Thoughts

Category "Music" Archives

Schubert's Winterreise

There are certain events in life where you can't believe your luck that you had just happened to be there and it has nothing to do with your own intentions. Today was one of them.

My teacher from when I was in my teens asked if I could page-turn for him for a concert. It was for Schubert's Winterriese. The singer is quite a famous Japanese baritone who has sung in the Opera Houses in Europe and who has been singing the Winterreise for over 50 years. He is 84 years old. I was asked to come for the rehearsal a week before the concert and I am ashamed to say that it was the very first time that I had heard Winterreise as a whole. The singer,with age,was struggling a bit,with coughing and stamina,but still I was deeply moved by this amazing piece and also by my teacher's beautiful playing.

Coming home from that rehearsal,I suddenly realized that I may never have the chance to perform it. So, I thought I should take this opportunity to try to learn more about it. I bought the music and as I have the singers bible "Lieder Line by Line" by Lois Phillips who was also my teacher in London,I put it aside by the music and have been practicing it in the past week.
What a piece!!! I knew that it was an epic piece but never knew what a MASTERPIECE it was!!! First of all,Muller's poems are SO beautiful,and also for me,feel so true. It is definitely a young persons story. Although dark and heavy and slow,there is also much passion and deep angst and hopelessness that one only feels in youth. ( I think that as we get older,we realize that no matter how bad things get,life still goes on and that we just have to deal with it.) And then,of course Schubert's music. So simple and yet so moving. I have totally fell in love with it.

Anyway,today was the concert and I think everyone backstage was a bit worried. The singer had his arm in a sling as he had fell the previous day and he was having trouble walking so came on stage with a cane. He was not looking good....

BUT..... Once the performance started,it was truly amazing. The Winterriese is an 80 minute song cycle. Usually in a classical concert,you have two halves,one being around 40~45 minutes with an interval in the middle. Just staying on stage and keeping your concentration without a break for 80 minutes seems impossible. Let alone singing at 84 years old!!!

Admittedly,the voice was unstable at times,but there was not one single cough (didn't even have water on stage!) and his stamina seemed to grow as the performance went on!!! He did 3 encores as well!! It really seemed like the music had taken over him and there was something really transcendental about the performance. I was taken not only into "Schubert's Winterreise"'s world but was taken even beyond. Although I had to page turn,I was deeply deeply moved several times sitting by the piano on stage and had to stop myself from welling up saying to myself "this is not the time nor the place!!".

I feel so lucky and grateful for having been able to be there and experiencing something so special. I was shown first hand,the true power of music.

Piano Recital in Tokyo

I feel like I've been neglecting my English blog... I still AM alive!

I will be doing a piano recital in June in Tokyo and the flyers have just arrived. I've updated my "Information" page so all the information is there but if you're unsure about anything please write to this website and we will make sure you have all the necessary information.

It's been a while since my last recital but I've been working hard over the past year and really reexamined my playing and music and I feel that I'm in a totally different place now. It's very liberating and I feel like this is the REAL thing. I'm really looking forward to this concert and am working hard to make it the best I can.
If you're in the neighborhood,please do come!!!

Why we hate mobile phones!

A friend just posted this on Facebook. A musician's nightmare.
Ruining a beautiful solo and killing a concerto! Hands down to Mr. Zacharias's recovery though. It's as if nothing had touched him!

Demons

I've just had a MAJOR major mental breakthrough. I've been wrestling with so many doubts and questions concerning my music and faith for the past few years that it came to a point that I had to really take time off from performing to deal with it. I just couldn't believe in what I was doing as a performer and my mental state before concerts had become really unbearable. There were too many demons to fight and I felt as if I was losing the battle.

Now,at last, I've found the big answer and it's truly truly exciting. It's taken me a few months but I know exactly what I'm supposed to do now. It turned out that the question itself was the wrong question and the answer was amazingly simple. It just got buried amongst the demons I managed to pick up along the way in the past few years .

I feel totally free now and am so looking forward to what lies ahead.

Space

%E9%8E%8C%E5%80%89%E8%8A%B8%E8%A1%93%E9%A4%A8_resize.jpgJust had a rehearsal in one of the big halls in Kamakura for the concert on the 11th. It's been a while since I've played in such a big venue but surprisingly I really enjoyed it. I had played in this hall when I was younger and remember practicing at home with the hall in mind. I think I went a bit overboard in the performance and remember my sound becoming forced and harsh in some places which was unnecessary.

