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Subscription Concerts 2023-2024Program C
No. 2014 Subscription (Program C)

Program

Ibert / Escales (Ports of Call)

Born in Paris during the Belle Époque, Jacques Ibert (1890–1962) entered in 1910 the Paris Conservatoire where his counterpoint and orchestration teacher André Gedalge (who had trained Ravel) influenced him greatly. It was also in Gedalge’s class that Ibert met Darius Milhaud (1892–1974) and Arthur Honegger (1892–1955): with Francis Poulenc (1899–1963) and three other composers, Milhaud and Honegger will soon form “Les Six (The Six) .” While this forward-thinking circle livened up Paris until the early 1920s, Ibert was mostly absent from the capital. During the First World War, he went to the front as a nurse first, before being sent to the French northern coast as a naval officer. Then immediately after the war, he won the Prix de Rome (a prestigious scholarship) in 1919 to stay in Rome from 1920 to 1923.
A product of this Italian sojourn, Escales (Ports of Call) (1922) was premiered in Paris by the Orchestre Lamoureux in 1924 to be highly praised. Inspired by the composer’s Mediterranean cruise, this vivid orchestral triptych sets sail from Rome for Sicily, first (I Rome – Palermo): muted violins and a flute commence a Debussyan waterscape, and a trumpet subsequently announces the lively Italian folk dance “tarantella”. II Tunis–Nefta reproduces an Arabic “desertscape” with the oboe’s snake-charmer-like meandering tune. III Valencia describes a festive scene of the Iberian port town with the rhythms of the Spanish folk dance “seguidilla” as well as castanets and guitar-inspired string effects.

[Kumiko Nishi]

Ravel / Piano Concerto for the Left Hand

Most piano works until the early 20th century attach more or less a smaller importance to the left hand than the right hand, unless they are for left hand exercises or some other utmost exceptional purpose. The fact that the French word “gauche” meaning “left” is also the synonym of “awkward” and “clumsy” wouldn’t come as a great surprise for many piano players and lovers.
Thus quite unexpected is Maurice Ravel(1875–1937)’s Le concerto pour la main gauche (1930) – a piano concerto for the left hand “alone”. He composed it at the request of the pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm in World War I. Although he also commissioned Korngold (1923), R. Strauss (1925) and Prokofiev (1931) to write a single-handed concerto, it was Ravel’s that Wittgenstein chose for his 1934 North American debut after premiering it in Europe in 1932.
This single-movement concerto consists of three slow-fast-slow sections. Over the low strings’ arpeggios, the gloomy contrabassoon solo and the horns’ undulation start the work. Shortly, the pianist enters playing a cadenza (without orchestra) which is usually placed toward the end: here Ravel’s highly elaborate writing already makes us believe the soloist uses two hands. The jazzy fast section in march rhythm is reminiscent of his 1928 American tour. The final slow section has the opening music return for a moment, followed by the soloist’s extended, expressive cadenza. The concerto closes all too soon recalling the fast section.

[Kumiko Nishi]

Debussy / Nocturnes*

Born in a Paris suburb, Claude Debussy (1862–1918), a genuine early bloomer, was allowed to enroll in the Paris Conservatoire in 1872 at age 10. Later in 1884, he won the Prix de Rome to stay in the Eternal City like Ibert as mentioned above, although the older man, reportedly bored, wound up his sojourn sooner than scheduled. Revealed in 1894, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) brought Debussy into prominence and will be regarded a revolutionary turning point for music history.
Nocturnes (1899) was his first orchestral piece since Prélude. Following the 1901 premiere of the entire work by the Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris, Ravel made its piano reduction in 1909 to honor the composer thirteen years his senior.
The three movements of Nocturnes render a skyscape, a landscape and a seascape respectively. I Nuages (Clouds) describes “the slow and melancholic motion of clouds dying away in gray lightly tinged with white” according to Debussy, before II Fêtes (Festivals) emits “a sudden burst of light”. III Sirènes (Sirens) represents “the sea and its ever-changing rhythm”, whilst the wordless women’s chorus gives “the mysterious song of sirens” among “moonlit silver waves” (sirens are mythological female sea creatures whose enchanting singing drive sailors to shipwreck). Debussy was to go on reworking Nocturnes until his latest years, primarily so that the human voices blend well with the instrumental sounds.

[Kumiko Nishi]

*This concert will have a duration of 60 to 80 minutes without an interval.

