Music From Japan and its Artistic Director, Naoyuki Miura, are thrilled to present 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,” at the Baruch Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 12, features Kohei Nishikawa and Elizabeth Brown performing new and traditional music for Western classical flute and three kinds of Japanese flute: the nohkan, shinobue, and shakuhachi. The program comprises works from the traditional to the contemporary, including 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).
At the same venue on Sunday, February 13, “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 sings settings of traditional folk songs, of songs with traditional Japanese sonorities, and of poems by Hakushu Kitahara (1885-1942), Haruo Sato (1892-1964), and Shoko Ema (1913-2000). The settings are by composers of the past century ranging from Kosaku Yamada, a student of Max Bruch, to the self-taught film composer Fumio Hayasaka. Aoyama and her pianist, Yoshio Tsukada, are joined by Kohei Nishikawa on nohkan in the world premiere performance of Norio Fukushi’s Night of the Full Moon (2011), which is based on the oldest surviving tale in the Japanese language. The concert will be followed by an open forum.