This time I felt more relaxed about the space and felt that I could adjust to it more naturally. I hope that'll be the case on the day.

I remember in one of our piano duet lessons at the Academy when playing really soft our teacher saying "It doesn't matter how soft you play. You MAKE them listen."
What great advice!

I think you can interpret this even in the opposite way that no matter how loud you play,if it's not convincing no one will LISTEN!

Summer 2013

Worcester_resize.jpgAgain,it's been a long time since writing in my blog..... There are various reasons - I'm not just being lazy.

Like my playing,I felt like I needed to re-evaluate many things in my life. I sort of got really disappointed with a great deal of things which are really close to me.

I've been taking time to really look at my playing as well and have had to go back to where it seemed to have gone wrong. It's paid off though,and now I feel that the sound and music I'm producing is much more sincere and honest and true. I'm trying to get rid of all the "artificialness" out of every note that I play.

It's the same with friends and people that I've been working with. I sort of lost faith in people a bit over the past few months. But,I had a really nice summer in Europe (Britain,Belgium & Italy) and seeing friends whom are genuine and are just really good people has given me back my faith and my heart feels energized and positive again. Although music itself is pure and beautiful and true, the music "profession" itself is sometimes totally different.

I am still alive though,and working on some big pieces that I've always wanted to play for future recitals. There's also a piano quintet that I'd love to do which is in the planning.... We'll have to see....

So,for the time being,I'm taking my time in trying to be a better musician and a better person. I hope this will eventually reflect in my performing.

Greatness

It's interesting how one forgets about greatness.You would think that if you were so impressed by something that it would be imprinted in your mind. I'm often amazed how surprised I can be when I hear recordings by the greats that I've heard so many times - Horowitz,Heifetz,Kogan,Casals, - and still can be blown away all over again!

My professor from college,F,gave a concert here in Kamakura last night. He's been coming to Kamakura to give master classes for nearly 20 years now,so the organizers of the concert and many of the people in the audience were people I knew. It seemed like a culmination of those twenty years.

The concert was a mixture of piano solo and ensemble pieces with really top quality players. I realized though that it had been nearly 10 years since I last heard F perform.

Even in rehearsal I had suddenly realized that I had forgotten his greatness. The sound that he manages to pull out from the piano was breath-takingly beautiful. I remembered why I became obsessed in trying to acquire such a warm and deep sound and I can once again understand why I continued to learn with him for the whole 4 years at the Academy.

Now that I'm older though, I realize that his sound is something that is not within me. It is totally foreign to me and therefore that is why I think I am so touched by it. I realize now that it is something to be appreciated and,for me, it is not something to try to imitate or aquire.

So,although when going to the piano this morning to practise and being disappointed by the poor quality of sound, I can now live with it and say,"It's OK.Just do what you have to do.",and am confident that I am on a path of my own (and also the right path) now. At least now I know that I have to keep searching for my own truth which must be somewhere within me.

Inspired

Still feeling excited about the possibility of music after Friday's concert. I spent nearly eight hours at the piano today and was enjoying every minute of it. I have to make sure I can get as much as I can out of what has inspired me while it lasts. I know in a few days this excitement will evaporate so I'm hoping I'll be able to make that inspiration my own before that happens.

Unexpected Revelations

Two more days to my lunchtime concert.
It's interesting how practice pays off sometimes in unexpected ways.

Over the years it seemed like I was aiming for a certain kind of style of playing and would practice to achieve that goal. I felt like I totally got lost in the process and the recital I did last autumn was a real test as I felt that I had lost a grip on what I was doing.

From the beginning of this year I've been trying to find out what it was that had gone wrong. I think I went too far in thinking that playing in the moment is the most important thing and that I had tended to practice in a way that made my performance unpredictable ( which would sometimes be a good thing) and also very unstable. I went back to the very basics - seperate hand and slow practice and it's made a huge difference in the stability of my playing which has enabled me to be even freer than before. This was totally unexpected! I feel I have now found the way to get to where I want to go.

Also I've found that it is so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. One can get so caught up on the quality,colour,nuance,balance of every single note that it's often the case that we lose sight of what the composer wants to actually say through the music. I now can really see that the details are determined by knowing the bigger picture. Easier said than done but at least I now know what I have to look out for.

Sometimes it seems that all the time and hard work that you put into practicing doesn't pay off,but in the long run,it really does. ( I hope some of my pupils are reading this!!!)

