Music From Japan Festival 2011 Presents “Flutes from the East and the West” and “Song from the Spirit of Japan”

NYC (Feb 12-13) and Washington DC (Feb 16)

“For anyone interested in Japan’s distinctive musical culture, Music From Japan has been a valuable resource since 1975.” — Allan Kozinn, New York Times

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.


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