Artists

Nodoka Okisawa ConductorNodoka Okisawa

Nodoka Okisawa, based in Berlin and working internationally, is one of the most notable conductors of the younger generation. Since April 2023, she has served as the 14th Chief Conductor of the City of Kyoto Symphony Orchestra. She was born in Aomori, and after studying conducting with Ken Takaseki and Tadaaki Otaka at Tokyo University of the Arts, she went on to further studies at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin. In 2019, she won the Grand Prix at the 56th International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors as well as the prizes for the Orchestra’s favorite and the public’s favorite. She was a scholarship student at the Berliner Philharmoniker Karajan Academy from 2020 to the end of June 2022, while serving as an assistant to Kirill Petrenko. In March 2022, she conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Solidarity Concert for Ukraine at the Bellevue Palace, and participated, together with Kirill Petrenko, in the concert to celebrate the Karajan Academy’s 50th anniversary. Since then, she has guest-conducted orchestras of the world, including the Kammerorchester Basel, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the MDR-Sinfonieorchester, and the Münchner Symphoniker, while conducting major Japanese orchestras. At the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival 2022, she conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra to perform Mozart Le nozze di Figaro, which won high artistic acclaim.
Her first collaboration with the NHK Symphony Orchestra was Fresh Concert in Summer in 2020. This will be her first appearance in the orchestra’s subscription concert. With the program of French repertoire, I am sure she will draw out rich and vibrant sounds from the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

[Yoichi Iio, music journalist]

Denis Kozhukhin PianoDenis Kozhukhin

Denis Kozhukhin was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 1986 into a family of musicians. He started his piano studies with his mother, and after attending the Balakirev School of Music, he went to Spain, at the age of 14, to study at the Reina Sofía School of Music in Madrid with Dimitri Bashkirov and Claudio Martinez-Mehner. He went on to further studies at the International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy where he received training from Fou Ts’ong and Stanislav Ioudenitch, and went into the tutelage of Kirill Gerstein in Stuttgart, Germany. After winning 3rd Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006, and 1st Prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2010, he garnered the world’s attention, and made his first visit to Japan in 2011. This is his second appearance at the NHK Symphony Orchestra’s subscription concert since 2017. On this visit, he will be performing Ravel's Piano Concerto for Left Hand, the work he often plays and even made a recording of in 2017 with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Kazuki Yamada. As the work is one of his specialties, expectations are high for his performance with vivid and playful expression. He has a wide repertoire, and as the 2023-24 season marks anniversary years for Ligeti, Schönberg and Lutosławski , he has been particularly working on their concertos as a tribute.

[Haruka Kosaka, music journalist]

The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo* Female chorusThe Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo*

The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo was formed in 1956 by graduates of the vocal department of the Tokyo University of the Arts.  Nobuaki Tanaka, who took the initiative for the group, was appointed as Permanent Conductor, and since then, the chorus has built up their career to lead the development of Japan’s choral music performances. It performs more than 100 concerts annually, in addition, it appears in events for children, works with both Japanese and visiting orchestras, and sings in broadcast programs. The chorus also performs overseas, which has helped introduce Japanese choir works to overseas audiences. Since its founding, when choir works with Japanese lyrics were few, the chorus started to commission compositions. It has continued almost every year and now it has more than 250 such works of its own. In recent years, the chorus also commissions composers abroad, thus the sphere of the works they sing has become more diverse. Presently, Nobuaki Tanaka has become Conductor Laureate, and Kazuki Yamada serves as Music Director and Chairman, with Yoshinao Kihara (Principal Conductor), Chifuru Matsubara (Permanent Conductor), Kenji Otani (Permanent Conductor), Hiroyuki Mito (Conductor in Residence), Mitsunobu Takaya (Conductor) and Shigeru Yamada (Conductor).

[Reiko Sekine, music critic]

Pre-concert Chamber Music Performance

Pre-concert Chamber Music Performance

Program:Jolivet / Pastorales de Noël (Christmas Pastoral)

Artists

Portrai of Artist
Flute
Masayuki Kai
Portrai of Artist
Bassoon
Kazusa Mizutani
Portrai of Artist
Harp
Risako Hayakawa

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Subscription Concerts 2023-2024
Program C

No. 2014 Subscription (Program C)

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Broadcast

NHK-FMNHK-FMNo. 2014 Subscription (Program C)

Friday, Jun 14, 2024 7:30PM - 9:10PM

Program: Ibert / Escales (Ports of Call)
Ravel / Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Debussy / Nocturnes*
*This concert will have a duration of 60 to 80 minutes without an interval.

Conductor:Nodoka Okisawa

Piano:Denis Kozhukhin

Female chorus:The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo*

Recorded:June 14, 2024 NHK Hall

 

*Repertoire, conductor, soloists and program order are subject to change without notice.
*Pre-school children are not allowed in the concert hall

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