Lunchtime Concert

Can't believe it's already July!
I've just updated my information page for a lunchtime concert in Nishi Azabu,Tokyo.
It includes the Liszt "Funerailles(Funeral)" which I had to pull out of last year's recital in March. It was right after 3/11 and I just wasn't able to bring myself to play it then. In one way it was too real and painful and in another it seemed inappropriate and disrespectful. Now,with a bit of distance,it feels alright to play it.

It's a 30 minute concert with Bach and Liszt. Please try and come if you're interested!
Download Leaflet

English enquiries:memusicoffice@mihoebihara.com

Last few days

Only a few days now till my recital on the 10th.
I've been pushing myself for the past few weeks and it's really been hard work. Although it's very satisfying and rewarding with new discoveries everyday, it's still a very lonely process.

Just found out though,that someone whom I had met in June when I did some volunteer work in the earthquake/tsunami hit area in the north had lost his girlfriend by the tsunami.

It just put things into perspective. I should be so grateful for what I am doing and to be able to do it.I definitely will be giving it my all and trying my best!


Charity Concert

The past few weeks have been totally dedicated to getting myself ready for this recital on the 10th of this month. Japan has been really hot so it's been a struggle practicing the Appassionata and Dante Sonata in the heat! It's a relief that it's cooled down a bit. At last I'm not constantly worried about being heat stricken!

MK%E3%83%9B%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AB_resize.jpgI did a small recital on the 23rd of September in a place called Chigasaki. It came about when I was talking whether it would be possible to do a charity concert to contribute to the tsunami affected areas. I found out that someone whom I've known for many years ,Mr.K, has been going to a particular area in the north called Natari,which he just found on the map and thought might be cut off from any relief efforts coming in. He's kept in close contact with the mayor of Natari, and goes there regularly - about once a month - loading his car with things that might be necessary and things that are difficult to get hold of. In the beginning apparently it was mostly food - fresh vegetables,fruit,flour,pasta,ham,sausages, - then eventually toys for kids,clothes,summer blankets,etc. I think he even took a washing machine at some point! He's an amazing person!

Anyway,they organized this concert for me,and with the cooperation of the International Soroptimist of Samukawa we were able to raise money to help this area called "Natari".
I am really happy that I was able to contribute in some small way.

MK%E3%83%9B%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AB%EF%BC%92_resize.jpgAs for my performance...
I think I had been working too hard and had lost my way in the process.
Someone gave me some really good comments and advice though,so I'm back on track and I feel like I'm heading in the right direction. My aim for the 10th is to actually enjoy the music myself. It seems like an obvious thing,but that's never been my aim in a performance! Now that I feel that this might be possible,I'm suddenly thinking," What have I been doing all these years! " I totally missed the plot!

Concerts in the Autumn and Youtube Clips

I had a wonderful summer in Europe and hope to eventually write about it,but before that,I thought I should let everyone know about my concerts in the autumn.
I've updated my "information page" so please check it out for future concerts.
Please come if you're in the area!

I've also (at last!) have posted two clips on Youtube of a performance from 2 years ago!
Sorry it's taken so long to get it sorted!

Scarlatti Sonata in C K.159
Scarlatti Sonata in d-minor K.9
(Both from a Recital in Tokyo,November 14th,2009)

ZAZ

Just discovered an amazing artist - ZAZ.They were showing a documentary on street entertainers in Paris and apparently she one a competition and now has become a phenomenon in France.
What a talent!!! It feels like the excitement when Norah Jones just came out. I remember trying to go to a concert in London before her album had hit the world but it was too late as her concert was already sold out. At the time,no one knew about her in Japan yet. I'm sorry I didn't get to see her live before she became so famous. I always thought her first album was the best one. Fresh and personal.

Zaz is doing a tour over the summer in France. I hope that I might be able to go see her live. She is definitely a much needed inspiration!

In the documenaty they were showing a full version of "La Vie en Rose" which was amazing but could only find this messy version on Youtube. Nonetheless - enjoy!

Concert in NY

NY%20Recital_resize.jpgJapan is feeling a bit more settled now although there are constantly things to worry about in the news everyday... This is a time for all of us to reflect on life itself.

I realize that I haven't written about the concert in NY which I had done in March.
It was soon after the earthquake had happened and I had wondered whether it was right to leave the country at such a time. Japan was in total chaos for about a week after the earthquake and I don't think anyone was sure what was happening at that time.It was very unsettling and although I considered what I could do if I actually stayed in Japan,after much thought I decided to go to NY and do the concert as scheduled.

