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15 Questions to Noriko Ogawa

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I am in Japan at this very minute. Came back here from Denmark a week ago, and I am travelling up to Fukushima for a concert tomorrow, then, I’ll pick up a flight back to London on May 3.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Lots and lots of things. I have just finished a mad 3 months playing so many concerti, chamber music and solo concerts with Kathryn Stott, Martin Roscoe, Michael Collins, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Tokyo Metropolitan and so forth. Now, I am about to do Tchaikowsky 1 with Japan Philharmonic.  Back in London, the first concert will be with Michael Collins (clarinet) and Thomas Carroll (cello) at Southbank. Solo recital in Venice to follow.  Debussy Preludes book II CD recording in July, Chethams Summer Course in August. Norway in September. Very, very busy indeed.

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
I can think of nothing else but one job: a psychiatric doctor. When I was a teenager, my hero was not a pianist, but a psychiatric doctor/novelist. He, Otohiko Kaga, has just been announced on this year’s honours list with the highest ranking medal. If I had a more active brain, I would be working at Maudsley Hospital, rather than at concert halls!

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
It’s impossible to give you just one name. For piano playing and music making itself, Benjamin Kaplan. For being a professional pianist, Kathryn Stott. For someone to worship, Pablo Casals, Walter Gieseking, and Solomon.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
The hardest is to keep up with everyday life. As I have to travel a lot between the UK and Japan before any concert tours, I spend my life on the ‘plane jetlagged. I would love to do things to my house in London, but I never seem to find 5 minutes to think about it. The best thing is that I meet such wonderful and exciting people in the world on a weekly basis! My life is always full of great fun.  OK, being a musician, I am able to express myself through my music which is very rewarding. Though I tend to ‘worry’ a lot about my work!

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Yes, I think so.  But I have a feeling classical music was always in a crisis in the past. I am not too worried about the UK scene because people are not too scared of trying something new. I am greatly concerned about the Japanese scene where things are more conventional and traditional. I must not let music go dry over there. I feel responsible, especially as I am involved with a wonderful concert hall in my hometown in Japan, MUZA Kawasaki Symphony Hall. I am trying to introduce adventurous ideas, but it’s hard to find the right balance.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?

I do see the point, of course.  But classical music interpretation keeps changing with new ideas.  It is important for musicians to make records showing how we express music, not just ‘notes’ one has heard before.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Oh goodness, when I perform, all kinds of intellectual mottos go out of windows as I get worried about many little things. But of course, the most important things are to send messages to the audience who are right in the same concert hall with us. If we play our music as if we speak through the instruments, messages go through, and it is very important. Enjoying ourselves is also important. I am not interested in extra movements and theatrical facial expressions on faces and bodies. These are bad shortcomings from our modern life with video/film/DVDs.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
How we SPEAK through musical notes.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
Inevitable, but is should be ‘musical personal’ matter. Not our problems from our personal lives, which can be unfair for the audience.

True or false: “Music is my first love
True I am afraid.  My parents had to keep my attention away from the piano around dinner time as I loved playing it so much when I was a toddler.

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
True, but technical terms are not neccessary.  It helps to have basic knowlegde to appreciate classical music, definitely. It is certainly true for me, too, when I come across new music for example.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?

Last year was great as I did a gala concert with Kathryn Stott and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.  This year, it will be with Chales Dutoit and the Czech Philharmonic performing Prokofiev 3rd.  Also, I have started a small recital series called ‘Jamie’s Concerts’.  This is based on my experience at the house where I used to lodge in North London.  The couple had a severely autistic son. I learnt so much from them. So, I have launched ‘Jamie’s Concerts’ named after James in Muswell Hill. The concerts take place during the day when the kids are at school.  This is based on consideration for the parents in Japan where there are no babysitters or au-pairs. We are having the second concert in late May.  Very exciting. 

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?
‘SHOMYO’ by Yoshihiro Kanno (Bhuddist monks singing with computer music).  My favourtie all time is Bartok Bluebeard Castle.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
I have very recently taken a few lessons on violin hoping to take Grade 1 exam.  I am very bad.  After 3 lessons, I became increasingly busy with piano, so, my violin has not come out from the case for 6 months now. My ambition is to play the following VIOLIN concerti... Prokofiev no.2, Bartok and Berg.

Debussy Piano Music Vol. 1 (BIS)
BIS CD-1105
Debussy Piano Music Volume 2 (BIS)
A. Tcherepnin: Piano Concerto No. 5 (BIS)
A. Tcherepnin: Piano Concerto No. 6 (BIS)
A. Tcherepnin: Piano Concerto Nos. 2 & 4 (BIS)
Just for me (BIS)
The Japanese Cello (BIS)
Japonisme (BIS)
Bridges to Japan (BIS)
Rain Tree (BIS)
A String Around Autumn (BIS)
Rachmaninov Piano Concertos No. 2 & No. 3 (BIS)
Noriko Ogawa plays Mussorgsky (BIS)
Frösöblomster (Frösö Flowers) (BIS)
L. v. Beethoven arr. by R. Wagner (BIS)
Harald Saeverud Vol. 4 (BIS)
Edvard Grieg: In Autumn (BIS)
Noriko Ogawa

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