Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Classical Music In Tokyo, Japan Delays Renaissance While Turning To European Past And European And American Conductors

"Among the eight professional Tokyo-based orchestras, the New Japan Philharmonic and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra are making remarkable progress, resulting in a shift in the balance of power in the capital's classical music scene.

In the metropolitan area, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra--each backed by major sponsors--were long considered the "big three."

But the reputations of the New Japan Philharmonic and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra have rapidly grown over the past 18 months. Some observers say they are making more of a splash than the big three.

As neither upstart has a major sponsor, they have to support themselves financially. But they are garnering critical acclaim not only through the quality of their performances, but also over the ways in which they have made their presence felt.

Both orchestras have foreign directors whose ideas are effectively implemented. Directors and orchestra members are highly motivated, and their relationship is one of mutual trust.

The strategy to appoint foreign directors was initially implemented by the big three in the late 1990s, but it has now spread to other orchestras who are beating the old powers at their own game.

In 2003, the New Japan Philharmonic appointed Christian Arming, a gifted Austrian from Vienna. Following Arming's arrival, the orchestra introduced themes that ran throughout the orchestra's business year--such as last year's "Faith" and this year's "Seduction"--and included in their programs musical works for stage performances and pieces that were rarely performed.

The orchestra turned in excellent performances of Arthur Honegger's oratorio "Jeanne d'Arc au bucher" and Hans Rott's "Symphony in E major" in February.

The improvement in the quality of the orchestra's performances was demonstrated when it performed classical works composed by such mucial geniuses as Johannes Brahms in an April subscription concert.

Since Arming's opportunities to perform at such venues as Germany's Oper Frankfurt have increased, his Japanese performances seem to be producing immediate results.

The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, which has long been known for its highly motivated members, appointed Hubert Soudant, a veteran Dutchman, as its new musical director in 2004....

The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra has James DePriest as its permanent director, while veteran conductor Rudolf Barshai has joined the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.

The big three are in a transitional phase as more and more members begin to move from one orchestra to another and younger musicians replace older ones. During this period, these orchestras need to keep their members' spirits high and choose directors and programs that will appeal to their audiences.

In Osaka, a business leader created a stir last month by unveiling a merger plan for four local orchestras. In Tokyo, business figures also took up top posts at some orchestras in the spring.

If they adhere to free-market principles and put the kibosh on costly performances and concert tours, the progress recently made by the new orchestras could easily be stunted. If this becomes a reality, there might again be major shifts in the power balance of Tokyo orchestras."

Hiroshi Miyashita "Tokyo orchestras vie for position" The Daily Yomiuri May 16, 2006


Tokyo International Forum Convention Center And Concert Hall
Raphael Vinoly, 1997

Mr Vinoly also designed Concert Halls for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Photo credit: www.terasrakenneyhdistys.fi/ terasrakennelehti... With thanks.


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