New National Theater in 2008.  In 1975 Aoyama took top honors in the First Japanese Song Competition, held by Fumiko Yotsuya and the organization Nami no Kai, and she received the Pen Music Club’s Concert Performer’s Prize in 1998.  Her numerous solo CDs include Great Songs of Japan – Spinning Tales in Song and an album of music by Kikuko Massumoto.  She currently serves as a member of the Tokyo Chamber Opera Theatre and as a juror for the Sogakudo “Japan Song Concours.”
According to the Village Voice, Elizabeth Brown “couldn’t write an uncaptivating phrase if she tried.”  A graduate of the Juilliard School, she combines a successful career as a composer with performing on Western flute, shakuhachi, theremin, and Vietnamese dan bau.  She has developed close links with Japan, living there from December 2008 until May 2009 on a Cultural Exchange Fellowship supported by the US/Japan Friendship Commission; her previous works for Japanese instruments include Migration (1990), now available on CD from CRI on Bang on a Can Live (Vol. II); Mirage (2008); and Rubicon (2009), which was recently premiered by members of Tokyo’s celebrated Reigakusha orchestra and whose Japanese premiere Music From Japan will present in Fukushima Prefecture next February. This past October, Brown was a prizewinner in the SGCM Composition Competition for Shakuhachi 2010. A 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she has also received grants, awards, and commissions from Orpheus, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Newband, the Asian Cultural Council, the Japan/US Friendship Commission, the Cary Trust, and NYFA.  Besides the U.S. and Japan, Brown’s music has been performed in Russia, Colombia, Australia, Vietnam, and across Europe; she takes up an appointment as Artist-in-Residence of the Grand Canyon in 2011.  Her solo CD, Blue Minor: Chamber Music by Elizabeth Brown, was released in 2003 by Albany Records.
Kohei Nishikawa studied flute at the Toho Gakuen School of Music, becoming principal flutist of the Osaka Philharmonic in 1975, before leaving to specialize in the nohkan and shinobue.  Since joining Pro Musica Nipponia in 1980, he has played both traditional and contemporary Japanese music, appearing with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and Leipzig Gewandhaus.  As guest soloist, he has also appeared with the London Philharmonic, Pasadena Orchestra, and Tokyo Philharmonic, with which he premiered Diego Luzuriaga’s shinobue concerto in 2000.  In 1997, he created the Nishikawa Ensemble, which has given five successful tours of the U.S. and Canada.  His CD series, Flutist from the East (Vols. I-IV), is available from Live Notes.  Renowned for his efforts to bring Japanese flute music to a wider international audience, Nishikawa has published three books on Japanese music and teaches at the Toho Gakuen College of Music, Showa Conservatory, and Senzoku Gakuen University of Music.
With a career spanning four decades, pianist Yoshio Tsukada is one of the foremost accompanists of Japanese vocal music.  Educated at Tokyo University of the Arts, in its Vocal Department, and in Detmold, Germany, he brings rare expertise and musicianship to his accompaniment of Japanese song.  With Keiko Aoyama, he worked to create the song performance group Ashikabi no Kai in 1984, and they have since collaborated on many programs and recordings.  Tsukada can also be heard accompanying a wide variety of singers on other CDs.  Since 1993, he has performed regularly as accompanist in the “Japanese Lieder Series” at Tokyo’s prestigious Ongaku no Tomo Hall.  In addition to his frequent concert appearances, he travels throughout Japan giving seminars and instruction in Japanese vocal music and the art of accompanying; numerous vocalists and pianists have risen under his tutelage.  In 1996, Tsukada received the Jomo Artist’s Prize, and three years later he became the first winner of the Tatsuo Mizutani Prize for Singers’ Accompanists.  He is a member of the Japan Federation of Musicians and the Tokyo Chamber Opera Theatre.