We dedicated the concert to those whom had passed away and had been affected by the earthquake and also asked the Japan Society in NY to be our window for donations. I felt that music was the only thing that I could do at that time although locking myself up in the hall and practicing for hours and committing myself to get ready for this concert still seemed very selfish and I still wonder whether it wasn't an act of selfishness to go ahead with the concert. A great deal of time and work goes into organizing and putting a concert together and I didn't want to disappoint all those whom were involved.

For myself,I'm glad that I had done it and am grateful to all those who came and supported the concert and also me. I just hope that it did have some kind of meaning.

Soon

Sunny%20piano_resize.jpgIt's nearly a month now till my recital in NY. I've been working hard and have been going through several phases. The playing's going well and I've had several breakthroughs but each process takes time and it feels as if I'm just inching towards where I want to get to. The great thing though is that I know exactly where I want to go! It's amazing how all these years I've worked so hard to get to "somewhere" but didn't really have an idea of what that "somewhere" was!!! Although each day's progress is minimal I am confident that I am at least getting closer to what I am aiming for.

I was watching a documentary on an artist working on a huge project. He was to paint all four walls in a temple and I think it took him over 3 years to complete it. He used a small paint brush to paint the water lilles and would go back to each one over and over again. "Patience,patience..." is what he said.

Just another month now till my recital. I just hope that I don't run out of "patience" up until the day itself. Hopefully every day will be a step closer to where I want to be.

Travel to Europe

P6136208_resize.jpgSeems like a while since I last blogged.

The concert "Travel to Europe" went well and it seemed to have been well recieved.
It was a first for both the oboist and I to have two totally seperate concerts in one day. They were both over an hour each,with two totally different programmes - many pieces!

We both wondered how we'd do stamina-wise but there was no problem at all which was quite interesting. It actually felt like it went by so quickly and felt even short! Adrenalin,I guess.

The programme was an interesting one with many composers that I had never heard of before! There was lots of variety and it really showed the differences of which country the composers came from. A few people who came to both concerts commented on this and said that listening to the two combined made it even more apparent and that it sounded complete as a whole. I was a bit worried for the people who bought tickets for both concerts thinking that over two solid hours of music in a day was a bit much so it was nice to hear that they enjoyed them as a complete set.

I'm happy now to be free from the pieces we've done and now am starting to think about a recital programme for next year. I'm really looking forward to starting new pieces afresh!

Like flying...

Kirara%20Hall%202_resize.jpgIt's been a busy week getting ready for this concert on the 30th and also having to adjust all my teaching so they don't interfere with each other.

I'm accompanying a violinist and I'm not involved at all with the organizational side of the concert so there's actually time and room to enjoy the practicing.

Today we had a rehearsal at the hall and I had the first hour to myself. It's always wonderful to suddenly come from your own practicing room to a hall and feel how the sound just travels. It can,at times,almost feel as if you're flying!

I've updated my "information page" so if you are interested,please try and come!

Feeling good!

I can't believe that already two weeks have passed since my recital in Tokyo!A great deal of work was required on the organizational side which was quite stressful at times but the practicing was always going well which kept me in sane.

It was a really miserable morning - stormy weather with forecasts of even small tornados! But it all cleared up by noon which was a relief as I was getting worried about people not being able to get to the venue because of train troubles.

The hall was full and there was a really nice feeling - mostly owing to the fact that I knew most of the audience! It still can be nerve wrecking in the beginning but for some reason rather than feeling nervous I was worried that I might faint back stage - maybe a different kind of nervousness...?

Anyway,I gave it my all and I can honestly say it was the best performance I could've given at this stage. It's almost impossible to be satisfied with everything but there were a few things that I was really happy about and felt that I was able to really give my heart and soul out without any restrictions. It's a really scary thing but it's my ultimate goal. I'm hoping that someday I can make this a definite thing. At the moment,it still comes and goes.

So many people have been kind with their comments and it's really encouraging to know that all the hard work put into the two hours that we share is maybe really worthwhile.

Of course there are lots of things that I would've wanted to do better,but at the moment I'm feeling good about what I've managed to do in this concert. I feel that this has been a really big step forward and hope that this will help me to move forwards towards what I'm aiming for.

Solitude

Sunset_resize.jpgI had a nightmarish September with so much paperwork to be done for this recital in November. Writing to people,sending out flyers,sending out information for publicity,getting all the data needed for the programs,etc.etc. I'm so glad the majority of this is done now. The rest I can cope with like a normal person.