About the commissioned composers:
Elizabeth Brown (see above)
Norio Fukushi studied at Tokyo University of the Arts and in France, where his composition teachers included Tomojiro Ikenouchi and Olivier Messiaen.  Writing for both Western and traditional Japanese instruments, his compositions comprise orchestral, chamber, and solo vocal and instrumental music.  He has had major works performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, and many are available on disc, including Norio Fukushi / Radiant Starlight Pouring Down in Autumn Season (Fontec, 2005), and Dancing Flower Leaves in a Forest / Norio Fukushi Chamber Music II (Camerata, 2007).  His honors include the Award of Excellence in the National Art Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (1972), the first Nakajima Contemporary Music Prize (1983), and the Third Saji Keizo Prize (2003).  Fukushi has served as President of the Japan Society of Contemporary Music (the Japanese branch of ISCM), as Vice President of the Japan Federation of Authors and Composers Associations, and as a judge for the Music Competition of Japan.  He currently teaches at Tokyo University of the Arts, Toho Gakuen School of Music, and Tokyo College of Music.
About the other featured composers, in brief:
The works of Ikuma Dan (1924-2001) are basically tonal and Romantic, while assimilating elements of traditional Japanese music and being sometimes based on Japanese mythology.  He is best known for Yuzuru (1950), the most popular opera by a Japanese composer, which incorporates folk-inflected pentatonic melodies.
Fumihiko Fukui (1909-76) toured worldwide as the accompanist of a famous tenor, Yoshie Fujiwara, before making a name for himself as a successful and award-winning song composer.
Renowned as a composer, violinist, conductor, and musical educator, Kunihiko Hashimoto (1904-49) studied in Tokyo, then with Egon Wellesz in Vienna, and finally with Schoenberg in Los Angeles.  His own students numbered Ikuma Dan among them.
The self-taught Fumio Hayasaka (1914-55) was an award-winning film composer best known for Rashomon, the first Japanese film to win international recognition.  He advocated musical pan-orientalism, incorporating Eastern elements into his music.
Specializing in the Noh tradition, Sumiko Hirai (1913-2002) helped revitalize traditional Japanese music through her compositions and performances on the koto.
Born into a family of famous dancers and composers, Kan Ishii (1921-2009) wrote ballet music, opera, and orchestral works that show the strong influence of Carl Orff, with whom he studied composition in Munich.
Michio MAMIYA, as distinguished an ethno- musicologist as he is a composer, studied both Japanese and African folk traditions.  Music From Japan has previously presented his work at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
A music theorist in both Eastern and Western disciplines, Kikuko Massumoto published works including a treatise on gagaku.  Recordings of her music include an album by featured artist Keiko Aoyama.
The music of Yoshinao NakaDa (1923-2000) follows the tradition of the Romantic Lied and mélodie.  His songs have won great popularity in Japan, owing to their lyricism and successful handling of Japanese texts.
Shinpei Nakayama (1887-1952) is famous for his many children’s and popular songs that have become deeply embedded in Japanese popular culture.  These include some of the earliest examples of modern Japanese popular song.
Award-winning composer Keiki OKASAKA writes for both Western and Japanese instruments.  His work has been performed at Amsterdam’s International Gaudeamus Music Week.
Yoshitaka Sakamoto (1898-1968) studied composition with Kosaku Yamada and at the Hochschule in Berlin; he is famous for having introduced the recorder to Japan.  His works show the influence of Japanese folk song.
Toshiro SARUYA studied at the Juilliard School and Tanglewood, where he was a Koussevitzky Foundation Fellow.  He writes for both Western and Japanese instruments, winning numerous honors, and receiving commissions from such leading international institutions as the London Sinfonietta and the Suntory Music Foundation.
A student of Jolivet, Dutilleux, and Messiaen, Yoshihisa TAIRA (1937-2005) was a successful composer of the French contemporary school, winning numerous major French awards; he has had works performed at leading contemporary music festivals, including those of New York, Tanglewood, Berlin, Darmstadt, Amsterdam, and Tokyo.
Kosaku Yamada (1886-1965) was a student of the Tokyo Music School (current Tokyo University of the Arts) and Berlin’s Hochschule, where his teachers included Max Bruch.  He was the first composer of opera in Japan, and was notable for writing in a fully Romantic tradition.

Music From Japan’s 35th-anniversary seasonpresented “Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe” and “Highlights of MFJ Commissions II” in New York and Washington, DC in February 2010 to critical acclaim.

Since opening in 1994, the Resource Center for Japanese Music has offered composers, performers, scholars, and the general public the opportunity to access its custom-designed Music From Japan Composer Database and a library of scores, books, magazines, compact discs, etc. of Japanese music.  The organization is a rich resource of information to people around the world, providing information on its web site and helping with further access to, or details about, specific works and composers.
Music From Japan, Festival 2011
Saturday, February 12 at 7:30pm
Baruch Performing Arts Center, NYC
Artists: Kohei Nishikawa: nohkan, shinobue and flute; Elizabeth Brown: shakuhachi and flute
Japanese traditional works for shinobue and nohkan
Traditional: Sanya Sugagaki for shakuhachi and shinobue
Toshiro SARUYA: Stratus for nohkan (1995)
Keiki OKASAKA: Orphuse or Koi no Netori for flute solo (1986)
Elizabeth BROWN: fragments for the moon for nohkan and shakuhachi (2010)
     – world premiere of new MFJ commission
Yoshihisa TAIRA: Synchronie for flute duo (1986)
Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College: enter on E. 25th St bet Lexington & 3rd Aves
Box office:  (646) 312-4085  
Sunday, February 13 at 2pm
Baruch Performing Arts Center, NYC
Artists: Keiko Aoyama, mezzo-soprano; Yoshio Tsukada, piano; Kohei Nishikawa: nohkan
Part 1: settings of poems by Shoko EMA
Ikuma DAN: Hana no Machi
Yoshinao NAKADA: Natsu no Omoide
Part 2: settings of poems by Hakushu KITAHARA
Kosaku YAMADA: Kono Michi (This Road)
Kosaku YAMADA: Machibouke
Sinpei NAKAYAMA: Sunayama (Sand Dunes)
Fumihiko FUKUI: Kanpyo
Ikuma DAN: From Three Kouta
    – “Haru no Tori” (Birds of Spring)
    – “Higanbana”
Kikuko MASSUMOTO: From Six songs on poems by Hakushu Kitahara
    – “Akashiyano” (One-sided Love)
    – “Tasogare” (Twilight)
    – “Night”
Norio FUKUSHI: Night of the Full Moon for woman’s voice and nohkan (2011)
     – world premiere of new MFJ commission
Part 3: Traditional folk songs
Kan ISHII: Zui Zui Zukkorobashi
Kosaku YAMADA: “Lullaby” from Chugoku Area
Sumiko HIRAI: Rokkyu (lyrics by Hakushu KITAHARA)
Yoshitaka SAKAMOTO: Otemoyan
Michio MAMIYA: Nanbu Ushioiuta
Michio MAMIYA: Shakushi Uriuta (Song of a Rice Paddle Seller)
Part 4: Songs with traditional Japanese sonorities
Kikuko MASSUMOTO: From Three songs from Medieval Japan (lyrics: poems from ancient Japan)
    – “Hayashi”
    – “Shiteten”
Fumio HAYASAKA: “Uguisu” (Nightingale) from Four vocal solos on poems by Haruo Sato
Kunihiko HASHIMOTO: Mai (Dance) (lyrics by Sumako FUKAO)
Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College: enter on E. 25th St bet Lexington & 3rd Aves
Box office:  (646) 312-4085  
The concert is followed by a discussion
Wednesday, February 16 at 7:30pm
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington, DC
Classical Music: Japanese Spirit and Japanese Song
Artists: Keiko Aoyama, mezzo soprano; Elizabeth Brown: shakuhachi and flute; Kohei Nishikawa, nohkan, shinobue, and flute; Yoshio Tsukada, piano
Japanese songs composed/arranged by Kosaku YAMADA, Yoshinao NAKADA, and Ikuma DAN    
Traditional: Sanya Sugagaki for shakuhachi and shinobue
Norio FUKUSHI: Night of the Full Moon for woman’s voice and nohkan (2011)
     – new MFJ commission (world premiere in NY)
Elizabeth BROWN: fragments for the moon for nohkan and shakuhachi (2010)
     – new MFJ commission (world premiere in NY)
Kikuko MASSUMOTO: settings of poems by Hakushu Kitahara
Yoshihisa TAIRA Synchronie for flute duo (1986)
All programs and artists are subject to change.
Music From Japan Festival 2011, now in its 36th season, is made possible in part by public funds from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan for the fiscal year 2010, the New York State Council on the Arts, the state agency, and the Japan Foundation.


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