I ended up with only 5 hours sleep at night for nearly 2 weeks at one point. It seemed like it was never ending and I was getting quite upset about the whole thing which started to develop a really negative outlook on life in general!!! At one point I was disappointed in everything - society,what makes the world go round ( - didn't seems like love!), what the majority of people think is important,love,marriage - you name it and I could have given you an example on all the things that seem to not make sense to me.

In the meantime though,interestingly and ironically,the playing was going really well. I think that was what had kept me going. And I'm not sure whether it was because I was going through a bad time and feeling very isolated that I have seemingly arrived in a totally different place than expected but a place which I had been searching for without evening know it.

A friend of mine quoted me these wonderful words which Ginette Neveu (famous violinist) once said. At the time,I was just moved by the greatness of the words themselves,but now I feel that I actually know what she means.

"Nothing great is achieved without the solitude of vocation, and the greatness is,perhaps,a kind of radiant solitude" (by Ginette Neveu)

Now I'm out of my bad phase (as most of the work that I had to get done has been dealt with) and my playing has continued to grow so I'm feeling really good and positive at the moment.
I just hope that what I'm pursuing is the real thing. Will only be able to find out on the day of the concert!

Hallelujah

I've just found yet another beautiful song just by chance.

It was the very last song at the end of a German film called "THE EDUKATORS ". The ironic thing was that I wasn't even watching the film! But the first few words just grabbed me and I just had to know who was singing it. Unfortunately the print on the TV was too small so I looked it up on the internet and have found out that it is a song called "Hallelujah" sung by Jeff Buckley. Apparently Leonard Cohen originally wrote the song and there have been many covers by various artists. There are several recordings by Jeff Buckley of this song as well but I have found the ULTIMATE version on YouTube. Click here →Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

I am so grateful that this version was captured on tape especially as Jeff Buckely is no longer with us. (He died tragically in a drowning accident when he was just 31,eleven years ago.)
At the end of the song there is even someone in the background who says "Wow!" in amazement, which just shows you how special this performance is. It is simply amazing and so inspiring to see that we, as people,are capable of openning our hearts to that extent - fully and totally.

Even if it were for just a few minutes in my entire life,my dream would be to be able to do this on stage some day.

Silent Noon

silent%20noon_resize.jpgI have come across a breathtakingly beautiful song.

Whilst searching for a recording for songs by the French composer Poulenc that I was asked to accompany, I came across a CD which included both French and English songs. One of the titles that caught my eye was "Silent Noon" which is composed by the English composer V.Wiiliams.
 The site I was on gave sample tastes of each song and although it was only the first few seconds I immediately fell in love with it. (I asked my English friend about it and apparently it's quite well known!)

Trio Concert at Leighton House

  Leighton House
Leighton%20House_resize.jpgI've just come back from London. It was a 10 day trip with a great deal of hard work,but the trio concert at Leighton House went well so I am feeling happy and relieved.

I arrived in London on the 22nd,welcomed by the cherry blossoms in full bloom. From that day on till the 28th,the day of the concert,it was solid practising and rehearsing. I was in good condition though,so the hard work was not a chore but a very fulfilling time. It's wonderful to be able to work with musicians that you trust and are musically inspired by.

Leighton House is such a beautiful place and I had already been imagining and so looking forward to playing the Ravel there. I could just imagine the colours of Ravel and the colours of the interior of the house blending perfectly.

after%20concert_resize.jpgMany friends had come from quite far away and I am truly grateful for those who made an effort to come to the concert. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and to feel their support.

I am so grateful that we were able to do this concert with so many people helping to make it happen and supporting us.It was such a wonderful and fulfilling trip!

Wrong Era

records_resize.jpgWorking hard towards this trio concert on the 28th. Now,since I know what I want to do musically,I've started to listen to various recordings of the pieces that we're doing. (I feel that listening to recordings too much before having an idea of what one wants to do can sometimes take away from the precious instinct one has when reading from music for the very first time.) I bought a CD of a young modern trio and had been listening to it on my IPod and had been enjoying it in it's own rite.
But,since I'm feeling a bit braver now,I took out some of my father's records (LPs!) of the Great Masters of the 20th century and played them on the record player.
Kogan,Gilels,Rostropovich,Heifetz,Rubinstien,and Piatygorsky.They have so much more to offer - their elegance,clarity of style,and sincerity towards music. Their is so much love and warmth in their music that it really does make one happy. I really think that I was born in the wrong era...

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